Raise Taxes, Retirement Age; Just Don't Cut Benefits!

There's a crisis in the U.S. regarding retirement and Social Security, and a narrow majority would prefer to address the situation by raising taxes and the retirement age rather than cutting monthly benefits.

There’s a crisis in the U.S. regarding retirement and Social Security, and a narrow majority would prefer to address the situation by raising taxes to save the program and raise the retirement age if necessary. Those two options would be preferable to cutting monthly benefits, according to a new poll.

The Associated Press-GfK poll on public attitudes toward Social Security shows that even people who are years away from applying for benefits don’t want to see them cut in any way. According to the survey, 53% of adults would rather raise taxes while just 36% would prefer to cut benefits instead. The results were the same when considering raising the retirement age.

The Social Security program is already taxed and things will only get worse over the next years as more and more baby boomers stop working — leaving fewer workers paying into the fund — and start receiving benefits.

In April the trustees in charge of Social Security and Medicare reported that the long-term finances for both programs were worsening. It is expected that the Social Security fund will run dry by 2033. Unless Congress acts, after 2033 Social Security will only collect enough tax revenue to pay 75% of benefits.

According to the Associated Press, Democrats typically score better than Republicans on handling Social Security, but the latest poll shows Americans are closely divided. While 47% say they trust President Obama to do a better job with the fund, 44% trust Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

For older Americans, Social Security and Medicare are the deciding factors in this upcoming election, according to AARP. A recent AARP poll, 67% of respondents think the candidates haven’t done a good job of explaining their plans for Social Security.

“The message from voters 50-plus is clear,” Nancy LeaMond, AARP executive vice president, said in a statement. “In a razor-tight election, candidates have a major opportunity to reach key voters by speaking about their plans on Social Security and Medicare — and they are making a huge gamble if they ignore them.”

When the AP-GfK poll results were broken down by party lines, Democrats, Republicans and independents all favored raising the retirement age over cutting monthly payments. However, that wasn’t true for raising taxes: 65% of Democrats and 53% of independents favor higher taxes over cutting monthly benefits. However, only 38% of Republicans were in favor of raising taxes.

Regardless, the younger generation seems pretty sure that they will not be able to rely on Social Security. Only 20% of respondents under the age of 35 believe the fund will provide income during their retirement compared to 55% of those 65 and older who said the same. Only 30% of all respondents said it was very likely or extremely likely they will be able to rely on Social Security.