Comments about ‘Robert Bennett: Avert the Social Security crisis’

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Published: Monday, Jan. 13 2014 12:00 a.m. MST

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E Sam
Provo, UT

Easy solution. Just adjust the formula for SS taxes. Right now, it's capped at, what, $102,000. Raise it to $200,000--actually, I've read that $180,000 would do the job--- and we're good.

Mike in Cedar City
Cedar City, Utah

Social Security is not a "lottery". Privately funded Life insurance policies take into consideration mortality, as do private annuities. Social Security is just a government administered annuity paid for in advance of retirement by employees and employers. The burr under Bennett's saddle is that annuity is administered by the Federal Goverment instead of some private insurance firm. He, like most if not all right wingers, hate government with such a passion, that they have convinced themselves that government can do virtually nothing right. The success of the Social Security System over the last few decades since it was enacted gives credible voice to the error of that anti government ideology.

Nevertheless there are some things that can be done to Social Security. One thing is not to exempt any class of employees as now permitted. Another is to eliminate the income cut off limit. Another, would be to adjust the income test. Most people probably do not know that Social Security is already income tested. Another is not to exempt any form of income from the Social Security tax.


Ogden, UT

"It was known when it was created that half of its participants would lose, getting none of their money back, because they would die before turning 65."

Translation: Average Life Expectancy (50%) = 65.

"Average life expectancy for those over 65 in the 1940s was seven more years,..."

Translation: Average Life Expectancy for those over the average (25%) = 72.

"As long as 100 percent of the workers were paying in for as much as 45 years while only 50 percent of them were taking out for an average of seven years, everything balanced..."

No. As much as 49 (65-16). And no, only 25% drew for 7 years.

"Today, the percentage of workers who live long enough to draw Social Security is 85 percent, not 50 percent. The average number of years in which they do so is closer to 13 than seven."

Translation: Average Life Expectancy = 78. The "85%" is irrelevant to the equation. Closer to 13 than 7 would be anything over 10. No, it actually is 78.8 (76 for men, 81 for women).

Just the facts, mam.

His point, however, is still valid. I just don't know what his solution was.

Mike in Cedar City
Cedar City, Utah

While I admire Bob Bennett as a sane Republican, I must take issue with his "facts" about Social Security. His biggest mistake,is that he states that "all workers" are required to pay into it. That is not the same as saying all "earners" pay into it, and his argument fails to note that employers pay into it as well. However, his "all workers" pay obscures the truth that many "workers" are exempted from paying into social security. Public employees of State and Local Goverments, some employees of certain religious orders, Foreign Nationals, Children under the age of 18, all these, and more, may be, and often are exempted. Also certain type of investment incomes are exempted, like capital gains.

Far East USA, SC

Unfortunately, too many would rather deal in hyperbole than facts.

Mr Bennett laid it out reasonably. And, with a little give and take TODAY from the R and D and the problem could be fixed. Waiting makes the fix more painful.

Raise SS tax, Push back the age a bit, raise the SS earnings cap (or get rid of it)

Unfortunately, the D's will support some of this and hate other parts.
The R's will like some and hate some.

So, because neither side will get everything they want, they will do nothing.

And far too many people are fine with them doing nothing unless their side gets all they want.

Call your dang congressman and tell them to drop the ideology and fix it.

It aint that tough.

(now, Medicare is a whole other issue, and much tougher)

Bluffdale, UT

The best form of government would be a benevolent dictator who makes logical correct decisions.
Obviously politicians who currently make the decisions on our country's future can't make the correct decisions if their main worry is getting re-elected. I am not sure if term limits are the answer either since any decision a politician makes is reflected on their political party so they don't make correct, controversial decisions because it may affect their party's chances of being re-elected.

Hayden, ID

If you or I had been allowed to keep our FICA confiscations along with our employer's contributions in our behalf, invest that money in a simple pass book savings account at our bank, earn compounded interest until we retire (say 40 years)we would be multi-millionaires during our golden years. As it is, we were forced into a silly Ponzi scheme run by the government that stole and spent our money on failed social programs and left an IOU in the "trust fund". Bankrupt, full of fraud and corruption and some of you think that is a great idea? Sounds just like Obamacare doesn't it?

Iron Rod
Salt Lake City, UT

Would you consider running again against Mike Lee? Please Please Please

Roland Kayser
Cottonwood Heights, UT

The social security "crisis" is greatly overblown. Social Security currently consumes 5% of GDP. That is projected to rise to 6% of GDP by around 2040. It is not projected to exceed that amount for at least the next 75 years. 1% of GDP is never a crisis. By way of comparison the War on Terror has been consuming 2% of GDP, and no one suggested that we couldn't possibly pay for it.

A small benefit cut coupled with a small tax increase will fix S.S. for the foreseeable future.

salt lake city, UT

Social Security is one of the best pieces of legislation ever passed by Congress. Conservatives and ill-informed posters often predict gloom and doom to S.S. and other federal safety nets because they hate them. The reality is they are quite popular and have made a huge difference to the quality of life for our seniors. Without S.S. over 40% of our seniors would now be living in poverty. Adjustments need to be made as they always will. If a politican does not believe they should exist, throw those few out of office. The others need to work together and make changes so S.S. exists for then next 50 years.

