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Here's some news for the austerity fetishists who insist that "everyone knows" Social Security must be cut. The public emphatically disagrees.

Chart showing majority view for paying more in taxes to save Social Security.
That's from a survey released this week by the National Academy of Social Insurance, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization made up of the nation's leading experts on social insurance. As NASI points out in their press release, they find "a sharp contrast between what Americans say they want and changes being discussed in Washington, such as cutting benefits by using a 'chained' Consumer Price Index to determine Social Security’s cost-of-living adjustment (COLA)." Huge majorities, including 74 percent of Republicans and 88 percent of Democrats, agree that “it is critical to preserve Social Security even if it means increasing Social Security taxes paid by working Americans.” Comparable numbers, 71 percent of Republicans and 97 percent of Democrats, support lifting the payroll tax cap on income of the current limit of $113,700.

In addition to being asked basic support/don't support style questions, survey participants were given the opportunity to choose a preferred package of changes from a "various combinations of 12 possible changes, including raising taxes; lowering benefits by raising the full retirement age, changing the COLA, or means-testing benefits; and increasing benefits."

The most favored package of changes—preferred to the status quo by seven in 10 participants across generations and income levels—would:
  • Gradually, over 10 years, eliminate the cap on earnings taxed for Social Security. This would mean that the 5% of workers who earn more than the cap would pay into Social Security all year, as other workers do.
  • Gradually, over 20 years, raise the Social Security tax that workers and employers each pay from 6.2% of earnings to 7.2%. The increase would be so gradual that someone earning $50,000 a year would pay about 50 cents a week more each year, with the employer’s share increasing by the same amount.
  • Increase the COLA to more accurately reflect the inflation actually experienced by seniors, who typically pay more out-of-pocket for medical care than other Americans.
  • Raise Social Security’s minimum benefit so that a worker who pays into Social Security for 30 years can retire at 62 or later with benefits above the federal poverty line ($10,788 in 2011). Currently, lifetime low-wage workers are at risk of falling into poverty in their old age, even after paying Social Security taxes throughout their working lives.
So much for what "everybody knows" about Social Security. The people who are actually going to have to live with the decisions policymakers land on, the people who really truly do have skin in the game recognize that Social Security benefits shouldn't be cut, they should be increased, and that it's such a critical priority they are willing to pay for it.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 03:48 PM PST.

Also republished by Social Security Defenders and Daily Kos.

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