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Will Social Security Last for Gens X, Y, Z?

May 2, 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Social Security is going broke three years earlier than last year's projection, according to the annual report by the Social Security Board of Trustees. Some are sounding the alarm bell for major changes, while others say needed fixes are minor.

The report released last week predicts that trust fund will be exhausted by 2033, compared with 2036 in the 2011 projection.

However, Social Security Works co-director Nancy Altman says the program's foundation is strong, and can be made solvent with some modest changes.

"There are many, many ways to bring that additional revenue in. It is a program that works and we should be strengthening it and building it, rather than dismantling it."

One suggestion by some policymakers is to increase the tax cap, which now stands at $110,000 per year; no contributions go into Social Security for annual income above that amount.

Some economists and policymakers suggest keeping the current program for those 55 and older, while offering younger workers the chance to invest over one-third of their Social Security taxes into private retirement plans. Altman sees this as the wrong approach, adding that the program is efficient the way it is.

"It covers everyone on a mandatory basis. So, if you start allowing people to opt out, it sounds good, but it would ultimately cause the whole system to unravel."

Altman believes the program is strong, and provides guaranteed benefits - unlike people's 401(K)s and home equity.

According to the National Academy of Social Insurance, three in four Americans - across age groups and party lines - say it is critical to preserve Social Security even if it means asking working Americans to pay higher taxes to do so.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC