NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 7, 2005

The latest twist in the battle over Social Security has one side embracing steep benefit cuts for highest earners to avert any cuts for the lowest earners. The other side warns that would be far too tough on the rich -- ironically it's liberals arguing that the Social Security benefits of the well-to-do must be protected, says Investor's Business Journal (IBD).

As President Bush and other key Republicans seek to build consensus around an idea to make Social Security far more progressive, opponents see the overture as a Trojan horse:

  • If high earners feel little stake in Social Security, liberals fear, its political support could wither.
  • But those who see merit in restoring Social Security's solvency largely through a progressive benefit cut find the liberal logic flawed; the alternative, they say, is likely a tax hike that falls heavily on the wealthy.

But Social Security is already progressive, says IBD: High earners -- about $58,000 and above -- now pay in about 60 percent more than an average earner, but get just 33 percent more in benefits, according to a recent analysis by the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

"What liberals really want is a tax increase to support increasing benefits," says Michael Tanner (Cato Institute). "They believe in government more than they believe in progressivity."

Source: Jed Graham, "Why Liberals Want To Protect High Earners' Social Security Pay," Investor's Business Daily, April 5, 2005.


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