After studying our Social Security history and current system weaknesses, I have arrived at these suggested modifications that the president and Congress should consider:
• Retirement age and entitlement to Social Security benefits should be a function of a person's occupation. People doing hard physical labor in various, dangerous, difficult working conditions, outdoors for example, or in mining, should be able to retire and be eligible for full Social Security benefits at the earliest age, say 65/67. For service sector workers [Food Service, Healthcare Industry, Retail clerks] in air-conditioned spaces doing light work but on their feet a lot, should be eligible at age 72/75. Professionals, i.e. lawyers, doctors, financial industry workers, bank workers -- who sit most of the day or talk on the phone most of the time -- should have to wait until they're 78/85. Most of the people in these categories are already working until these ages already!
It should all be worked out according to the Labor Department's compilation of Standard Occupation Codes. They have a Code number for every occupation that exists. This categorization will take some effort by the Labor Department to segregate. But twenty-four years from now, like in my recent novel, 2039, a person's Labor Department Occupational Code will determine his/her retirement age and benefit level.
• The Social Security [FICA payroll deduction] tax rate should be 'Progressive'! People in lower wage jobs should pay a lower rate than those in higher paid jobs. Why should a college or high school kid making minimum wage for a summer job have to give up 6.2 percent of their pay to this system. He/she shouldn't! By 2039, if any person is only going to earn $20K or less in a given year -- no Social Security tax should be deducted. But the employer of that person should pay their share of the tax into that person's SS account.
For example, a family earning from $20K to $40K/year -- maybe the tax should not be more than 2.0 percent, with $35,000 being their maximum. The actual FICA tax rate should also be adjusted for the number of dependents the wage earner has, you know--spouse, children, parents, whoever. Just like the Income Tax deduction is adjusted for dependents, per filling out the W-4, provided by the employer.
From $40k to $75K/yr. -- the rate might be up to 4 percent, with a $60,000 maximum.
From $60K to $100K -- 5.5 percent up to $80K.
Over $100K to $150K -- 6.2 percent, up to $130K
And the brackets for the even more highly paid will be higher yet and with higher maximums. These brackets and FICA rates need to be computed by the applicable Government department, mathematicians, actuaries, in the Treasury Dept or Social Security Dept, wherever.
The net result will be that lower paid occupations would pay a lower Social Security tax than they do today. And the more -- and the most -- highly paid will pay more than they do today to keep the total revenue at least equal or provide an increase to the SS Fund. In each case the employer will continue to contribute an equal amount -- even in the cases of the lowest paid workers, who won't have to pay any FICA themselves.
• The Retirement Benefit Formula should be modified to give the lower wage retirees a higher benefit than he/she gets today, while those in the higher paid categories would get adjustments too, higher or lower, appropriate to their earnings, dependents, and contributions to the system. As a person's wage earnings get higher, their benefit will be reduced from today's formula, still taking into account their dependents, if any, at their allowed age. This compression of the benefit formula, raising the benefit for lower wage people and decreasing the benefit for the higher paid people, will be calculated to help balance the current wage gap between the poorer and the richer.
• Employers who replace workers with robots or robotic devices should still have to pay what their portion of the Social Security tax would have been for every person who loses a job -- or would have been employed, if the robots were not used. The tax rate would be set at what that employee would have been paid if he/she were needed. This would allow industry to modernize with labor saving devises, but would not totally penalize the Social Security system from losing all the income that it would have received if a person was employed.
• Means testing should not be adopted. The compression of the benefit rates should automatically adjust for that. Any employee that has paid into the system, appropriately to their wage/salary should be entitled to receive their benefit. If the Warren Buffets, Bill Gates, Donald Trumps, and all the likes of Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Obamas, want to waive their right to receive their benefit, or divert it to a non-profit of some sort -- that should be their decision.
• Income taxation of Social Security payments should be eliminated.
The above are merely, in my opinion, common sense suggestions, to make the system more fair, to recognize the current longevity of people in this era, the disparity between the working conditions of the various occupations, and to adjust the contributions and the benefits for the disparity of income we currently have in this country.
What do you think?
Read more in my latest novel, 2039, my sequel to Orwell's 1984. Available at Amazon, soft cover or Kindle