‘Time to Scrap the Cap’: Sanders, Warren Bill Targets Rich to Expand Social Security

Yves here. It’s no secret that the assertions that Social Security is in dire financial straits are fabrications. First, like so much of our Federal government funding, the device of having a trust fund is a convenient fiction. In reality, Social Security is a pay as you go program. Second, for those who nevertheless like the appearance that Social Security is paid for by payroll contributions, the most obvious fix has long been to raise or eliminate the cap on salaries subject to payroll taxes. The fact that this problem has not been solved strongly suggests some influential parties don’t want it solved.

By Jake Johnson, a staff writer at Common Dreams. Originally published at Common Dreams

Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren led a group of lawmakers Thursday in unveiling legislation that would expand Social Security’s modest annual benefits by $2,400 and ensure the program is fully funded for the next 75 years.

The benefit boost under the Social Security Expansion Act would be funded by lifting the cap on the maximum amount of income subject to the Social Security payroll tax. This year the cap was $147,000—meaning millionaires stopped paying into the program in late February.

If passed, the expansion bill would apply the payroll tax to all income, including capital gains, above $250,000 a year, a change that would only raise taxes on around 7% of U.S. households.

“At a time when half of older Americans have no retirement savings and millions of senior citizens are living in poverty, our job is not to cut Social Security,” Sanders (I-Vt.), head of the Senate Budget Committee and a co-chair of the Expand Social Security Caucus, said in a statement.

“Our job must be to expand Social Security so that every senior citizen in America can retire with the dignity they deserve and every person with a disability can live with the security they need,” the senator continued. “And we will do that by demanding that the wealthiest people in America finally pay their fair share of taxes. It is absurd that a billionaire in America today pays the same amount of Social Security taxes as someone making $147,000 a year. It is time to scrap the cap, expand benefits, and fully fund Social Security.”

The legislation comes a week after the annual Social Security trustees report showed that—contrary to Republicans’ claims that it is barreling toward insolvency—the program is positioned to fully fund benefits until 2035. Thereafter, even if Congress takes no action, the program is projected to be 90% funded for the next 25 years and 81% funded for the next 75 years.

“Social Security is an economic lifeline for millions of Americans, but many seniors are struggling with rising costs,” said Warren (D-Mass.). “As Republicans try to phase out Social Security and raise taxes on more than 70 million hardworking Americans, I’m working with Senator Sanders to expand Social Security and extend its solvency by making the wealthy pay their fair share, so everyone can retire with dignity.”

Sanders announced the new bill Thursday during a Senate Budget Committee hearing, at which Republicans—including Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who has previously voiced support for privatizing Social Security—made clear they would oppose the legislation, which has been endorsed by more than 50 advocacy organizations and labor unions.

In addition to increasing annual benefits and lifting the tax cap, the Social Security Expansion Act would also boost the program’s cost-of-living adjustments by switching to a more accurate measure of inflation. According to the Social Security Administration, the average monthly Social Security benefit payment was around $1,540 as of April 2022.

“With the cost of living at an all-time high, Social Security has never been more important, yet congressional Republicans continue to play games with its funding,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the lead sponsor of a companion bill in the House.

“This legislation would ensure that the Social Security Trust Fund remains solvent for another 75 years, increase monthly benefits for most recipients by $200, and alter the cost-of-living-adjustment formula to meet the everyday needs of our nation’s seniors,” DeFazio added.

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  1. Romancing The Loan

    This year the cap was $147,000—meaning millionaires stopped paying into the program in late February.

    If passed, the expansion bill would apply the payroll tax to all income, including capital gains, above $250,000 a year, a change that would only raise taxes on around 7% of U.S. households.

    So is this proposing a donut hole between 147k and 250k? Is there a justification for it beyond political expediency? If not, why isn’t the top cap ($250k) higher? This seems designed to set the middle and upper middle classes at each others throats.

