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US123 - Remove the Social Security Wage Cap

By: angelarhodes

Currently, only the first $110,000 of wages are subject to Social Security taxes; removing that "wage cap" would fund Social Security for DECADES to come! (Provided, of course, that we could get Congress to stop using the SS Trust Fund as their own private PIGGY BANK!)

What do you think?

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Poll

Should we remove the "wage cap" from Social Security/Medicare taxes

30%52 votes
52%91 votes
9%16 votes
3%6 votes
4%8 votes

| 173 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  That turns it into just another tax (9+ / 0-)

    which is far easier to attack. Sorry, but the wage cap is there because (a) Social Security is an insurance policy, and (b) benefits are limited based upon the wage cap.

    Done with politics for the night? Have a nice glass of wine with Palate Press: The online wine magazine.

    by dhonig on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 10:09:18 AM PDT

  •  I don't know about removal.... (12+ / 0-)

    but it should certainly be raised, at least to $250,000.

    "Who is John Galt?" A two dimensional character in a third rate novel.

    by Inventor on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 10:09:21 AM PDT

    •  Traditionally, it's set at a level to capture (5+ / 0-)

      95% (IIRC) of wages. Because of the failure of wages to keep up with productivity, it only captures 90% now, and raising it back to capture 95% would indeed push the cap up to ~250k.

      Non enim propter gloriam, diuicias aut honores pugnamus set propter libertatem solummodo quam Nemo bonus nisi simul cum vita amittit. -Declaration of Arbroath

      by Robobagpiper on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 10:28:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Would pushing it to 250k make it solvent? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        middleagedhousewife

        That would be a serious no-brainer then.

        •  Well, "solvency" is a more complicated issue (5+ / 0-)

          and depends a lot more on long-term economic forecasts and demographic projections than on the specifics of the cap. Healthy economic growth makes the projected shortfall disappear without changes.

          But doing anything now for the purpose of improving "solvency" in the future is misguided, because it fixes a problem that doesn't exist, and fails to fix the real one, by ignoring that the "solvency" issue is a purely political one.

          What's happening is that as long as SS is in surplus, FICA effectively subsides general revenues by buying Treasury bonds with that surplus; with the promise that SS will be able to redeem those bonds in the future.

          But the "crisis" isn't that the SS trust fund will go, at some point, into a period of long-term deficits. The crisis is that at some point SS will cease subsidizing general revenues, and, worse, will call in the debt it holds and become a drain on general revenues, meaning that Congress will have to borrow more or raise taxes to make up the difference. Rather than deal with the actual issue (which is on the general government side), Washington is looking for ways to stiff Social Security of what it's owed, mainly by looking for ways to cut benefits.

          Raising the cap would delay the fake crisis, but it wouldn't eliminate it. And without the political will to fix the general revenues end, we should be wary of any "fixes" to SS's revenue stream, because down the line, the political incentive to portray a general revenues shortfall as a SS "crisis" will still be there.

          So there are reasons to raise the cap, but they have to do with the universe of wages SS is meant to capture; not with its long-term health.

          Non enim propter gloriam, diuicias aut honores pugnamus set propter libertatem solummodo quam Nemo bonus nisi simul cum vita amittit. -Declaration of Arbroath

          by Robobagpiper on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 10:47:23 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Perhaps excess money should help fund Medicare (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            historys mysteries

            Can raise the Social Security cap to $250k and target excess funds to any Medicare shortfalls and possibly other benefits for seniors.

            •  I would have zero objections if the cap were (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              GregOrr, historys mysteries

              raised to $250k and then every additional penny was used to make existing benefits more generous.

              Non enim propter gloriam, diuicias aut honores pugnamus set propter libertatem solummodo quam Nemo bonus nisi simul cum vita amittit. -Declaration of Arbroath

              by Robobagpiper on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 11:06:48 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Do you really want that? (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Clem Yeobright, GregOrr, erush1345

                Due to the way SS works, that'd only add to the benefits of those making between 106k or so and 250k.

                Do they really want more SS benefits?  Wouldn't they rather invest that money instead?

