Fixing Social Security – Congress is Unserious

Categories : Financial, News
July 10, 2024

Nearly 65 million people receive Social Security retirement income benefits monthly (data as of May 2024, from the Social Security Administration). A vast majority of recipients would rebel against any person or plan to reduce or eliminate their monthly benefits. Congress knows this, and only Congress can prevent the system from going broke, or even from reducing benefits.

While I share Americans’ limited respect for how Congress performs its overall duties and responsibilities, I also understand the dilemma they face, individually and as a lawmaking body. Our so-called Social Security Trust Fund will be dissipated in a decade or so, and the actual cash has already been spent, replaced with low-yielding Government Bonds. Those bonds are being redeemed on a daily basis, and will soon run out completely. At that point, monthly payouts will be reduced by about 25% for everyone, including current recipients. Unacceptable.

Any fix would require increased contributions to the Fund and/or a reduction in monthly payouts. Americans say ‘No!’ to both.

Examining current Bills in front of Congress, all supposedly introduced to solve the dilemma, we find their suggestions far less than serious. Here is what we have found so far:

  • Fiscal Commission Act of 2023 would establish a “fiscal commission” to address the national debt and suggest changes to Social Security (passing the buck)
  • You Earned It, You Keep It would repeal federal taxes on all Social Security benefits (decreasing income to the System)
  • House Budget Committee Fiscal 2025 Budget would also establish a “fiscal commission” (see above comment)
  • Boosting Benefits and COLAs for Seniors Act would require the Social Security Administration to determine future Cost-of-Living (COLA) increases using the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for Americans 62 years of age and beyond (hurting older people by reducing COLAs)
  • Safeguarding Social Security and Medicare Act would require the U.S. Comptroller General to develop a Plan to protect benefits from inflation (raising costs)

Following years of inaction, it is officially too late to make necessary changes without some sacrifices. But it has to be done, and all that ever seems to happen in Washington, D.C. is talk.

Oh, and “taxing the rich.” That is certainly not problem-solving. Congress is unserious about the difficult but necessary work of preserving Social Security.

Van Wie Financial is fee-only. For a reason.