A payroll tax could help Social Security
Higher earnings would keep more people from retiring early.

Article Highlights

  • We should cut the 12.4% payroll tax for workers nearing retirement, say, at age 62.

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  • #Americans on average still retire more than two years earlier than they did in 1960, despite less strenuous jobs

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  • The typical worker will spend one-third of his adult life in retirement, financed by entitlement programs.

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The annual Social Security Trustees Report, released on Monday, confirms that the program is significantly underfunded. After decades of delay, Congress and the next president will need to take steps to restore Social Security's finances and improve Americans' retirement income security. Although it might seem counterintuitive, one positive step toward achieving both goals is to cut the 12.4% payroll tax for workers nearing retirement, say, at age 62.

The reason is that the current system encourages too many individuals to retire early, forgoing the extra savings they could have by extending their work lives.

It is true that, in the aftermath of the Great Recession, more people are postponing retirement to rebuild their battered 401(k)s. Nevertheless, Americans on average still retire more than two years earlier than they did in 1960, despite less strenuous jobs and significantly longer life spans. The typical worker will spend one-third of his adult life in retirement, financed by entitlement programs that cannot bear the strain.

The full text of this article is available via subscription to The Wall Street Journal. It will be posted to AEI.org on Monday, April 30, 2012.

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About the Author

 

Andrew G.
Biggs
  • Andrew G. Biggs is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he studies Social Security reform, state and local government pensions, and public sector pay and benefits.

    Before joining AEI, Biggs was the principal deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA), where he oversaw SSA’s policy research efforts. In 2005, as an associate director of the White House National Economic Council, he worked on Social Security reform. In 2001, he joined the staff of the President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security. Biggs has been interviewed on radio and television as an expert on retirement issues and on public vs. private sector compensation. He has published widely in academic publications as well as in daily newspapers such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. He has also testified before Congress on numerous occasions. In 2013, the Society of Actuaries appointed Biggs co-vice chair of a blue ribbon panel tasked with analyzing the causes of underfunding in public pension plans and how governments can securely fund plans in the future.

    Biggs holds a bachelor’s degree from Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland, master’s degrees from Cambridge University and the University of London, and a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics.

  • Phone: 202-862-5841
    Email: andrew.biggs@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Kelly Funderburk
    Phone: 202-862-5920
    Email: kelly.funderburk@aei.org

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