There is no easy way to fix Social Security system

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  • Mike in Cedar City Cedar City, Utah
    July 18, 2012 10:43 a.m.

    What in the Samhill? Not a Ponzi scheme sir. SSN does not fit the basic definition because by definition a Ponzi Scheme is created and marketed in an covert attempt to illegally defraud. The key word is "illegally". SSN is a lawfully enacted retirement program with a creative funding plan. We do need to implement some kind of a funding catch up so that each new generation is pre-paying for its own benefit.

    What we don't need is some crackpot right wing notion to privatize it and turn the funds over to the full faith and credit of "Wall Street" We tried that with the 401(k), which as you know has been a disaster for most beneficiaries. They call it a 201(k). But Wall Street did not lost anything, they got their fees.

  • Florwood American Fork, UT
    July 18, 2012 9:04 a.m.

    Interesting that a regular commenter, JoeBlow, could actually produce some concrete suggestions, while the economics professor had none. If Mr. Phillips is representative of the quality of advice the government is getting from its economists, it may be another reason why things have gotten in a bad way.

  • samhill Salt Lake City, UT
    July 17, 2012 7:35 p.m.

    "Unlike a retirement pension, hardly any of the revenue collected from workers is put aside as savings. Instead, the bulk of Social Security taxes collected are immediately spent as benefits for current retirees."


    Another way to explain it is to look up the definition of a Ponzi scheme.

    Practically speaking, they are the same.

  • Mike in Cedar City Cedar City, Utah
    July 17, 2012 5:29 p.m.

    M.G Scott. Find out for yourself how many times Reagan raised taxes during his tenure as president. Reagan left us with a monumental budget deficit that we didn't eliminate until Clinton's second term.

    But, I repeat Social Security did not create the deficit, and cuts to it is no way a fair way to reduce a deficit largely run up under the Bush Administration because of unfunded war and Medicare Part D.

    The dislike for Obama has little to do with his economics. I will leave it to you to find the reason they wanted to make him a one term president before he even took office. Corporate business types are holding out because, like the Republican led House, they don't want to do anything that might help Obama --- and for all they care, the good of the nation can just be d....d

  • m.g. scott LAYTON, UT
    July 17, 2012 1:52 p.m.

    Mike in Cedar City, the right wing as you put it does not want to do that, because we are smart enough to know that you don't "cut" your way out of debt, but "grow" your way out through the private sector as Reagan did. Short term pro business policies will bring massive increase in employment and the tax base will begin to solve the deficit and debt. That is the only way to do it. Obama is headed in the wrong direction with government growth only and government policies that have prevented strong growth. It's obvious that the business community is holding off to see how the election turns out. If they liked Obama, they'd be investing and hiring now. They aren't.

  • Mike in Cedar City Cedar City, Utah
    July 17, 2012 12:59 p.m.

    M.G Scott. And how did we get that 15 trillion dollar debt? The Social Security program did not create that debt, and we should not adopt fiscal policies that solve the deficit problem on the back of the elderly, disabled, and dependent children and spouses.

    But that is exactly what the right wing wants to do.

  • Rifleman Salt Lake City, Utah
    July 17, 2012 11:23 a.m.

    From its inception social security funds that were collected should have been invested to earn money. If the federal government can't manage social security how can they ever be trusted to handle health care?

  • Hellooo Salt Lake City, UT
    July 17, 2012 9:52 a.m.

    Mr. Phillips why did you continue the myth of money being in a trust fund? "For example, in 2011 $805 billion in revenue was generated, most by taxes. Expenditures were $736 billion, leaving $69 billion to be added to the trust fund." This leaves the impression that 69 billion was added to some set aside trust fund, this money was actually spent by the profligate federal government and replaced with US IOU's. This has been the case since the increase in taxation occurred during the Reagan administration and was the prime funds used by the Clinton Administration and Republican led Congress to balance the budget during the 1990's. Honesty needs to be a part of any solution and the fact is the only way the Fed. Government gets that trust fund money, and this is even if there is a tax increase as the President foolishly proposes is by the government borrowing more money. The problem is not as difficult as you suggest, and a little more candor and honesty with the American people instead of ongoing pandering would help.