                •  No, you could easily change the benefits (0+ / 0-)

                  schedule across the board.

                  Because the benefit:contribution ratio is smallest on top incomes, the fact that their contributions would double would still only modestly increase their individual benefits.

                  And people in the $250k range are still spenders/consumers. This is especially true in retirement.

                  Non enim propter gloriam, diuicias aut honores pugnamus set propter libertatem solummodo quam Nemo bonus nisi simul cum vita amittit. -Declaration of Arbroath

                  by Robobagpiper on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 12:16:52 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  What I'm thinking now (0+ / 0-)

                  This has been a useful discussion.

                  Summary:
                  - Social Security is work insurance. People (who don't know if they'll be rich or poor) agree to put a small % of salary up to $110k into a pot, and they're assured a minimum livable income in old age. They're paid in the case of disability.
                  - The tax revenue comes half from salary earned by an individual and half from salary paid by corporations
                  - The system does not suffer from insolvency, though details must adjusted/updated as necessary

                  Plan:
                  - Eliminate the Social Security Payroll tax on corporations
                  - Reset the benefit to a new assessment of minimum livable income. Is $828/month the right amount?
                  - Do not pay the benefit to those with greater than $X in total assets ($5 MM?)
                  - Raise the wage cap on personal income from $110k/yr to the level required to compensate for the payroll tax cut and pay for the benefit

                  Related Ideas:
                  - Raise Medicare tax to the level required to pay for Medicare

                  •  $828? Are you kidding? (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    GregOrr

                    Remember that the dead screaming minimum for Medicare which is not really optional is now about one hundred bucks a month. Add copays. Add donut holes. Add income taxes on the SS after a certain point, admittedly above $828. Add food, clothing and housing, and, ahem, heat.  And remember that SS is the one and only thing a lot of seniors and soon to bes have to keep them going.

                    As to adding to payroll tax to make Medicare break even, that is humongously hard to do because the expensive and incurable in year x may be the one for which a cure is found in year y that is cheap as hell. Remember when bleeding stomach ulcers kills thousands every year, until they discovered it was an infection, applied antibiotics, and it dropped away as a major hazard almost as if it had never been, save for the already dead. And when alzheimer's first appeared as a risk?  Very recently. And H1N1 and  HIV, unknown before 1981.

                •  Do remember as to investment just how many folk (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  GregOrr

                  who had their pension money in 401ks, and what happened four years ago to those 'investments.'  Or those who owned a house and counted its presumed value into their retirement plans. One of the good points of SS, among many, is that one cannot pull one's funds out before 62.5, and they do not lose value as the market runs here and runs there and house prices go up and down.

                  I support increasing the wage cap.  

                  •  At 90/10 stock/bonds... (0+ / 0-)

                    ...I lost a grand total of 3% of my total 401k balance over the course of the crash and the following two years.

                    The only way I could see getting a 401k wiped out is if you held an unbalanced portfolio, or immediately locked in your losses by going to all cash/bonds after the crash.

  •  YES!!! (4+ / 0-)

    I've been saying this from the get-go. And if this happens we should say 'thank you' to the wealthy. But first, RAISE THE WAGE CAP.

    Only the weak & defeated are called to account for their crimes.

    by rreabold on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 10:09:38 AM PDT

  •  No brainer (5+ / 0-)

    I don't see why LeBron James or Peyton Manning only contribute $110K out of their massive $20 million a year salary, but some poor bastard that makes $100K pays a SS tax on 100% of their income.

    •  Rephrase (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jbob, historys mysteries

      I hate that you can't edit your own DK posts. It should say that are only pay SS taxes on their FIRST $110K of their $20 million.

    •  Because only the first $110k of wages is (7+ / 0-)

      insured by SS. They can make more than that, but it's not the government's job to replace those wages in the event of disability or old age.

      The cap is not a limit on how much the rich have to pay. It's a limit on how much the state will insure.

