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By: TFF Sat, 01 Jun 2013 11:51:52 +0000 “But what exactly do you think will happen in 2033 when the trust fund is exhausted. Do you think 50 million seniors are actually going to get 78% of what they were promised?”

I expect that 40 million will receive their promised benefits, and the 10 million who can most afford it will receive sharply reduced benefits. The difference will be made up through the additional taxes that you mention. I certainly hope and expect to be among the top 20% that loses benefits, as the alternative is worse.

The middle is not particularly overtaxed. The greatest tax burden falls on two-earner families making between $100k and $200k. They phase out of the middle class tax breaks. They pay Social Security on the majority of their earnings. They fall squarely in the 25% tax bracket. Sure, they stand to benefit from the mortgage interest deduction and the retirement account deductions, but they still pay a marginal rate on their income pushing 50% (when you include state taxes) and an overall tax burden that is greater than those on either side of this range.

And this is the group that I expect to lose Social Security benefits. After all, they can afford it.

By: y2kurtus Sat, 01 Jun 2013 04:12:16 +0000 TFF you are right that the “return on social security” is minimal in real terms. It is absolutely a ponzi scheme, with the possible exception that the scheme is completely transparent with a full current accounting and well modeled projections published for all to see.

The reason that currently working generations will consume more than they contribute to retirement programs is a multi part answer. You already hit the first part with population increases… something we can continue to count on for decades to come… albeit at a slower rate. Productivity increases also help some. But what exactly do you think will happen in 2033 when the trust fund is exhausted. Do you think 50 million seniors are actually going to get 78% of what they were promised?

No… the bill for social security will be paid in full with income taxes, corporate taxes, mineral royalties, wireless spectrum auctions… hell we might even have a carbon tax by then.

My original point stands firmly rooted in truth, unyielding to the populist myth of an overtaxed middle.

The middle class pay some taxes as a group… roughly 10% of their income; a far lower rate than the rich. They also pay in less then they take out in elder benefits but it’s a closer case than the working poor who pay no federal income taxes as a group and get an even better deal on entitlements.

The only middle class people who get screwed by income taxes are the people who are most likely to need government help to get through life. People who don’t save for retirement will buy groceries with food stamps. People who don’t have health insurance shift cost to those who do. People who don’t own their homes can’t trade down and scrape by on the equity for a few years… some of those people end up paying their rent with a section 8 voucher.

The tax code generally rewards socially desirable behaviors. I’m not saying the mortgage interest on that 2nd home should be deductible or that the government should give you another credit for your 4th or 5th child, but generally the tax expenditures promote the American dream.

By: Flounderbay Sat, 01 Jun 2013 00:02:09 +0000 What the country needs is a flat tax: everybody pays 10% except for the indigent. Unfortunately we can’t get a majority of our US Congress to approve it because they are controlled by the campaign money provided to them by our rich and powerful corporations and individuals. There is only ONE way to make a flat tax happen and that is when enough people sign the petition

By: upstater Fri, 31 May 2013 18:13:14 +0000 @SteveHamlin: God forbid anything like “robust, controllable AI in a cheap, powerful robot”.

The resulting 90% unemployment rate wouldn’t help anybody, except the Chinese robot manufacturers.

By: TFF Fri, 31 May 2013 17:18:01 +0000 @SteveHamlin, productivity increases simply kick the can down the road. You need large increases EVERY generation to resolve a Ponzi scheme that way.

Moreover, Social Security is paid on wages, not GDP. A breakthrough technology such as you suggest would benefit the corporations more than the wage workers — and thus would do less to repair the Social Security equation than you imagine.

Restoring the capital/labor balance in this country would go a long way towards fixing Social Security for another generation, but I’m presuming that is off the table. The concept that wealth is best concentrated in few hands is too firmly entrenched in the political culture today.

By: SteveHamlin Fri, 31 May 2013 16:15:09 +0000 @TFF17: “But it is insulting my intelligence to pretend that my future benefits will be more than my contributions — and mathematically impossible for that equation to work across an entire society.”

Not if you assume national productivity increases.

[To simplify the power of compounded productivity increases: imagine a breakthrough technology that occurred tomorrow – robust, controllable AI in a cheap, powerful robot. Wouldn’t that nullify your assertion?]