  • m.g. scott LAYTON, UT
    July 17, 2012 9:44 a.m.

    Joe Blows 5 fixes above are really the best answer to the problem. Particularly the means testing and no cap on the tax. I don't understand why a person should not pay the SS tax relative to all the income they make, not just the first 100 thousand or so.

    Re: Mike in Cedar City:

    With a 16 trillion dollar debt, and growing, the sky just might really be falling this time.

  • Mike in Cedar City Cedar City, Utah
    July 17, 2012 7:24 a.m.

    One more misguided editorial in an right wing attempt to destroy public confidence in the Social Security System. The sky is falling the sky is falling! Bunk! 35 years ago I made the same argument in a a college public administration course. I said by the time I was of retirement age the program would be dead because of contributor population decline. Now both myself and my wife are collecting it. It is best viewed as a prepaid retirement annuity backed by the full faith and credit of the United States.

    marxist is right. Since the problem was created by government policy, let government solve the problem by making funding (not spending) adjustments until the generational gap has been eliminated. To get the money it might be a good idea to quit spending billions on being the policeman to the world. Or get rid of some tax dodges and tax capital gains at the same rate as for other earned income, and then eliminate tax subsidies to undeserving companies. And lastly , the employer share of SSN contributions could be increased without a direct impact on the net income of workers. That would be real "trickle down" economics

  • ShaunMcC La Verkin, UT
    July 17, 2012 6:34 a.m.

    The hard truth is that the current structure is not maintainable. There are two things that need to be done to save both SS and Medicare and both of these programs are commitments we have made that we must keep. The first is a gradual rise in the age of first benefit payment. I have proposed moving the age to 72, but taking 12 years to do it so as to not dramatically affect retirees. The other is to limit to some extent the payouts to those who do not need the benefits because of wealth or significant pension payments. Both of these approaches are needed to stabilize the system, but both need to be negotiated in good faith with those who will be affected by the changes. The alternative is to watch the system fail followed closely by our entire economy as we grapple with the devastation wreaked on those who need and have paid all their lives for those benefits. Eventually, I would like to see the government out of the business altogether, but we must do it in a way that keeps faith with our older generations.

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    July 17, 2012 6:28 a.m.

    I disagree with the title. There is an easy fix, but is not painless.

    I am no genius, but here is the recipe.

    1) tweak the age where SS benefits begin
    2) remove the cap on SS taxed wages
    3) means test SS
    4) quit raiding the money
    5) quit using the money for unintended purposes

    Now, medicare and medicaid are a different story. Until we get a handle on our skyrocketing healthcare costs, this program will continue to bleed.

    THAT is why we need to reform medical. Whether it is Obamacare or something else, SOMETHING must be done, regardless of what the GOP says.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    July 17, 2012 12:23 a.m.

    "The simple fact is that there is no simple way to reform the system without making either workers or retirees worse off than what the system now promises. " NONSENSE! Here are some alternatives. Restore high end personal income tax rates and corporate income tax rates to their post WWII levels. Use those proceeds to fund social security. 2) Have the Fed start loaning to the banks at greater than essentially zero rates - use those proceeds to fund social security. I'm sure there are other ways. Thank outside of the Milton Friedman box.

  • toosmartforyou Farmington, UT
    July 17, 2012 12:07 a.m.

    Let's hear it for the US Congress. I remember when Senator Jake Garn said that they had "fixed social security" for about 50 years into the future. Can't the Congress ever seem to get the job done? Those just about to retire deserve money they have paid into the system for years and the Congress needs to leave it alone and quit raiding it. Why haven't we been alerted by the press that this was in trouble years ago?