      Non enim propter gloriam, diuicias aut honores pugnamus set propter libertatem solummodo quam Nemo bonus nisi simul cum vita amittit. -Declaration of Arbroath

      by Robobagpiper on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 10:26:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'd like to see it paid on cap gains, too. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Christy1947

      If I understand the tax code correctly, Mitt Romney's $20+ million per year pays no Social Security tax because it's from capital gains, "carried interest" and dividends.  Yet another way the truly rich dodge contributing to the common weal.

      •  No, those cap gains should be taxed more (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Wee Mama

        heavily on the income tax end than wage income - because that establishes that work is moral and speculation is not. But they shouldn't be taxed for FICA because gambling income should not be eligible to be insured by the social safety net.

        Non enim propter gloriam, diuicias aut honores pugnamus set propter libertatem solummodo quam Nemo bonus nisi simul cum vita amittit. -Declaration of Arbroath

        by Robobagpiper on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 10:55:51 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The purposes of taxation is not to enforce morals. (0+ / 0-)

          I mean, in addition, in what moral structure is work moral and speculation not? Perhaps an Old Testament morality that prohibits usery...

          •  If that were so, booze and tobacco taxes would (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Clem Yeobright, eztempo

            not be what they are.

            The premise is that every cent or thing earned in exchange for services should be paid at ordinary income rates, even gambling winnings for pros, just as contest winnings are taxed, and should bear the weight of payroll taxes because ordinary income does so. I am waiting to see what happens to Eric Schneiderman's NY AG investigation into the small ministerial act which converted the huge bonuses of wall street, a major part of compensation for all there, into  instant capital gains only paying assets. As if part of the intended compensation itself was the change in tax status. Bain is one of the first dozen on the investigation list.

          •  All legislation is the enforcement of a moral (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            eztempo

            position; because the question of what should be done is always a moral question.

            And the notion that work is moral and speculation not is the moral judgement of the labor movement and New Deal movement, and has nothing to do with the Old Testament.

            Non enim propter gloriam, diuicias aut honores pugnamus set propter libertatem solummodo quam Nemo bonus nisi simul cum vita amittit. -Declaration of Arbroath

            by Robobagpiper on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 03:51:55 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  NO! the cap should not be removed (7+ / 0-)

    The cap should be raised as it has been many times in the past, but it should not be removed. If you removed the cap you have two paths.

    Allow the benefits to adjust to substantially higher contributions. That would result in SocSec monthly payments of $10,000 or more.

    Remove the cap, but cap the benefits. This violates every tenant of SocSec and ends SocSec as we know it. SocSec is wage insurance and collecting higher SocSec taxes with no increase in benefits is just another income tax.

    The more sensible plan is to raise the cap and allow benefits to rise in proportion to increased contributions.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 10:17:31 AM PDT

    •  By all means we must not use common sense to (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GregOrr

      raise Seniors and those on Medicaid out of poverty. I worked hard all my life, but only make $828 a month on my social security and $110 of that each month goes to my student loan. What a great wage insurance program with the CAP at $110K, huh?!

      BTW, it will take me over a hundred years to even get to make $110K. Hope I live to 170.

      Jeez...

      Hope has a hole in it when Republicans come, bringing shackles and sorrow; branding their greed on the backs of the poor. - Wendy Connors

      by Wendys Wink on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 10:29:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  would it be fair to raise the cap and (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GregOrr

      adjust the curve?  

      That is, retain the proportionality aspect but change the ratios.

      It seems curiosity has killed the cat that had my tongue.

      by Murphoney on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 10:33:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Murphoney - the benefits have a progressive tilt (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Clem Yeobright, GregOrr, Murphoney

        From an "investment" perspective low income participants in SocSec recieve a modestly better monthly benefit based on their contributions than people who contribute at the top rate.  I think a modest change in the curve along with raising the cap could be politically acceptable so that for the payments above $110,000 the benefit increases would rise at a lower rate than the contributions.  

        "let's talk about that"

        by VClib on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 01:32:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  EXCEPT (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          GregOrr

          the people living into their 90s are not the people receiving the smallest checks - they are the people getting the MAX checks.

