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November 15, 2018


Professor Kennedy in her blog today tackles the problem of social security funding, which some say is an emergency. She opines that this is a problem that can be solved very simply and cites three things Robert Reich has proposed to solve the problem: (1) raise the amount subject to the payroll tax, (2) allow the government to negotiate drug prices with Big Pharma, and (3) encourage young immigrants to come to America. Peggy, one of my fellow contributors to Professor Kennedy’s blog, proposes that we simply remove the lid of $128,400 to which the payroll tax is applicable so that all income is subject to the tax. Professor Kennedy invited commentary, and the following, slightly edited, was mine.

Peggy, your idea is a good one if hardly novel, and I think it could be done. After all, if you are Warren Buffet or one of the marketing and electronic zillionaires, having the social security contribution apply to all your income is a mere pinprick, hardly noticeable, and easily offset by more tax breaks on the order of the recent Trump/Ryan atrocity. No doubt superrich libertarians would also bribe those in power to legislatively redefine “income” as well, as they have done so successfully with the continuing “carried interest” fantasy, among others.

Given these likely responses, I still think an application of social security upwards to cover all income would solve the problem, and there could conceivably even be support for such a move from right wing anti-immigrant voters, who might favor having the rich pay more rather than being forced to open our borders to a flood of Trump-identified rapists, murderers and caravans loaded with drug lords.

The foregoing smacks of a very unlikely choice of alternatives and can probably be classified under the Pollyanna heading, of course, given the influence of libertarian, Ukrainian and Russian moneybags who have bought our Oval Office and prominent members of the Republican Party (notably Graham and McConnell), so that realistically, and for good reason other than balancing our social security funding for the future (e.g., plunging birth rate, aging workforce, and an economy not yet robotized in need of immigrants ), we will have to come up with policies that Reich has outlined.

Parenthetically, the sky isn’t falling on our ability to keep social security afloat. We have plenty of time within which to fix the numbers, and there is no emergency other than the one being manufactured by libertarian/Republican propaganda meisters in order to open up and tinker with the program and install their plan to rid us of this program altogether, so let’s not be fooled by the phony cries of doom for the program; let’s rather expand the program via reduction of the retirement age for qualification, additional benefits to offset Medicare costs etc., all of which are doable but lacking only the political will – and that problem can be fixed at the polling places.       GERALD        E

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