Democrats, Hillary Clinton included, often state they are committed to ensuring Social Security will continue to support its most vulnerable recipients. In fact, this notion is the basis of a current Republican plan currently. Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, proposed a plan to reduce benefits for the wealthiest 70% of recipients, purportedly to ensure that benefits remain unchanged for the poorest 30%. In my Atlantic article, “Why It's Misleading to Swear to Protect the Poor's Social Security Benefits” I explain why this would damage political support for the program and could result in its demise. Put simply, when a majority of Americans find they are paying the same for a program that they will get less from, they will be increasingly disinclined to support it.
A similar analysis can be applied to the proposal to raise the salary cap for contributions to Social Security. As it stands, Social Security taxes are only drawn from the first $118,500 of income. Raising that cap will force high earners to pay more without getting any additional benefits. This also could damage the program’s political support. Nonetheless, raising the salary cap is a good way to improve the solvency of the system. It should be part of a comprehensive approach to strengthening and expanding Social Security for everyone.