Why expanding Social Security is a bad idea

A New America Foundation proposal would cost 3.7 percent of GDP and crowd out the private saving that drives our economy. 

"Expanded Social Security," a New America Foundation (NAF) policy white paper by Michael Lind, Joshua Freedman, Robert Hiltonsmith, and Steven Hill, argues for expanding Social Security by paying each retiree a flat annual benefit of $11,669 in addition to their traditional Social Security benefits. The idea is to provide the typical retiree with a guaranteed "replacement rate" of 60 percent of his pre-retirement earnings, with higher replacement rates for low earners. The supplement would cost around 3.7 percent of GDP. Added to Social Security's forecasted cost of 5.6 percent of GDP in 2035, total outlays would reach 9.3 percent of GDP.

I like anyone who is willing to look at Social Security reform, and I have some affinity for the simplicity and universality of flat benefits. But the NAF paper misses a few important factors in thinking about Social Security reform and the pros and cons of expanding the program. Some of these may seem obvious - for example, if we can't afford the entitlements we have now, where do we get almost 4 percent of GDP for a new expansion? - so I'll focus on two things they have not given due attention. 

Read the full text of this article on the American website.

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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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