    1. Leftcoastindie

      My guess is they mean capital gains income over $250K would be subject to the tax. All W2 income would be taxed. So any gap would be the zero to 250K capital gains income that wouldn’t be taxed.

      Seems reasonable to me. I suspect a significant majority of dividend income earned by individuals is less than the 250K max which IMHO would cause an administrative nightmare in trying to keep track of what was owed and what should be paid by the individual.

      1. John Zelnicker

        Leftcoastindie – I think you misinterpret.

        The plain language, taking account of the commas, seems top say there is a donut hole.

        Limiting the tax on cap gains to over $250k would effect very, very few taxpayers.

        All wage and capital gains income, combined, over $250k is my interpretation. Nothing between $147k and $250k. I think it’s wrong and it should all be taxed the same, no holes, no limits.

        1. John

          There is a “donut hole” in my reading of the text above and yes it is political expediency. There are many many votes between $147 and $250. I realize those who would be affected would not be happy with it. Is there an alternative that makes fiscal and political sense?

          1. Romancing The Loan

            Well, the way I’d do it is to remove the cap with no donut hole, but then based on what your calculations say for how much more you’d get to carve out of the highest earners you combine it with lowering the % taken just a little for everyone. You’d still come out with more, there are no winners or losers (other than people over 145k but at least it’s even) and you can sell it very easily to everyone else because they’re getting a tax cut, albeit a small one.

            1. steve2241

              What hasn’t yet been addressed is the giving of social security benefits to the very wealthy – as opposed to those in real need. The argument is that they have paid into the system, so are entitled to a payout. On the other hand, it is argued that social security should be a needs-based program.

          2. Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

            John, as you know, FICA does not fund Social Security or Medicare. It is 100% useless and is destroyed upon receipt by the Treasury. Social Security and Medicare are funded by federal money creation ad hoc.

    2. Bob White

      I think the article was not very clear, I had to look into other sources…

      This is clearer:
      In 2022, payroll taxes are applied to income up to $147,000. The bill calls for lifting that cap and applying the Social Security payroll tax to all income of more than $250,000.

      No donut hole… the cap is removed from all payroll income (no limits), and an additional tax on all income above $250,000 (including capital gains)

      1. John Zelnicker

        Bob White – Your “clearer” quote isn’t really clearer.

        “Lifting that cap” does not necessarily mean that income from $147k to $250k would be subject to SS tax.

        It could mean that the cap is lifted, but the tax is only assessed on income over $250k including cap gains, leaving a donut hole.

        I think John, above at 3:06pm on the 10th, has the right idea. There are a ton of votes in that gap and a donut hole will make it unimportant to them, so they won’t object.

  2. tegnost

    Is it possible that the opposition to raising the fed min. wage from 7.25 to 15 is that other benefits would have to go up to match, By my calculation if you get 7.25 and hour, you need to work about 32 hrs a week (126 hrs a month) to earn poverty level of 11,000. 126hrs at 15 works out to 1,890 a month, and 22,680 yearly. Does this higher number become the new poverty threshold? How many people are not in the workforce because by making any money at all means you lose both foodstamps and medicaid…there’s a donut hole there. If you are a worker in a big city with 15 min. wage you lose benefits by working while still not making enough to pay the bills. ACA also disincentivizes working because as you make more, you have to pay more, effectively taking wages away from workers. I have a friend in seattle facing this situation. At the same time, if you’re a techie who has patents on some code you wrote and have millions banked and don’t work anymore, or you’re working on some other patentable project you are not being paid for, yet…, then your ACA gold plan comes in at a much more affordable, heavily subsidised rate… I welcome other peoples thoughts on this as I’m not a mathemetician or finance guy so I may be missing something, it’s just something I’m thinking about as my friend loses safety net that higher wages don’t replace so I wonder if I shouldn’t just pay her rent so she doesn’t lose health care, food stamps and cheap bus pass all because she is making 2,000 plus a month which is still not enough to live in seattle. I can’t be the only one puzzling through this. it’s like the ACA was designed to discourage workers from getting paid more. Raising benefits/min wage blows up this whole scheme… apologies if this too off topic for a social security post…

