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Pro-con: Does Social Security need reform?

At 75, our Social Security program is starting to show its age. It is running a significant cash-flow deficit for the first time in decades. Worse, its long-term financial picture is bleak. Social Security has promised $7.7 trillion more in benefits over the next 75 years than it will take in from payroll taxes. The deficits begin in about six years. Doing nothing is not an option. Social Security can cover all promised benefits for now. But if changes aren't made fairly soon, all retirees eventually will face 22 percent benefit cuts. One needed reform is to increase the Social Security retirement age. This should be accompanied by other incentives, such as eliminating the Social Security payroll tax for employees who are willing to work beyond their normal retirement ages. — David John, Heritage Foundation

The common source for everyone writing and talking about Social Security is the annual Social Security Trustees Report. This shows that the program can pay all promised benefits for the next 27 years, without any changes at all. If nothing is done over the next 27 years, only about 75 percent of scheduled benefits would be payable in 2037; but that would still be more than what retirees receive today, after adjusting for inflation. So, according to the assumptions and facts that everyone who writes or talks about Social Security is using, there is no basis for the belief by a majority of Americans that Social Security will not be able to pay benefits when they retire. Policymakers should reject any benefit cuts to Social Security — including raising the retirement age. This is a very regressive cut that hurts lower-income workers the most, since many have jobs that are too physically demanding to work longer, and since their life expectancy has not increased along with that of higher-income employees. — Mark Weisbrot, Center for Economic and Policy Research

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