It's a common refrain among Washington policymakers that Social Security must be cut. Even though the program is solvent decades out into the future and could be completely protected by simply raising the payroll tax cap, calls for cutting the program persist.
But Duncan Black -- the blogger who writes under the handle "Atrios" -- nails the true issue with Social Security in a recent USA Today op-ed. The program is actually not generous enough:
As the system exists, large numbers of Americans nearing retirement will have little more than fairly meager Social Security benefits (the average benefit for retired workers is currently $1230) to survive on in their old age. We can doom them to a life of insecurity and relative poverty or we can take the obvious step to improve their lives: Increase Social Security benefits.
The goal of a retirement system should be to ensure that retired people have sufficient income to live out the remainder of their lives without a radical reduction in quality of life after they stop working. Our current system, a modest mandatory government retirement program combined with individual savings, is failing to do that. Strengthen Social Security now, not by cutting benefits, but by increasing them.
We pointed out recently that nearly a fifth of Americans 65 and older are still working past the official "retirement age." And leading economists have pointed out that lowering the retirement age would also increase employment. If we truly want to live in a country that treats its seniors well in retirement, we should be talking about protecting and expanding this successful system, not cutting it.