    1. anon y'mouse

      you may not be able to pay anything for her, because she has to report such charitable contributions as free rent and so forth on the periodic statements she must give to maintain those subsidies. make sure to check and see.

      now, you might be able to fudge it a bit if she “rented” your property at below market rent rate or received free rent in lieu of work. i doubt she’d be caught “failing” to report free food just kind of showing up in a picnic basket on the doorstep or gifted bus passes either, but then she wouldn’t need the foodstamps nor buspass provided by the gov.

      the actual poverty rate has been much higher than the gov’t measured one for a long time. there’s amost no zip code where full time min. wage work “affords” a 1 bedroom apt. and as anyone who has looked for one knows, studios no existe’.

      my gran lived in a dorm-like residence hall in the 50s. two bedrooms around a jack and jill bath or pay slightly more for your own bath. no kitchen though. perhaps those and boarding houses will be making a comeback but the latter are outlawed by code in many places which put “only single family accommodation” into the laws even on non-gated communities. i have this in the small town where i live, so even if i owned a huge house wouldn’t be able to rent out the rooms unless on the sly.


    2. JBird4049

      At least in California, the county’s H&HS departments, which are the primary way to get Medi-Cal, Calfresh, General Assistance, and IIRC part of the process for getting SSA, SSI and SSDI want to know if you have roommates, and if so what are their financials. Even just renting a room, or sharing an apartment/house,could get you denied benefits if your roommates were making too much. The combined income of everyone is supposed to be added on your application. This, and any noncash aid. Nice, no?

      My assumption is that people are economical with the facts at least in the Bay Area. In Los Angeles county, they actually have extremely intrusive and. rude people visit your homes to checkup on you. Fricking authoritarian jackasses.

      1. tegnost

        Thanks for the responses…
        Honestly she wants to work and support herself and this is my own anxiety thinking of the wrong solutions, she wouldn’t want what i suggested. I just think it’s a completely screwed up system.

  3. KD

    Its too bad Sanders and Warren are such radical extremist left-wing people, because this sounds like a reasonable legislative proposal which could serve as a wedge issue that normal people might give a wit about, in contrast to foaming at the mouth about January 6 like our Democratic Centrists.

    1. John

      Sanders? Warren? Extremist? Left wing? Compared to whom? There is no left wing today. There was a true left maybe fifty to seventy years ago, but Sanders in the 1950s would have been in line with the Liberal Republicans, like Jacob Javits or Nelson Rockefeller.

      1. KD

        Yes. But you can see how the media likes to frame something moderate and sensible as cracked, and something over-the-top and extreme (like Jan. 6 commish defining the loyal opposition as insurrectionists) as “moderate”.

    1. neo-realist

      More like Manchin and Sinema in addition to the entirety of the Republican Congress is why it won’t happen.

    2. LawnDart

      Yes, but it makes for a good sound-byte.

      Pols do it all the time– proposing crap that they know will not pass or have no intention of following through with. Take it as a campaign promise.

  4. Lexx

    There are strategic advantages to forcing your opponent(s) to say ‘no’ publically* to something popular and needed by a key demographic… over and over again, especially around the an election. The point is not to pass the legislation.

    *and making hay of that ‘no’ thereof

  5. jefemt

    I have ever understood why anyone is exempt from participating… either on the contribution side, or the distribution side. Anytime we start to nip around the egdes and exempt folks, the fairness argument rears its ugly head.
    Just cap the upper end of distributions.

    All in, all benefit.

    IF an altruistic Oligarch demurs and chooses to NOT receive distributions on the back end, her choice.
    A good uniformly fair approach– all in, capped distribution upper limit.