          A person who starts taking Social Security at 62 and his twin brother with an identical earnings record who waits until age 70 will BOTH have received the same total amount of benefits some time in their 80th year, but each will continue to receive the same monthly check - maybe $1200 for one and $2000 for the other - until he dies, maybe for another 20 years.

          People who receive the big checks, then, also tend to live longer, so the progressivity - on a group basis - is less pronounced than it might seem.

          Am I right, or am I right? - The Singing Detective

          by Clem Yeobright on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 01:56:15 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  But the modification wouldn't primarily be meant (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            GregOrr

            to affect the actuarial tables from the perspective of individual social justice or even necessarily as the means of some sort of 'win' for the 99% over the 1%, but more as a means to preserve the health of the SSI program overall.

            How that would balance out in terms of each of the former perspectives, as well as for the bottom line overall after, say, 75 years would really need to be spelled--err, calculated out for me before I could see the implications clearly, let alone get up in arms.

            It seems curiosity has killed the cat that had my tongue.

            by Murphoney on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 02:22:45 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  The SS Benefit is strongly progressive (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          VClib, GregOrr

          see http://www.ssa.gov/...

          After the various inflation and standard of living adjustments and taking the 35 highest earning years of a person's payment history into Social Security - an Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME) is calculated. The benefit formula essentially has 3 tiers.  The first tier pays back 90% of AIME earnings each month, the second tier pays 32% and then it pays out at 15% in the top tier. So the payout rate for lower tiers is 6 times greater than higher tiers.

          Other factors that make Social Security progressive is that it is also subject to income taxes (up to 85% of what a person receives) and for those with taxable estates - inheritance  taxes.

          The net result is that considering payments to Social Security and the income tax due on Social Security benefits, the Social Security program is more progressive than the Income Tax.  Marginal rates for lower incomes have benefit payouts of 90% while those with high incomes have marginal after tax benefit rates of less than 10%.

          The above does not even include the impact of the earned income tax credit.

          The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

          by nextstep on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 02:43:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  nextstep - thanks for a very informative comment (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            GregOrr

            If you could edit comments I would take the word "modestly" out of my initial comment. Thanks for some real information, the SocSec benefit is significantly more progressive than I thought.

            "let's talk about that"

            by VClib on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 03:16:04 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  The payout rate in the SS Benefit formula is (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        GregOrr

        already very low for those at the top benefit tier in the Social Security benefit calculation.

        After income taxes on benefits, the top tier of SS benefits for high income people are less than 1/10th that of low income tiers.

        The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

        by nextstep on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 02:57:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  so you advocate raising the cap (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          GregOrr

          without any adjustment to the payout schematic?

          what do you mean to say with regard to my initial question, specifically?

          It seems curiosity has killed the cat that had my tongue.

          by Murphoney on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 03:12:32 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Keep the current benefit formula unchanged (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            GregOrr

            and raise the earned income cap so that 90% of earned income is included.

            There is no current direct benefit cap, the max benefit results from hitting the max payment ino SS each year.  Keep the benefit formula the same - I don't see a any reason to change the formula.

            The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

            by nextstep on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 03:42:13 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  without changing the formula, there would be (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              GregOrr

              no, or negligible, resuscitative benefit for the SSI program.  

              The general idea is that there needs to be recompense for the decades of funds appropriation, one way or another, if SSI is going to stick around.

              It seems curiosity has killed the cat that had my tongue.

              by Murphoney on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 03:48:59 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  The max tier in the Benefit formula already (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                GregOrr

                gives a significant negative rate of return to high income participants.

                Have you gone through the benefit formula after tax for high income beneficiaries?  

                The change I propose would have an immediate and sustained improvement to SS long term.  In addition, the increased payments into Social Security are immediate, while the increased payouts are phased in over more than 35 years.

                Another factor to recognize is that high income earners very often continue to work and pay into Social Security way past reaching 65 years of age - the net Benefit payouts to these people are exceptionally low.

                Lastly for those beneficiaries who pay estate taxes, their lifetime Social Security benefits are cut one last time by the 35% estate tax.

