Regional Director Nikki Hager on Social Security Reform

Posted by Blake Wright on April 03, 2015 at 2:18 PM

For the entirety of my childhood, my grandparents had enough money to get by. They had a roof over their head, a car to drive and they never worried about having food on the table. However, without Social Security, that wouldn’t have been the case.


My mom’s parents identified as blue collar—my grandpa was a truck driver and my grandma was a lunch lady. While he was able to start a family and find a decent job, saving for retirement was never a priority. They both grew up on farms in rural Missouri. Because my grandpa was needed to help on the farm, he only made it through the 8th grade.


Without Social Security, my grandparents would have been among the 50 percent of the elderly pushed below the poverty line.


Without reform Social Security will be unable to meet its commitments and will be forced to cut benefits in around 20 years. These cuts could push the 14 million seniors who depend on Social Security for the majority of their income into poverty.


We cannot universally cut benefits for the elderly who have already paid into the program, hurting seniors like my grandparents. Furthermore, if we don’t address Social Security issues now, the Social Security trust fund will run out by 2033 pushing the problem onto future generations, hurting today’s young people and our future children and grandchildren. We need a solution that balances our responsibility to current recipients, while honoring the rights of future generations.

An adequate social safety net, including Social Security, is not just an issue that affects the elderly. It is an issue of generational fairness. We need Social Security reform that both maintains adequate social safety net for our grandparents today and endures for future generations.


Instead of letting politicians kick the can down the road for us, young people need to take ownership of issues like Social Security that we will face for years to come.


Generational fairness is one of CSA’s principle concerns.   


The Agenda for Generational Equity (AGE), the first bipartisan policy agenda to be crafted through a Millennial-driven process provides policy options on the issues most critical to our generation, including Social Security reform. Our goal is to reform Social Security to guarantee solvency for the next 75 years while maintaining the quality and fairness of the program. AGE has four suggestions of how this goal can be achieved.


First, we should change how benefits are indexed, or more simply how to determine how much money individuals receive from the program relative to inflation. Currently, Social Security is based off of the consumer price index of urban workers (CPI-W) rather than the consumer price index of urban consumers, or chained CPI. Chained CPI grows around .25 percent slower than CPI-W, improving the program’s solvency.


Second, the Social Security retirement age should change with life expectancy. As Americans continue to live longer, they are able to work longer and Social Security should be changed accordingly. We should gradually increase the retirement age to 69, and by doing so we would reduce Social Security spending by 13 percent annually.


Third, we should subject all income to Social Security payroll taxes. Currently only the first $117,000 of a person’s income is taxed. Including all income over $117,000 would ensure solvency for 75 years.


Finally, we should adjust Social Security’s benefits for wealthier recipients.


Social Security is one of the most effective poverty reduction programs in our nations history and it is vital that it stays intact both for today’s elderly and for tomorrow’s retirees—Millennials. And when half of today’s young people don’t believe that Social Security will be around when they retire, the program loses its generationally fair nature. Getting Millennials to buy into Social Security protects the program’s solvency for generations to come.