Partisan politics does not solve problems of Social Security

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Before David M. Quintana gives his opinion on the issue of Social Security (“Protect Social Security from GOP,” Feb. 24), it would do his position better to not rely on the same old deceptive arguments that are based on misleading emotional scenarios and focus more on real facts.

To begin with, both Democrats and Republicans agree on little, but both sides agree that there is a problem with Social Security and Medicare. With Americans living longer than anticipated when the program was developed, the fund is reaching the point where the accumulated surplus will be depleted and the fund will be in deficit. This may or may not be a crisis situation, but just as two plus two equals four, any shortfall in funding must come from somewhere and decisions on where must be made. A dollar put in one person’s pocket must come from another person’s pocket. It is a simple fact of life.

Social Security running a deficit in and of itself is not a crisis. As a nation, a decision can be made that it is an important part of the government’s responsibilities to provide security to people when they can no longer continue to work. But it is a crisis when both parties in Congress ignore the problem because bringing it up provokes a deceptive emotional response that has seniors eating cat food and choosing between food and rent.

Reforming Social Security by telling current workers that the government will begin providing benefits at a later age because of the average increase in longevity will not hurt current workers or hamper economic activity. It is simple informing workers that if they want to retire before a certain age, they will have to fund those years on their own. If they are unable to work in those intervening years, disability Social Security is available.

The part of Quintana’s argument that I find wrong is his statement that the payroll tax cap is a tremendous tax cut to wealthy Americans. It is this type of statement that is dividing any discussion on how to solve the problem. Social Security is not an entitlement program but a fund where people contribute during their working life for a benefit when they retire.

On that basis, workers contribute a maximum amount — a salary cap — because the amount of benefit they will receive is also capped. To say that by not taking more of a person’s salary in taxes, you are giving them something is just not correct. It is their money, just as every individual’s income and property is theirs.

Congress can and maybe should raise the salary cap on Social Security taxes to put the fund on a more stable financial footing. But when the subject comes up, it should be done in an honest and matter-of-fact manner in which possible solutions are examined and the benefits and costs are clearly identified. Middle- and working-class Americans delivered a message in November that said they wanted financial responsibility. Each year the country spends more than it receives, it borrows money future workers and retirees will have to pay back.

Vilifying the GOP is a knee-jerk, learned response that is not only based on deceptions and myths, but does nothing other than create a hostile reaction that prolongs the problem. All of us need to be honest and objective, not emotional and partisan.

Ed Huberts


Updated 10:48 am, October 12, 2011
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