Time to scrap the cap

This week marks the time of the year when the 1 percent, our nation’s wealthiest, get a tax break as they stop contributing to the Social Security fund from their pay checks. For most of us, we’ll continue paying that same percentage of our earnings for the rest of the year.

Sounds unfair, but it’s true.

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Contributions to the Social Security fund are capped at the first $117,000 of income. Anything earned above that is exempt from the Social Security tax. That means anyone making more than $380,000 a year is done paying into the national retirement fund for 2014 as of April 17.

You’ll notice this is a fact that corporate-funded think tanks and corporate-funded Congress members conveniently leave out of their anti-Social Security propaganda. Is this because many of them are funded and represented by those who receive this tax break?

What’s also left out of the rhetoric from those who would have Congress balance the budget on the backs of seniors and working families is how eliminating this tax cap could strengthen Social Security for future generations.  Social Security is projected to be solvent until 2033, according to the Social Security Board of Trustees 2012 report. And even after that income, as opposed to the interest the fund makes, will still be able to pay for 77 percent of all benefits.

As they push their talking points about a social security “crisis”, these groups also promote a solvency solution that slashes retirement income and increases the work life of most Americans.   The age to qualify for full benefits for those born after 1960 has been raised from 65 to 67.

Not surprisingly, others are proposing another answer—scrap the cap and tax the full income of those who can most afford it instead.  

 If Congress scrapped the cap on Social Security, it could extend the viability of the Social Security fund for decades more.  It would also improve benefits for today’s retirees, especially those relying on the program for the bulk of their retirement income. The proponents of this view include numerous Senators and Congressional representatives.  Currently four bills are working their way through Congress that would scrap the cap and fortify benefits in various other ways as well.  

This is such a clean, simple solution for what is one of the most popular government program ever.

A recent study from the National Academy of Social Insurance found large majorities of Americans, both Republicans and Democrats, agree that “it is critical to preserve Social Security even if it means increasing Social Security taxes paid by working Americans.”

When given a choice between raising taxes or cutting benefits, nearly 90 percent want to preserve Social Security for future generations even if it means increasing the taxes paid by wealthy Americans.

 So why is that so hard for the 1% and their Congressional and media allies to acknowledge that the wealthiest 1% of Americans should pay their fair share and do their part to keep Social Security secure? It’s just a good idea that would be even better policy.

Walker is the first African American women to hold the position of president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1000, the nation's largest state employee union.  The union fights for the rights of nurses, janitors, information technology workers, bridge inspectors and other workers representing numerous state agencies throughout California.

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