How Should Congress Strengthen Social Security and Medicare?
Congress has spent much of its time over the past two years locked in a rigidly - partisan standoff over the federal budget deficit. But TSCL’s new 2012 Senior Survey results suggest that lawmakers may not be paying close enough attention to senior voters — something that may come back to haunt them come November elections. They may be retired but, to seniors, jobs — not benefit cuts — are the key to cutting the federal deficit.
To strengthen Social Security and Medicare, 84% of respondents strongly agreed that Congress should focus on getting Americans back to work. Jobs and the payroll taxes paid by people during their working years finance the benefits received by today’s Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries. While jobs were the top deficit fix, only 11% agree with cutting the Social Security payroll tax as a means to generate employment. Congressional leadership and the President are battling over spending cuts and higher taxes that will be needed to avoid hitting a “fiscal cliff” by the end of this year.
Leading GOP plans impose broad spending reductions, would overhaul Medicare and cut Medicaid, while President Obama and Democrats are insisting tax increases are required, particularly on people with higher incomes over $250,000. Respondents to TSCL’s Seniors Survey also tended to be more divided when asked whether they “strongly agreed” that the budget deficit should be reduced by cutting discretionary spending, or by closing tax loop holes and small revenue increases. However, when those in the middle, who “agree somewhat,” are counted, a majority, 74%, agree that the budget deficit should be reduced by a fair balance of both discretionary spending cuts and modest revenue increases.
How would seniors go about improving Social Security’s financing in the future? A clear majority, 67% strongly agree that it would be fair to require workers to pay Social Security taxes on all of their income rather than letting some pay nothing on income over $110,000. More than 42% strongly agree that with Americans living longer, it would be fair to raise the age for full retirement very gradually, by two months per year to age 69 for people who are age 49 and younger. TSCL was inundated with email comments, and what you’re saying should give incumbents pause.
The following three comments sum it up:
• “Put in a totally new Congress, period.”
• “Fire the entire White House!”
• “Stop the partisanship. Think of the people who put you in office. We put you there and we can put you out. Don’t forget it.”
TSCL is working to share survey results with Members of Congress and the media. “We thank all of you who took the time to respond to our 2012 Senior Survey,” says TSCL Executive Director, Shannon Benton.
2012 TSCL Advisor Senior Survey
How Should Congress Fix The Federal Budget Deficit?
|Agree Strongly||Agree Somewhat||Disagree Somewhat||Disagree Strongly||Don’t Know|
|To strengthen Social Security and Medicare, which depend on payroll taxes for financing, Congress should focus on getting Americans back to work.||84%||9%||1%||1%||5%|
|To generate jobs, Congress should cut the Social Security payroll tax rate.||11%||14%||16%||39%||20%|
|The budget deficit should be reduced by cutting discretionary spending ONLY.||37%||23%||10%||12%||20%|
|The budget deficit should be reduced by closing tax loopholes and small revenue increases ONLY.||45%||23%||7%||10%||15%|
|The budget deficit should be reduced with a fair balance of both discretionary spending cuts and modest revenue increases.||37%||37%||7%||6%||13%|
|With Americans living longer, it would be fair to raise the age for full retirement benefits very gradually, by two months per year to age 69 for people who are age 49 and younger.||43%||32%||12%||4%||9%|
|It would be fair to require workers to pay Social Security taxes on all of their income rather than letting some pay nothing on income over $110,000.||67%||16%||2%||9%||8%|