Tyler D
Meridian, ID

This needs to be addressed but solution(s) are remarkably simple and straightforward – unlike Medicare (the elephant in the room).

We could slightly lower the benefits, slightly raise the tax, or slightly raise the age limit – or a combination of two or all three. Mr. Bennett is right that the longer we wait the more drastic (vs. slight) these changes will need to be. But the baby boom bubble we eventually pass meaning in another few decades the program will likely be in surplus territory again.

Let’s act now so we can maintain a program that has done more to promote a dynamic & risk taking outlook in our working years (something conservatives often lose sight of), while keeping tens of millions of elderly people out of abject poverty when they can no longer take those risks.

Saint George, UT

Roland Kaiser and FT: I like to find common ground as much as anyone. So, that being said, I am one of those extremist right wingers that believe that government messes up most everything that it gets involved in, including Social Security! I just don't believe in it. I don't think I am alone. The patronizing influence peddlers want you to believe that those who believe as I do want to destroy the country. Not so! Wanting people to take responsibility for their own savings will not destroy anyone! Nor do I want those who have put into the system, as I have, to not get out what was taken from me. I find FT's answer very patronizing and disrespectful in regards to Social Security. His answer that"...Adjustments need to be made as they always will..." is dishonest and patronizing. If the government promised something, shouldn't it live up to its obligations? Therein is the problem. How can you trust someone that wants to change the rules on a whim? Kaiser, as far as the war on terror. I agree. We love war and that is not good for any society!

Roland Kayser
Cottonwood Heights, UT

To banderson: I disagree with you about Social Security, but thanks for the civil dialogue.

Tyler D
Meridian, ID

@Roland Kayser – “To banderson: I disagree with you about Social Security, but thanks for the civil dialogue.”

Ditto… on both.

@ bandersen – “"...Adjustments need to be made as they always will..." is dishonest and patronizing.”

It’s no more dishonest or patronizing than if an insurance company adjusts its rate and/or benefits based on actuarial facts.

And wanting people to take responsibility for their own saving sounds good, but the fact is many millions would not do so for a whole host of reason, some within their control and some not (e.g., stock market crash the day before you retire).

Social Security by itself is not landing anyone in the lap of luxury (that’s what savings & investments are for). It simply insures that elderly people will not have to live out their golden years under a bridge.

Irony Guy
Bountiful, Utah

Mountainman has not done the math. My OASDI contribution in a "simple passbook savings account" would not even come close to compounding what I need in retirement. At typical passbook rates, I would actually lose ground to inflation. Why don't conservatives pay attention in math class?

salt lake city, UT

My opionion was not made to be patronizing. I think the discussion on whether or not social security should be dismantled has long passed. George Bush broght that up at the start of his 2nd term saying he had a mandate from the people and he was going to use it. His plans to privatize and get the federal govermnent out of S.S. went down fast after the overwhelming majority of the public opposed it. If conservatives would accept the fact that Americans want S.S. to remain in place and work to improve the financial footing of it the party would have more support.
My retirement will be set with or without S.S. so my main concern is that as a pragmatist. I agree with some of the other posters. Before we had S.S. a huge percentage of our elderly were impoverished and if we disbanded it now conditions would only be worse. It's a saftey net that makes our country stronger, whether you or I ever need it or not.

Salt Lake City, UT

Well, if the comments from several of the contributors here doesn't prove the point that trying to convince someone of the disastrous actuarial facts awaiting the Social Security system is a largely futile effort, I don't know what would.

But, one probably shouldn't even bother with worrying about how insolvent the system will become. It's more important to recognize how completely insolvent it IS.

Because of the essentially fraudulent way the system works, in actuality, there is no "trust fund"...and hasn't been for a long time. Rather than actually having a separate account into which SS taxes go and from which benefits are drawn, there now is nothing but a file full of IOUs from the government promising to pay back what was taken from the "trust" fund to pay for general governmental operations.

So, rather than some kind of insurance annuity, the Social Security system is much more akin to the kind of thing for which Bernard Madoff has become infamous, as someone who ran the biggest Ponzi scheme of all time. The truth is, of course, our government has Madoff beaten in that category by a Long, long way.

Thid Barker
Victor, ID

Irony guy. You get an F in math. Compound interest is interest that is paid on both the principal and also on any interest from past years. Over time, compound interest will make much more money than simple interest. The formula used to calculate compound interest is:

M = P( 1 + i )n

M is the final amount including the principal.

P is the principal amount.

i is the rate of interest per year.

n is the number of years invested.

Hayden, ID

@ Irony Guy. Thid Barker is mostly correct! Let me help you with your math. Let's say you pay in to FICA $3600/year and your employer pays in the same amount in your behalf= $7200/year. You invest that in the stock market or a money market fund @ (let's be conservative and just say 8.0% for 40 years)! That interest rate is not hard to achieve because most people in the stock market do better than 8.0% You would retire with a cool $2,170,840.04 in your account! SS would not even come close to that, IF you collect at all!


Who is getting 8.0% on money markets funds these days? Try 1% or less. On stocks - many lost everything during the recession.

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