    Perhaps it would be nice to see a boost in recognizing the good works of all the working-class folks who help make America hum, the good fortune a few have experienced, some earned, and sense of civic duty to contribute and participate in a collective WE. Seems to be no we in US anymore.

    The inability to recognize and acknowledge, much less relate to or empathize with the real economic distress most Americans are facing is astounding.

    1. chris

      I always understood that the cap resulted from setting limits in a time when people didn’t make that much money and also didn’t live that long. If we indexed all these programs to inflation or some kind of automatic adjustment there wouldn’t be these kinds of issues. Just like with the AMT.

    2. anon y'mouse

      unfortunately, your plan (very similiar to my ideal) would probably run afoul of public pensions like teachers and civil servants.

      a relative of mine could get no SSI because they’d worked exclusively for FedGov for 30+ years and would receive their pension and healthcare. i don’t think she qualified for any other kinds of assistance older people might be able to get either.

    3. Carla

      Just a trip to the grocery is terrifying these days. I’m unlikely to go hungry but an awful of people will, and it’s going to start happening very soon. My local grocery store, in a racially and economically integrated area with a mix of working class, middle class, poor and a few wealthy people, is mostly empty of customers these days. People simply can’t pay the prices.

  6. Milton

    How well funded is the Defence budgets? Where is the little letter to the joints chiefs outlining how they will run out of funding by 2030.

    1. John

      How about a 5% cut to the defense budget each year until the USA is spending only twice as much as Russia and China combined? … for openers.

  7. Fraibert

    In its current form, I wonder how effective the bill would be. I briefly took a look at the text*, and it appears that the method adopted to cover wages above $250,000 will result in both the employee and employer FICA payments being equally increased.

    As I imagine many readers know, employers and employees each pay half of the total Social Security and Medicare taxes (“Federal Insurance Contributions Act”/FICA taxes). Each half is 7.65% of wages. (Self-employed people get the unhappy situation of paying both halves.)

    Because employers bear half the FICA burden, increasing the wage base from FICA means that employers now have a universal incentive to reduce higher level salaries because these salaries now have quite a bit more cost attached. Basically, I see this as analogous to the health insurance cost issue–i.e., high cost of health insurance reduces cash compensation to employees.

    Interestingly, one could probably address this particular issue by placing the above-$250,000 FICA entirely on employees, but that’s a gigantic tax raise and I can only imagine the opposite it would entail.

    *Since the Common Dreams article didn’t link a text, you can read the bill here if anyone’s interested (though beware it’s hard to read without putting it together with the U.S. Code): https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/478/text#toc-H287CE7CFD8FB4771AC4FFB9EEA411993

    1. 1UnknownSubject

      You get it – essentially if passed, it will mean reduced wages for many since it also affects the employers side of the equation. It essentially becomes an additional tax on businesses – and individuals pay taxes, not businesses – so it has to come from somewhere -could result in a combination of less pay for employees, less profit for shareholders, and higher costs for the products/services purchased from the business.

      1. GramSci

        When FDR passed SS in 1935, the top marginal rate stood at 80%. Until we get top marginal rates (including capital gains) into that range, these arguments will have force. IMO, all SS should be funded out of general revenue from a Maximum Wage. I’m not saying it will be easy to get there; we’ll probably need a major imperial collapse, thermonuclear war, or a spectacular climate catastrophe first.

      2. lance ringquist

        if a business could pass along all of their costs, none would ever go out of business. of course businesses pay taxes.

        if a business wants to be competitive, then quite the stock buybacks, and drive the hedge fund/private equity into their graves.

        in fact, just become employee owned.

        1. rhodium

          Isn’t this somewhat irrelevant? The tax comes out of the personal income of the rich, not their business balance sheets. It’s pure surplus for rich individuals after they cross into the 6 figures. It’s literally just taking a cherry from the large cornucopia and putting it in the serf’s oatmeal basket. They still have plenty more to enjoy and this does not create some kind of absolute egalitarianism.

