January 5, 2013

Another View: Payroll tax increase necessary to keep funding Social Security


When Congress lowered us a bit down the fiscal cliff earlier this week, one of the tax cuts they ended was the 2 percent reduction in the Social Security tax ("Our View: All who pay payroll tax hurt by fiscal cliff deal," Jan. 3).

It concerns me that the media has focused on the negative aspects of this, almost to the exclusion of the positive. I get that paying a little more hurts lower-income people, and I'm truly sorry for their pain. But the payroll tax holiday was meant to be a temporary economic stimulus. To extend it would add to the deficit, which (especially if it continues to balloon) is ultimately bad for the economy.

To my knowledge, there is no scenario that shows that the Social Security fund will not run out of money in the not-too-distant future -- there is disagreement as to when that will happen, but not whether it will.

If we want Social Security to be available to future retirees, we have to fund it, and the way to do it is through taxes. It frustrates me that the media joins the politicians in helping gullible people pretend that they can get something for nothing.

On average, in part because we're living longer, people receive far more from the Social Security system than they ever paid in, so asking them to pay a little more (the level they always paid up until two years ago) doesn't seem like a lot to ask. Taxes are good. They buy us things we want and need.

Yes, higher-income people can and should pay more. Now we need to ensure that the next budget agreement doesn't result in cuts to discretionary spending that will hurt our schools, the homeless, mental health services, parks, safe roads and bridges, and other things we want and need.

Anne Gass is a resident of Gray.

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