A lot of pundits would have Americans believe that the Social Security system should be scrapped because it faces some challenges. These advocates, despite significant publicity given to their point of view, face an uphill battle. Social Security is among the most popular government programs, with the majority of Americans indicating that they support the continuation of the program and many indicating that they would be willing to pay a little more to ensure its long-term existence.
A 2011 poll conducted by CNN revealed that eight out of 10 Americans think that Social Security has been good for the country. NBC News released a story in February 2013 that indicated that Americans would be willing to pay to fix Social Security. Based on a study conducted by the National Academy of Social Insurance, the story reported that eight in 10 Americans would be willing to pay more to fix the program that provides old-age pensions and disability benefits to millions of Americans every year.
Other studies have shown that people believe that the wealthy should pay more. The current system asks people to pay taxes on income up to a certain level. Although the threshold increases gradually, a Pew Research study showed that 65 percent of Americans support raising payroll taxes for high-income earners. At the same time, 55 percent support reducing benefits for the rich, for whom Social Security benefits represent only a small proportion of their retirement planning.
Not surprisingly, older adults who are already receiving retirement benefits and those approaching retirement age are more supportive of proposals to "fix" Social Security. However, a large percentage of younger people - nearly half - report similar attitudes, although many doubt that Social Security will be available to them by the time they retire.
What about Social Security Disability (SSD)? Benefit recipients have been demonized in the press and by politicians as unworthy cheaters who are living the high life on their benefits. Do these attacks actually reflect public opinion? It turns out that the answer is a resounding "no."
A poll conducted by Lincoln Park Strategies during the 2012 election season showed that 83 percent of likely voters believe that the government should not cut SSD and other earned benefits. Respondents recommended that the government look elsewhere to find solutions to its budget problems. According to the report, support for SSD was bipartisan.
The System Is Basically Sound
The fiscal health of Social Security is basically good, according to the 2013 Social Security Trustees report. The attacks and alarms are based on either minor problems or temporary situations. SSD is scheduled to experience reduced funding sooner than old-age pensions, but even if Congress takes no action to reallocate funds (something it has already done 12 times), disability benefits can continue at 80 percent of current levels.
If Congress does reallocate funds, both SSD and old-age pensions will be fully funded through 2033, even with the current demographic bubble. In short, people who attack Social Security's programs do not reflect public opinion and are using scare tactics based on incomplete or incorrect information.
For more information about Social Security, especially Social Security Disability, contact Binder & Binder.