    2. Thomas Schmidt

      It’s interesting to note that contributions to a defined benefit pension plan are free from social security tax for both employer and employee, just as there is no SS tax on 401k matches (but there is of course on your 401k contributions). So one effect of this will be for corporations to move dollars from easily-visible salary to more-obscure pensions. The wealthy will still get assets but there will be no taxes applied on them until the pension is paid out.

      In this way, the bill could LOWER overall tax collections while allowing the wealthy to accumulate even more assets. At a minimum, for each dollar over 250k that is NOT paid in salary, the Medicare program will lose a minimum of $.03.

  8. Dave Miller

    I don’t know if anyone else noticed, but on the web today the NYT and Politico both ran long articles on “Bernie’s plan” without ever mentioning what was in the plan- apparently eliminating the SS cap of $147,000. Without taking a position on his idea, I’d like to suggest we need an updated term for NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard). What about Tax Everyone But Our Crowd. (TEBOC)?

    1. Bart Hansen

      It’s called:
      Don’t tax you, don’t tax me
      Tax that fellow there behind the tree

      1. Pelham

        I prefer:
        Don’t tax you, don’t tax me
        Tax that fellow with three yachts, two helicopters, a personal Mars rocket program, 12 mansions, two castles and a business model that drives tens of thousands of his workers to an early grave.

        Still needs to rhyme, though.

  9. Oh

    It would be more logical to make the high earners (earnngs being salary + dividends + capital gains) pay a percentage (say 10%) of the earnings towards social security. The rich have options where they can avoid paying the 7.65% by not receiving it as salary, which is subject to taxes. In addition, their social security checks need to be greatly reduced (I suggest to $0).

  10. Susan the other

    I think the cost of living will quickly outpace this adjustment. Even with cost of living adjustments ongoing. If the government wants to let inflation rip the best solution for pensioners and social security recipients below a certain income would be for the government to issue them all credit cards for the essentials, medicine, food, heat. That would achieve 2 things – it would make inflation significant for people with money – their costs will go up from scarcity alone – while protecting the poor. And suddenly the people like Mitt Romney who want to privatize social security (nightmare scenario of godawful substitutions for obscene profits, etc.) would be facing enormous costs – real costs. So by directly paying for food, medicine and utilities for the poor, we solve all sorts of other self-serving and privateer problems. An excellent attitude adjustment device.

  11. Larry Carlson

    In a world where fertility is dropping and lifespans tend to increase, absent ongoing increases to the retirement age, a pay-as-you-go program like U.S. Social Security will be continuously stressed by the declining worker/retiree ratio. It doesn’t feel like tweaking tax thresholds or denying benefits to a small portion of the population will do much to resolve this fundamental issue. Our lack of willingness to resolve this problem intelligently is just another example of current generations continuing to enrich themselves at the expense of future generations.

    1. anon y'mouse

      you last sentence doesn’t really apply. actually most of your stuff is disproven by MMT, as Yves said in her opener.

      where do you think the old people getting the funds spend them? to obtain goods and services from the workers. i doubt very seriously people are banking nor investing their SSI unless it’s because they have some other pension paying their bills, which means that perhaps their other pensions should come into play with what they end up getting from SSI (although i’m not in favor of treating SSI like charity for poors).

      so unless you think that the elderly who can’t afford to retire, can’t wait for an ever expanding legal age limit for SSI, and yet still become unable to sell their labor deserve to be on the streets (people now at age 50+ are finding it difficult to get a job after any kind of interruption in their work history), your “plan” won’t work.

      1. Larry Carlson

        There doesn’t seem to be a mention of MMT in the article. Also, “proven by MMT” is a bit of an oxymoron, since MMT rests on shoddier foundations than mainstream Keynesian macroeconomics. MMT is a collection of interesting ideas which may or may not survive the developed world’s current debt binge.

