Can Social Security be fixed without raising taxes?

Yes, say three GOP senators, who have proposed reforms that would raise the retirement age to 70, and reduce benefits for more affluent pensioners

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and two other Republican senators are defying conventional wisdom with a plan they say would save Social Security without tax hikes.
(Image credit: Getty)

While much of Washington focused on Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) plan to transform Medicare and Medicaid, three Republican senators last week unveiled a plan to reform Social Security — without raising taxes. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Mike Lee (R-Utah) propose raising the retirement age from 67 to 70 by 2032, and slowly reducing benefits for workers whose average lifetime income is $43,000 a year or higher. This would keep the program solvent and cut public debt by $6.2 trillion by 2085, the trio says. Good idea?

This is the least we can do: Graham, Paul, and Lee have laid out a sensible "compromise" plan to save "FDR's Ponzi scheme," says The Washington Times in an editorial. And it sounds like the kind of "progressive idea Democrats ought to embrace" — no private accounts, just raising the retirement age to match longer life spans, and making it so "'the rich' would receive less money than they put into the system." Sadly, Democrats are still in denial.

"Repairing FDR's Ponzi scheme"

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We don't need such punitive changes: "Social Security isn't broke," says Charles Wallace at Daily Finance. It has enough money to pay out full benefits for 26 years, and then some. Yes, we should make some "modest changes," but let's not smack lower-income workers who have more physically demanding jobs and die younger. The best reform is raising the cap on Social Security taxes, so people who earn $106,900 a year or more pay the same percentage as everyone else.

"Social Security isn't broke, but we still ought to fix it"

Any sensible reform needs higher taxes and benefit cuts: Nothing that "relies entirely on spending cuts" — like the GOP trio's "one-dimensional" plan — or solely on raising taxes on the wealthy is politically viable, says The Salt Lake Tribune in an editorial. In fact, "the best solution is likely to involve some combination of those two choices." What Americans won't accept is dooming the program that millions of elderly people rely on for even a "bare-bones retirement."

"Social Security plan"

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