Americans overwhelmingly prefer raising payroll taxes & increasing Social Security benefits

This should come as no surprise, but the data is now in. While Our Betters have converged on the idea of lower taxes for themselves and benefit cuts for recipients of social insurance programs — Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid — the people they govern have converged on just the opposite idea.

Americans overwhelmingly want to increase payroll taxes and sweeten the benefits paid out. Via NASI, the National Academy of Social Insurance (emphasis mine):

Americans support Social Security and are willing to pay more to preserve and even improve benefits, according to a new survey released today by the nonpartisan National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI).

The new study, Strengthening Social Security: What Do Americans Want? (pdf), finds 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).

Large majorities of Americans, both Republicans and Democrats, agree on ways to strengthen Social Security — without cutting benefits. Fully 74% of Republicans and 88% of Democrats agree that “it is critical to preserve Social Security even if it means increasing Social Security taxes paid by working Americans.”

When asked the same question about increasing Social Security taxes for better-off Americans, 71% of Republicans and 97% of Democrats agree. Social Security taxes are paid by workers and their employers on earnings up to a cap ($113,700 in 2013). About 5% of workers earn more than the cap.

That “5% of workers” who earn more than the salary cap are, of course, our wealthiest workers — and also the beneficiaries of the post-Reagan economic policies detailed here (be sure to check out the graph).

From the report itself (page 1), we find:

■ Americans don’t mind paying for Social Security because they value it for themselves (80%), for their families (78%), and for the security and stability it provides to millions of retired Americans, disabled individuals, and children and widowed spouses of deceased workers (84%).

84% believe current Social Security benefits do not provide enough income for retirees, and 75% believe we should consider raising future Social Security benefits in order to provide a more secure retirement for working Americans.

■ 82% agree it is critical to preserve Social Security for future generations even if it means increasing Social Security taxes paid by working Americans, and 87% want to preserve Social Security for future generations even if it means increasing taxes paid by wealthier Americans.

The consensus is stunning. For the following “package of changes” …

Gradually, over 10 years, eliminate the cap on earnings that are taxed for Social Security. This would mean that the 5% of workers who earn more than the cap ($110,100 in 2012; $113,700 in 2013) would pay into Social Security throughout the year, as other workers do.

Gradually, over 20 years, raise the Social Security tax rate that workers and employers each pay from 6.2% of earnings to 7.2%. A worker earning $50,000 a year would pay about 50 cents a week more each year.

Raise Social Security’s basic minimum benefit so that someone who paid into Social Security for 30 years can retire at 62 or later and not be poor.

Increase Social Security’s cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to more accurately reflect the level of inflation experienced by seniors.

… this is the consensus that prefers it (Figure 1, page 2):

Support for SS Perferred Package (NASI report, fig 1)

The bipartisan desire to sustain and grow this program is real, and Mr. Obama and other Democratic “entitlement” fetishists better understand that. This is still the third rail of American politics.

Centrism 101 — There are two “centrist” positions, not just one

I’ll keep this short, since it should be obvious. Let’s call it Centrism 101. People who perform on TV are fond of talking about the “centrist” position, or the “bipartisan consensus” on various economic matters. This presumes a vertical left-right divide with some kind of center between them.

The real divide in this country is not Left versus Right — it’s the Rich versus the Rest. It’s the horizontal division between the people taking all the money they can, and those they’re taking it from.

Among the rich, there’s a widely-agreed center position — more for us, less for everyone else on the planet.

As the poll above makes very clear, there’s also a widely-agreed center position among the rest of us — keep your stinking hands off of our last protection against poverty.

Oddly, those positions seem to be in conflict, but they are still both “centrist” positions. You just have to ask “the center of what?” The rich agree with each other on money matters; they just don’t agree with us.


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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