Alexandria, VA (June 17, 2013) Seniors are closely following the debate over Social Security, and a new survey indicates strong support for two major changes that could restore Social Security’s long-term solvency. The survey, conducted by The Senior Citizens League (TSCL), one of the nation's largest nonpartisan seniors groups, found that 52% of seniors strongly favor, and another 30% somewhat favor, raising the Social Security maximum taxable wage base. In addition, 87% support banning the use of earnings from jobs worked under invalid and fraudulent Social Security numbers by unauthorized immigrant workers to determine entitlement to Social Security and other federal benefits.
Why raise the maximum? In 1993 the taxable maximum was eliminated for Medicare payroll taxes. Yet currently, workers who earn more than $113,700 pay no Social Security taxes at all on earnings over that amount. "That includes every Member of Congress and President Obama," notes TSCL Chairman Larry Hyland. The “tax max” increases annually by the growth in national average wages.
Low and middle-income earners pay taxes on all of their earnings. In recent years, however, the share of total wages earned in the U.S. and subject to Social Security payroll tax has declined because the earnings of the most highly paid workers have grown rapidly. Most of the proposals to increase the taxable maximum would also raise benefits of the affected workers by counting earnings above the old cap in the benefit formula. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that eliminating the taxable maximum would extend the Social Security solvency as much as 50 years.[i]
Why ban the use of earnings from unauthorized work to determine Social Security benefits? Under current law Social Security uses all earnings to calculate Social Security benefits. That means earnings of unauthorized immigrants from jobs worked under invalid and fraudulent Social Security numbers (SSN) can be used both to qualify for benefits and for the calculation of the initial retirement benefit. There is no official published data on the amount of wages on file attributable to aliens working without authorization, but the Social Security Administration maintains an earnings suspense file that represents an estimated $763.5 billion in wages from 2000 through 2010[ii], most of it believed to be attributable to illegal workers. Under immigration reform, that could mean a huge new liability for Social Security in the future, triggering more rounds of cuts and higher taxes.
"TSCL strongly believes that earnings under invalid SSNs should be also be invalid for entitlement to benefits," says Hyland. "Document fraud, identity theft and violation of immigration law should not be rewarded with Social Security benefits, especially as Congress considers cutting Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs)," he states. To learn more and find out how much you could lose by COLA cuts, visit http://seniorsleague.org/chained-cola-calculator/. To learn more, visit www.SeniorsLeague.org.
With about 1 million supporters, The Senior Citizens League is one of the nation's largest nonpartisan seniors groups. Located just outside Washington, D.C., its mission is to promote and assist members and supporters, to educate and alert senior citizens about their rights and freedoms as U.S. Citizens, and to protect and defend the benefits senior citizens have earned and paid for. The Senior Citizens League is a proud affiliate of TREA The Enlisted Association. Please visit www.SeniorsLeague.org or call 1-800-333-8725 for more information.