Democrats and groups such as Social Security Works continue to malign Republicans for calling Social Security an entitlement.
I and my employer paid taxes my whole working life of over fifty years, I meet all the eligibility requirements and the government has promised via law the benefits I will collect. Am I entitled? Damn right‼️
In fact let’s look at the definition of entitlement and see if it fits:
Looks pretty accurate to me. But you see, the problem is that politicians on both sides have distorted everything and in this case using entitled as if we are getting something for nothing, something we didn’t pay for. But that’s true too.
Even though Social Security is intended to be an insurance program, over the years that also has been distorted by politicians. To put it simply, they have allowed the insurance premiums (payroll taxes) to fall below that which is needed to keep the program solvent and sustainable. So no, today working Americans are not paying for their promised benefits. Every penny of their taxes are paying for my benefits and all other current Social Security beneficiaries.
But you can look at it another way too. In only eight years I have collected retirement benefits greater than the taxes I and my employer paid over more than fifty-years. A person can be married and divorced several times and each one of those individuals can collect full benefits. A worker can get married one year before starting to collect benefits and the couple’s benefits will be the same as if they were married fifty years. Does that sound like insurance?
And then there is this. The Trust holds $2.9 trillion on US Treasury Bonds. The interest on those bonds is being used in part to pay current benefits. Where does that money come from? General income taxes beyond anything related to revenue from Social Security taxes. And where will the money come from when the Trust starts redeeming those bonds in a few years? General tax revenue or more debt. Does that help make Social Security an entitlement in the negative sense?
The bottom line is that something has to be done to keep Social Security from going bust. Some people want to turn it into a form of welfare where a small percentage of Americans pay more, but all the benefits go to others. Some experts say raise the payroll tax and thus burden only working citizens. Still others say cut future benefits like the COLA.
The fact is we can solve the problem rather painlessly by using a combination of relatively modest changes that impact all Americans. The only thing standing the the way is a Congress more interested in scoring points with voters by attacking the other side.