                The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

                by nextstep on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 04:13:57 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

    •  A few monts ago I saw an economic analysis of the (0+ / 0-)

      two alternatives, and either of them would still have improved the viability of SS in general by a good bit.

  •  AWFUL idea (0+ / 0-)

    Three facts:

    1. SS benefits are calculated based on contributions; that's why it's an insurance program and not a welfare program.

    2. People who live longer draw MORE than their contributions; in fact, they benefit from the contributions of people who die younger.

    3. Higher-earning people live longer.

    Do I need to say more?

    My recommendation is to DROP the cap to about 60k.

    Am I right, or am I right? - The Singing Detective

    by Clem Yeobright on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 10:19:57 AM PDT

    •  Of course, any extra money the poor, disabled and (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      historys mysteries, S F Hippie

      retired get from an increase in the CAP, would pump the economy to proper levels and we wouldn't want that, now would we, Clem?

      You forget that good, solid, hardworking Americans sometimes only get scraps for their Social Security.

      Hope has a hole in it when Republicans come, bringing shackles and sorrow; branding their greed on the backs of the poor. - Wendy Connors

      by Wendys Wink on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 10:33:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I forget nothing (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        GregOrr, MGross, erush1345

        I have no problem with an EITC-like tax program that grants $10k or so to every person over 65 below a certain income level. Congress can give it and Congress can take it back.

        But that's not Social Security.

        SS is a wage-insurance program that one EARNS through one's contributuions.

        Please. Leave. It. Alone.

        Am I right, or am I right? - The Singing Detective

        by Clem Yeobright on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 11:09:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  OK. I will leave it alone, but with one final (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Clem Yeobright, S F Hippie

          thought: Even door hinges need oil and replacing or refurbishing at least once in a lifetime, without damage to the door.

          Hope has a hole in it when Republicans come, bringing shackles and sorrow; branding their greed on the backs of the poor. - Wendy Connors

          by Wendys Wink on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 12:27:07 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Remove Medicare in title (5+ / 0-)

    As there is no wage cap for Medicare

    The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

    by nextstep on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 10:27:21 AM PDT

  •  I'd also like to see an end to different (4+ / 0-)

    classifications of income.  Get rid of special treatment for capital gains and inheritance; treat them the same way we treat wage income, with the same rates and subject to FICA tax.

    Your request has bad syntax or is inherently impossible to satisfy. --httpd_err400form

    by Bob Novak Douchebag of Liberty on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 10:41:53 AM PDT

  •  Tandem Cap & Floor (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eztempo

    As several people have pointed out, the cap is essential to keeping the distinction between an insurance program and a welfare program (unless you're going to give millionaires correspondingly large Social Security payouts, which I think can be dismissed as ridiculous).

    That said, I see a good case for a minimum below which wages aren't taxed (which, technically, might also be considered "welfare", but in the relatively palatable form of a break for someone who works and doesn't get paid much).

    On the Internet, nobody knows if you're a dog... but everybody knows if you're a jackass.

    by stevemb on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 10:46:04 AM PDT

  •  NO NO A THOUSND TIMES, NO! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Clem Yeobright

    What most people don't seem to grasp is that the Social Security tax (including Medicare) is actually NORTH of 13%.

    Half is paid by the business, half by the employee.

    ALL OF IT is paid by people like me, who was self-employed. You really want to hit a fairly successful small business family (say around $200k) with more than $12,000 in additional taxes? Think about it - a guy running a small business, or self-employed, has a good year and makes $200k (by the way, such businesses, like writing, are incredibly volatile, income-wise) would be paying almost $27,000 to FICA, no deductions allowed, before you even begin to look at state tax and federal tax.

    You want to impose that?

    Really?

    And once again, of course, you're barely scratching the million dollar/year club.

    No. Just no.

    Treat ALL income as income. PPACA does not exempt capital gains from the 3.8% Medicare tax, as was the case before. There is no cap on the Medicare tax, but until PPACA, investment income was exempt from it. That's a good start.

    •  I would go for removing the payroll side of SS (0+ / 0-)

      It seems like a benefit to people that people should pay for. We don't need personal and corporate taxes in lockstep.

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