To: Majority Whip, Dick Durbin, US Senate
From: Your pal, Cliff
I must have been a bit hard of hearing while watching you this past week on FoxNews Sunday—the hard of hearing being the key Fox demographic, after all—but I think I heard you say that Social Security in the United States "is going to run out of money in 20 years," so you want to "fix it now." I couldn't have heard that right, could I have? Let me try "The Google," as wily former President W. Bush once counseled.
Ok, Dick, I just consulted the transcript, and, sadly, I didn't hear it wrong. So it seems we need to have a bit of an awkward conversation.
First, my friend (I still like to think of you this way, as you're usually such a staunch supporter of common-sense positions on key issues), surely you must be aware that you misspoke?
In fact, upon completing an online search on the Internet machine, you'll see that if we do nothing, Social Security is solvent through 2037, 2033 worst-case scenario, or 20 years, just as you said! But here's the problem. In 20-24 years, Social Security will not, "run out of money." In fact, at that point, it will still pay 78 percent of its benefits, or roughly 78 percent more than you calculated. Not a small difference, no?
So why, either on a policy or political level, would you even think of cutting Social Security right now?
Let's begin on the policy side.
As we've discussed, Social Security (as my friends I've worked with at Social Security Works can show you in detail), pays full benefits for at least 20 years. The way forward would be to raise, or even completely eliminate the regressive cap (Scrap The Cap! Say it with me, Dick!) on the amount of income subject to Social Security payroll taxes. Currently, it's at $113,700 a year, also known as approximately 1percent of Mitt Romney's income, or the cost of two Mitt-sized car elevators. If you were to scrap this cap, Social Security would continue ad infinitum, or at least until our ape overlords rule the planet.
In fact, as a refresher, your colleague Senator Tom Harken of Iowa proposed just such legislation, The Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013. It would phase out this cap, and provide increased benefits, not cut them!
Pretty groovy, huh?
Hell, let's just say you didn't want to completely scrap it, but apply it to 90 percent of income (currently it covers about 84 percent) like it did in the days of St. Reagan, King of The Welfare Queens. Raise the cap to $200,000, and poof, we get $100 billion more by 2030!