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On today’s rundown, all eyes on the G.O.P. tax plan - labor groups say it’s not good for working families, and the view from Michigan is the likely loss of many services across the state; plus, report today on Black Friday and Native American Heritage Day

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Ending Payroll Tax Called Attack on Social Security

Social Security took American seniors from being the highest poverty age group to one of the most secure.(Social Security Works)
Social Security took American seniors from being the highest poverty age group to one of the most secure.(Social Security Works)
April 17, 2017

RICHMOND, Va. -- A proposal to change how Social Security is funded is being attacked as a sneaky way of undermining the program.

The Trump administration is floating what's been described as a trial balloon - end the separate payroll taxes deducted for Social Security and replace them with general revenue or a consumption tax, similar to a sales tax.

But Nancy Altman, president of the group Social Security Works, said those payroll deductions function like insurance premiums - you have to pay in to get benefits. She said stopping those would be the first step to cutting benefits.

"Undermining the premiums, which are the dedicated revenue, which can only be used for Social Security - the dominant source of funding that's been there since 1935 - it fundamentally alters the program,” Altman said.

Critics say Social Security is going bankrupt and has to be changed. The latest federal estimates say the program's trust fund will run out in 2034. But Altman said the program would still pay out nearly 80 percent of current benefits with an empty trust fund.

Since Social Security has its own dedicated source of funding, it adds nothing to the deficit. But Altman said ending the payroll taxes would leave Social Security benefits vulnerable to cuts as a way to reduce the deficit at some point in the future.

"So I've actually called it a Trojan horse, because it looks like a gift, it looks like middle class tax relief, but really it's undermining middle class economic security,” she said.

During the campaign, President Trump said he wouldn't cut Social Security benefits. But Altman said Trump has criticized the program in the past. And she said the payroll tax structure has been a cornerstone of Social Security since it was founded.

"Before he started running, he called Social Security an illegal, criminal Ponzi scheme,” Altman said. "I think it's like Trumpcare; if there is enough noise, they will see the writing on the wall and drop it."

About two-thirds of American seniors rely on Social Security for most or all of their income. Without the program, economists estimate the poverty rate for seniors could multiply by three or four times.

More information is available at SocialSecurityWorks.org.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA