Re: Social Security

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David M. Shribman's April 21 column ("Social Security, 21st-Century Style") adds to the confusion about Social Security. It states, contrary to fact, that there is no Social Security Trust Fund. We don't say a person is insolvent if there's no cash under his mattress, and there's no reason to say Social Security is insolvent just because there's no "little drawer" with Social Security funds in it. The Social Security Administration website describes its funds, which are expected to remain solvent for 20 or more years.

Mr. Shribman censures Democrats for objecting to the chained consumer price index in calculating cost-of-living increases to Social Security benefits. There's good reason for their objection. The chained CPI does not accurately reflect the cost of living for seniors. The Bureau of Labor Statistics computes a separate index for the elderly to account for their different consumption patterns; for instance, the elderly spend considerably more on medical care. Social Security does not "endanger the economy," as Mr. Shribman claims, because payments do not contribute to the deficit. Payments come ultimately from payroll taxes (FICA) paid by employees and employers.

Mr. Shribman accuses President Barack Obama's critics of "trying to make overhaul of Social Security impossible." Opposing the chained CPI does not make overhaul of Social Security impossible. There are other possibilities for overhaul. For example, as Mr. Shribman points out, FICA is regressive: The effective tax rate is higher for low incomes than for high incomes. Instead of cutting benefits, we could eliminate the regressive FICA cap.

PENNY ANDERSON
Wilkinsburg


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