Beneath the rancor, Social Security is on the November ballot

The future of Social Security is on the ballot this year – not that you could tell by the U.S. presidential debates, or by any other aspect of this rancorous, sensational election.

But 67 percent of registered voters rank Social Security as a “very important” part of their voting decision this year – just behind the economy, terrorism, gun policy and immigration, according to the Pew Research Center.

And so it should be. Social Security is the most important retirement benefit for most American workers – it provides at least half of the income for 48 percent of retired couples, and for 71 percent of single seniors, according to the Social Security Administration. Also, Social Security benefits kept 22.1 million seniors, working-age adults and children out of poverty in 2015 according to an analysis of Census data released this week by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

But Social Security’s retirement and disability trust funds are forecast to be depleted in 2034. At that point, benefits would be cut an estimated 21 percent, unless Congress takes action.

Meanwhile, a consensus is developing that an expansion of Social Security benefits should be added to the reform agenda to address our growing retirement security crisis. Solvency and expansion can both be addressed by raising new revenue. Options include raising the cap on income subject to payroll taxes, raising payroll tax rates very gradually over a 10-year period or even allowing Social Security to invest a portion of the trust fund in equities.

My Reuters column this week looks at where Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump would take us on Social Security reform – and the policy positions of the two major political parties.

 

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