The Lie behind Social Security

Social Security is in trouble. We all know this, or should. But there is a cheat within the system, and it is time the cheat was brought into the full light of day. In short, Democrat lawmakers -- and Republicans who have remained silent on the issue -- are complicit in a process that amounts to fuzzy math or worse – intentional confiscation of Social Security benefits from those who, all their lives, have worked harder. Contrary to public misconception, Social Security is not a level playing field -- it is, in fact, confiscatory.

Let me put the numbers before you, and you reach the conclusion to which they lead. This is pure math. The question that the math presents is sobering: The Democrats are fond of asking, “Are the rich paying their fair share?” But the real question is: Why do those who work harder all their lives end up with less?  In sum, those who make more, are paying for it later -- the Social Security system is rigged to pay them less. Here are the raw numbers. 

You would think that if a worker earned double the income during their working years, their Social Security would be double -- but that is not the case. When you do the calculations for a person with a $4,000 average monthly income, the Social Security benefit comes out to $1,759 for life. So you would expect a person whose average monthly income was $8,000 to have a double Social Security benefit of $3,518, but in reality, they would only receive $2,525 per month.

The numbers are arresting, although no one is being arrested. They are sobering, although one wonders where the more sober minds are to right the implicit wrong. Social Security benefits are presently calculated to enrich the benefits of lower-wage earners by taking away money from higher-wage earners. No politician tells you this, but it is the rock-hard truth. This is presumably baked into the system in order to give poorer people more money.  But there is certainly no problem with that.  

The central problem is with the false impression that continues to be created by those in positions of leadership. The impression presented day in and day out is that higher-income individuals -- or those who have worked longer and harder all their lives -- are not paying their fair share. But that is frankly not true. As Ronald Reagan was fond of saying, “facts are stubborn things,” and so they are. As illustrated above, the higher average lifetime income an individual has worked to earn, the less fair the Federal Government is to that person in retirement. Put differently, the lower the percentage of salary they are getting back in the form of Social Security. Is that fair? 

Is that honest? Is that being publicly discussed? No -- and the question is, why not? Just as veterans should not twice be taxed on their pension earnings, those Americans who have worked harder and lived longer in their earning capacity, should not be punished for their industry, diligence, creativity, or sweat. After all, into what venture is that sweat equity being paid? It is paid into the prosperity of the United States of America, and what one puts in -- one should equitably get back in the older years, when the pension matters so much. So, where is the fairness? And where are those who will stand up for seniors, particularly those who have worked all their lives to make the sunset years, sustainable?

Despite the unfairness of the facts, liberals want to punish more and harshly those older Americans who earn more and have worked harder, those higher-income individuals who have built the prosperity on which we all rely. They are attacking the hardest workers and highest earners in retirement, more today than ever before. The fiction that they are not paying more for others needs to be stopped; the truth needs to be laid bare, spoken boldly, and inequities in the Social Security system need to be put under the bright lights and openly discussed. To date, they have not been. 

By raising the tax cap, those who have earned salaries over the current cap will receive an even smaller percentage of their salary in the form of Social Security as compared to low-wage and middle-wage earners. So remind me again why this continuing burden on those who work the hardest, strive and risk and sacrifice the  most, that have put more in over the passage of time, not being rewarded -- and  why is this added burden on them not, in the end, proof that they continue  to pay more than their “fair share”? 

The sad fact is that the present leadership -- in many parts of the Federal government -- seems intent on obfuscating the truth, and in the process punishing, diminishing, and disparaging the hard work of seniors. It is time that the truth was plainly spoken, and that the hard-won benefits of seniors who have put more into the system and at a higher level, those who have worked harder for America over their many years, were not ignored.  

These many seniors -- the ones who worked hardest and paid the most into the Social Security system -- are the ones most regularly punished by an inequitable Social Security payment system, one that penalizes their hard work in retirement. The irony is that they pay more than their fair share and always have. And yet we have a president, and many around him, who are intent on placing the burdens of runaway Federal profligacy on their backs.  Shall we talk fairness, then? Who would call that fair? Bold and honest leadership that appreciates them, treats them fairly, and recognizes the hard work to which they have given their lives -- and the tremendous gift that hard work is to their country -- is needed. 

Dan Weber is the President of AMAC, a senior citizens group that represents 1.3 million Americans and seeks greater fidelity to fiscal responsibility by the Federal Government.