Retirement age should not be raised for Social Security
Published 11:48 am Friday, March 24, 2023
There has been a lot of debate in this Congress about Social Security benefits. It seems that when Congress is looking for new revenue, they can’t keep their eyes and hands off Social Security. They have said they will not cut benefits, but, some senators and congressmen are eyeing the possibility of raising the retirement age.
Raising the retirement age would remove a lot of financial pressure felt by Congress, but, for the average American it would be difficult. Under no circumstances should the retirement age of the program be raised, nor should benefits be reduced for the people who count on them for a stable life in their golden years.
Working people pay into the program, believing that when they become 65 or 67 they can retire and draw a check each month. Granted it would be hard to live off a Social Security check, so most workers have a 401K or IRA. Others have retirement accounts with their workplaces.
One such proposal reportedly being considered by Congress is a plan to gradually raise the retirement age to 70, much as was done in 1983, when it was raised to 67 for workers born after 1959.
Granted, some sort of reform is necessary. The program’s trust fund has enough revenue from payroll taxes to meet its commitment until 2035, when benefits would have to be cut by 20 percent to keep the books in the black.
Raising the retirement age certainly would remove a lot of that pressure. But for the average American, it would be difficult.
The average yearly Social Security retirement benefit is modest – just under $22,000 in 2023. But it is often a senior’s only source of income. For some seniors, their retirement income is much less – as little as $1,200 and $1,500 a month. In Tennessee, fewer than one in four seniors receive money from other retirement sources, and nationwide, two-thirds of seniors would be in poverty if it weren’t for Social Security.
Raising the retirement age would force seniors to either stay in the workforce longer or accept a greatly reduced benefit by taking early retirement.
Even if someone wants to work until 70 in order to get the full Social Security benefit, they may not get the chance. Older workers are more likely than others to be laid off. Many also experience physical and mental difficulties that make it hard to work, or they have to care for a spouse going through the same thing.
There are other ways to stabilize Social Security that don’t so carelessly hurt the people the program is supposed to help.
First, we should be honest about the gravity of the problem. The gap facing Social Security may seem huge, but rather than cutting into the benefits most Americans need to get by in their later years, Congress should raise the income cap, which limits the amount of income that can be taxed to fund the Social Security trust.
In 2023, that limit is $160,200, meaning that in many cases, the richest Americans or corporate executives including congressmen and senators are paying a smaller portion of their income into the program than those living paycheck to paycheck.
Opponents argue that the tax increase from raising or eliminating the cap would harm the economy, and that it would force wealthier Americans to pay too much for a system they won’t get much out of.
But taxation needs to be given close consideration. Arguments against such targeted tax increases fail to value the benefits of Social Security even to those who don’t need the monthly checks, which keep their neighbors out of poverty and allowing them financial security as they grow old. Social Security is a program that benefits all. Some retirees die young and are not long-time benefactors of the program.
More and more Americans are now barreling toward retirement age with little in the bank to show from years of hard work as inflation has eaten into their income.
Raising the age for Social Security would just add to their uncertainty, and make their golden years decidedly less golden.