        “where do you think the old people getting the funds spend them? to obtain goods and services from the workers.” In a society where labor is scarce, spending becomes capital intensive: the old folks will be buying robots to flip them over in their nursing homes.

        “your ‘plan’ won’t work” I didn’t offer a plan, but I suspect a system that also continuously adjusts retirement benefits based on population growth and longevity, not just inflation, would be preferable. I also suspect a fully funded system would be more sustainable than a pay-as-you-go program.

        1. anon y'mouse

          the cost of surviving is only tangentially related population growth and longevity. just like the cost of inflation is not truly related to poors getting $2k covid “assistance”.

          so you would have the adjustment be tied on things that aren’t related to whether anyone can actually live on SSI, much like the min. wage is not related to whether anyone can actually live on working 40 hours a week at that wage? all because that sounds fair and rational to you? that sounds very economistic. your plan would be praised to the skies on that alone, even if it fails actual human beings.

          a lot of people are going to be freed up from trivial labor very soon, so the problem finding workers to turn grandma is more about the conditions, treatment and pay of that work.

          the problem with paying as you go has very very little do with money stresses on the government. they have no problems coughing up trillions for wars that they try to create around the world. yet the social programs are always the things attributed as pinching the budget. even though SSI does a lot more economic work in the real economy as older people spend it to survive on food, utilites, medications, services than pumping up Raytheon’s profit does.

          MMT is just a name for the fact that our government is monetarily sovereign. If you have the power to create money and set a million arbitrary limits on when and how you create money due to politics (and then use those reasons to pretend your hands are tied and that the government doesn’t really make money but simply “borrows” it), that doesn’t mean that you don’t have the power to create money anymore. no amount of justification is really needed except “what is the money going to do in the real world”.

          taking care of the elderly is something that is much more valuable a doing than more F35s, and benefits the society and the economy a ton more as well.

          1. lance ringquist

            all one has to do is look at restaurants and stores on the third of every month, all of those gray haired people keep said establishments in business,

            take that away so a few wall street parasites can feed on s.s., and said establishments that hate s.s. will squeal like stuffed pigs that are to stupid and sick with greed to understand who feeds them.

        2. Soredemos

          MMT is an objectively accurate description of the real-world accounting flows of the US Federal government. It’s true. PERIOD. End of story.

          If you don’t accept that, go away. Your ignorant opinions are invalid.

        3. Yves Smith Post author

          You clearly don’t understand MMT and your drive by attack isn’t within hailing distance of a refutation.

          MMT describes how government spending operates for a fiat currency issuer. If you don’t believe in MMT, you also don’t believe in double entry bookkeeping.

          Some MMT scholars offer policy prescriptions, but those are separate from their explanation of fiscal operations.

  12. Henry Moon Pie

    Bernie and Liz are wasting their breath in this environment. They’d better keep their powder dry for the cuts to SS and Medicare that are undoubtedly coming. After all, the interest rate on the “National Debt” is rising while our already astronomically high defense budget is sure to increase by galactic proportions if only to feed our new Space Force. Larry Summers is restored to Genius status, and he’s out to put a nail in MMT’s coffin while punishing all us lazy poors who got Trump and Biden money.

    I forgot. Was Austerity one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? We’ve got the plague, the wars and the violent weather.

  13. Nikkikat

    Bernie is once again sheep herding. The democrat party clowns are sinking in quicksand. He took a look at how bad their ratings are and decided to float the same plan he has been talking about for at least 15 years. He knows this old chestnut gets us all excited. If this was ever going to be done, it would have happened years ago. It is never going to happen. Bernie is just yelling squirrel to the hunting dogs. They are not going to do anything or fix anything. I even saw that good old Joe Manchin, likes this plan and said he thought that lifting the cap would be a great idea. The corrupt old dead guy in the Oval Office has done so much damage already to the country with his war with Russia that we will never recover.
    He has tried to kill off as many people as possible with his Wall Street guy from the economic council by letting big business dictate Covid policy. Gasoline is now twice what it was only a couple of years ago and massive food shortages are coming within the next few months. So the dead guy is just waiting for the pigs to fly and Pelosi and Schumer will get republicans and Joe Manchin to rush this thorough the Congress. The dead guy will sign it and all of us old folks will be sitting pretty. Okay sure.
    Oh, by the way if that gas is too high, Debbie The Senator from Michigan thinks you should just get an electric car! You see those Dems really know how to solve problems!

