Poll: Large Majority of Americans Want Changes to Save Social Security

If nothing is done, benefits will be cut by about 25 percent across the board within the next 10 years or so, according to the Social Security Administration.
Poll: Large Majority of Americans Want Changes to Save Social Security
Blank Social Security checks at the U.S. Treasury printing facility in Philadelphia, Pa., on Feb. 11, 2005. (William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)
Jack Phillips
11/1/2023
Updated:
11/2/2023
0:00

A significant majority of Americans favor congressional changes to save Medicare and Social Security amid concerns that both entitlement programs will become insolvent in the coming years.

A poll from the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group, found that 87 percent of likely voters believe that members of Congress should work to ensure Social Security’s solvency to avoid cuts to recipients’ benefits.

Another 89 percent said that similar changes should be made to Medicare, according to the Nov. 1 poll.

The survey found that 90 percent of likely voters believe that 2024 congressional and presidential candidates should discuss making sure Social Security and Medicare are solvent.

“Our polling shows that Americans are seriously worried about the solvency of these entitlement programs,” David Williams, president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, said, according to several reports. “Congress can no longer continue to ignore the facts that without action, Social Security and Medicare will face deep and automatic cuts.

“Proactive steps must be taken to reform these fiscally unsound programs or Americans will be faced with the consequences of their representatives’ blatant disregard for the uncomfortable truth,” he added.

The survey found that voters do not want the federal government to increase the age for eligibility. Nearly 60 percent of respondents said that raising the age by several years to access full Social Security benefits is unacceptable.

Only about 9 percent said that raising the age would be acceptable.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen durng a meeting of the Financial Stability Oversight Council at the U.S. Treasury in Washington, on July 28, 2023. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen durng a meeting of the Financial Stability Oversight Council at the U.S. Treasury in Washington, on July 28, 2023. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

“This poll is a fiscal wake-up call to Congress and all presidential candidates,” Mr. Williams said.

The survey was conducted in August and included approximately 1,000 likely voters, the organization said.

Social Security benefits, which mainly go to retired workers, impact over 50 million people per month, with recipients getting an average payment of about $1,800, according to the Social Security Administration. Without policy changes, the program is headed for insolvency in the early 2030s.

Across-the-Board Cut?

If nothing is done, benefits will be cut by about 25 percent across the board within the next 10 years or so, according to the Social Security Administration’s trustees in an estimate earlier this year.

“Currently, the Social Security Board of Trustees projects program cost to rise by 2035 so that taxes will be enough to pay for only 75 percent of scheduled benefits,” the trustees say on the agency’s website.

“This increase in cost results from population aging, not because we are living longer, but because birth rates dropped from three to two children per woman.

“Importantly, this shortfall is basically stable after 2035; adjustments to taxes or benefits that offset the effects of the lower birth rate may restore solvency for the Social Security program on a sustainable basis for the foreseeable future.”

A report released earlier this year indicated that the Social Security program is expected to run out of money by around 2033 due to slower-than-predicted economic growth.

But if no significant changes are made before 2034 to shore up its funds, about 66 million Americans could see a benefit reduction between 23 percent and 25 percent.

“The combined trust funds will be insolvent by 2034, when today’s 56-year-olds reach the full retirement age and today’s youngest retirees turn 73,” the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) said in an analysis released in March.

If no action is taken, it warned, “All retirees regardless of age, income, or need will face a 20 percent across-the-board benefit cut, which will grow to 26 percent by the end of the 75-year projection window” upon insolvency of the program.

The U.S. Treasury Department and its secretary, Janet Yellen, have issued a warning that the trust fund’s “reserves will fall below 20 percent of annual cost by the beginning of calendar year 2033 and will become depleted in 2033 in the absence of legislation to address this imbalance between scheduled benefits and revenue.”

More Borrowing Foreseen

However, the closer it gets to 2033, the less likely there will be benefit cuts, according to analysts. Benefit reductions typically are phased in slowly for future beneficiaries, so the impact of any cuts would not be adequate to achieve solvency.

“We’ve delayed so long that there are no plausible benefit reductions that can keep the trust fund from running dry in the 2030s,” said Andrew Biggs, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, in a report this year.

At the point of a 2033 crisis, an emergency injection of new revenue is most likely, said Paul Van de Water, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“Congress could allow the program to continue running deficits by changing the law to credit Social Security with additional income—in effect, it would be financing the program through borrowing,” he said.

That solution would avert sharp cuts, but it would further fuel public worries about Social Security. A 2020 AARP poll found that 57 percent of respondents are not confident about the future of Social Security, citing a lack of trust in the government to keep its promises and that “money is running out.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter with 15 years experience who started as a local New York City reporter. Having joined The Epoch Times' news team in 2009, Jack was born and raised near Modesto in California's Central Valley. Follow him on X: https://twitter.com/jackphillips5
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