Social Security is not the problem – it is the solution.
Washington is filled with talk of a looming “retirement crisis.” The discussion focuses on funding Social Security and usually includes calls to cut benefits – either by changing payout formulas or raising the retirement age.
But the real problem is not the long-term solvency of Social Security. Rather, it is the fact that millions of Americans are facing an insecure and underfunded retirement.
The best way to address this retirement issue would not be to cut Social Security but to expand it, as Michael Lind, Steven Hill, Robert Hiltonsmith and I argue in a new paper released Wednesday. By increasing the public portion of the American retirement system, we can spend the same or less on retirement as a share of the economy while making the system as a whole much more progressive and stable.
We propose a two-part, or “double-decker,” plan to expand Social Security. In addition to maintaining the current Social Security program, we would add a universal flat benefit for all older Americans. This benefit could be set at a level to meet the goal of replacing 60 percent of income for a middle-income earner in combination with the existing Social Security program.
Social Security is already far more important to retirees than many understand. The poorest 40 percent of elderly earners get about 84 percent of their income from Social Security. Those in the middle-income quintile (40th to 60th percentile) rely on Social Security for almost two-thirds of their income.