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, Sanders believes in what he is trying to get done, and he recognizes from having worked on civil rights (and this was also the history of the labor movement AND women’s rights) that you have to keep pounding on an issue and then suddenly things shift, and you often can’t predict why or when.

      The fact that Biden is getting desperate enough to serve up maybe perhaps some real student loan forgiveness….after Team Dem has been talking about it since when….is a signal the Dems may be so desperate about their prospects for this fall that they throw some actual meat to voters to buy support. Manchin saying he’d support not buying guns till age 21 and outlawing AR-15s is a similar sign.

      1. Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

        FICA does not fund Social Security or Medicare. It is 100% useless and is destroyed upon receipt by the Treasury. Social Security and Medicare are funded by federal money creation ad hoc.

  14. AGR

    The “why” arguments seem irrefutable, IMHO…It’s in the “how” that these seemingly well-intentioned projects get steered into a maze of mostly dead-ends…once the “debates” are framed in the language of “trust” funds, “solvency” etc., it seems at a rhetorical disadvantage to the influence of the “influential parties” that Yves mentions above. As she also mentions above-“In reality, Social Security is a pay as you go program”. IMHO, expounding and expanding this reality, in clear unequivocal language, seems like a much more effective strategy.

    Even Alan Greenspan confirmed this reality, in this video posted a while back:

  15. t

    This is the one time I am onboard for means testing. I wonder what percentage of the population has annual income less than what some of these goons receive in SS.
    Remember when GM’s Jack Welsh divorced his wife and she used the courts to reveal a lot about their income – like the $$$ of his SS versus the monthly $$$$$$ payment for fresh flowers in a townhouse?
    People who are subject to payroll tax jumping though hoops and living in fear of losing benefits, yet nothing stops these checks for folks who could buy and sell half the people in their state. Original argument for SS to all was supposedly “The only way this will pass.”

    1. anon y'mouse

      means testing means that the program will become just for “poor elderly” and then be subject to all of the problems inherent in those kinds of programs—cuts, eligibility hoop jumping, donuts, continual calls to scrap the program entirely…..

      the rich pensioneers with investment income won’t suffer at all, but the people you’re trying to help out will.

    2. lance ringquist

      we are in it all together. if you put means testing in. it means the end of a program. its the intended purpose of means testing.

  16. Amigauser

    As soon as the election is over, and the suckers have voted again for “change”, this will be forgotten, just like Medicare for all or student loan forgiveness was.

    Also remember, if it was not for the Lewinsky scandal, bill Clinton would have privatised social security.
    Also, Obama cut social security benefits during the 2008 crisis , so the new democrats do not believe in welfare for the poor

    1. Mike

      I couldn’t agree more. Seeing the Democratic “progressives” play this game over and over again you figure it out after awhile. I like the idea but it won’t happen.

      Sort of like Bernie Sanders pretending to run for president to draw the youth vote for the approved DNC candidate in the general election.

    2. neo-realist

      Republican Senator Rick Scott put out a 10 point plan that included sunsetting social security and medicare. W wanted to privatize social security as well. Lets identify the bandits on both sides of the aisle.

      1. orlbucfan

        Rick Scott aka Sick Rott deserves to be in jail big-time. His 10-point plan is so blatantly FRight stupid that Beijing Mitch McConnell threw a hissy fit over it. Hopefully, that might be a good sign.

    3. lance ringquist

      and that is why they must be held accountable, other wise nafta billy types will just keep coming back like summers.

      Change cannot occur if the displaced ruling class is left intact after a revolution against them: Democratic Party elites, are not your friends and they’re not the nation’s friends. They are their own friends, period.

      For the Message to Change, the Leadership Must Change.

      they are there because they are funded by oligarchs, to make sure no bernie for you. those same oligarchs, also fund the republican party.
      If the Party’s failed leaders aren’t deposed, the revolution will have failed.

      so keep voting for the clintonites, they are the resistance, your friends:)


      Some People “Would Rather Have 1st Class Seats on the Titanic Than Change the Course of the Ship”
      Posted on June 23, 2017 by Yves Smith
      By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and frequent contributor to DownWithTyranny, digby, Truthout, and Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius, Tumblr and Facebook. GP article archive here. Originally published at DownWithTyranny

      “Change cannot occur if the displaced ruling class is left intact after a revolution against them. We have proof of this throughout South America. Every revolution by the indigenous people has left unmolested the Spanish ruling class, and every revolution has been overthrown[.]”
      —Paul Craig Roberts, quoted here

  17. Sue Wainess

    Explain that the trust fund is a legal requirement and doesn’t fund SS anyway.
    (Stephanie Kelton explained this). Eliminate deductions.
    Then vote to fund it. A winner.

  18. Dave in Austin

    Yves notes that: “First, like so much of our Federal government funding, the device of having a trust fund is a convenient fiction.”

    The problem with using a lie to “Get the camel’s nose into the tent” is that you are then stuck forever with the lie. This was sold as a “self-pay retierment program”; so what do you do when people demand that you live with the lie? The same thing goes for the “trust fund” lie. Any corporate official who used such language and then funged the proceeds into an operating budget to cover a deficit would go to jail and so would company accountant.

    It is this sort of “creative” language and accounting has led the public over the last 60-or-so years to go from “I trust my government” to “I don’t believe a word they say.”

  19. John Beech

    I would be affected adversely and I don’t care. I’ve always thought it stranger than fiction for the tax to phase out just when I could better afford it. Happily took it, of course because I’m not stupid but always viewed it with a bit of perplexed confusion.

    As for the perceived doughnut hole between $147-250K my reading is it’s real and exists as a means of attaining votes because in no wise is this fair, either. Comes of having a system where votes are for sale and sans the Supreme Court reviewing Citizens United isn’t going to change in our lifetime.

  20. Dad 72

    If the cap is lifted, won’t benefit be uncapped and increase for those who will pay higher taxes?

  21. Thomas Schmidt

    I recently accepted a position with a state that does not take part in SS. I’m older, so I will try to shoot the moon and score their defined benefit pension. Ten years of working at my below-the-SS-limit salary will mean a payment in addition to SS (into which Ihave paid many years) of an additional 90%. For younger people working for this state, the state offers a plan that allows them to set aside a total of 14% of salary between employer and employee in a 401K type of account. This will wind up a MUCH better deal than paying into a system with what will be a negative return for them.

    Many people on here are older and “talking their books.” They made their money while tax rates were much lower and accumulated capital that younger folks cannot. Now they’re afraid they won’t get the full dollars promised.

    Passing this increase means that the system becomes more of a bad deal for younger folks. They’re going to find ways to drop out of paying, especially when the demographics of social security recipients look like the USA 65 years ago (90% white) and the demographics of social security payers look like the current labor force (soon majority nonwhite).

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Tax rates were not “much lower” historically.

      The average income tax rate was 8.2% from 2010 to 2018. That was before the Trump tax cuts that also raised the standard deduction:


      The effective tax rate on AGI for all returns in 1980 was 15.5%:


      The employee share of FICA was 6.13% in 1980 versus 7.65% now. The big driver of the increase in FICA is not Social Security but Medicare. That’s the place you can really expect benefits to be degraded but that’s due to medical industry looting, which will drain you no matter how you configure your finances.

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