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AP-GfK poll: Raise taxes to save Social Security

By Jennifer Agiesta and Stephen Ohlemacher

Associated Press


WASHINGTON >> Most Americans say go ahead and raise taxes if it will save Social Security benefits for future generations. And raise the retirement age, if you have to.

Both options are preferable to cutting monthly benefits, even for people who are years away from applying for them.

Those are the findings of a new Associated Press-GfK poll on public attitudes toward the nation's largest federal program.

Social Security is facing serious long-term financial problems. When given a choice on how to fix them, 53 percent of adults said they would rather raise taxes than cut benefits for future generations, according to the poll. Just 36 percent said they would cut benefits instead.

The results were similar when people were asked whether they would rather raise the retirement age or cut monthly payments for future generations — 53 percent said they would raise the retirement age, while 35 percent said they would cut monthly payments.

"Right now, it seems like we're taxed so much, but if that would be the only way to go, I guess I'd have to be for it to preserve it," said Marge Youngs, a 77-year-old widow from Toledo, Ohio. "It's extremely important to me. It's most of my income."

Social Security is being hit by a wave of millions of retiring baby boomers, leaving relatively fewer workers to pay into the system. The trustees who oversee the massive retirement and disability program say Social Security's trust funds will run out of money in 2033. At that point, Social Security will only collect enough tax revenue to pay 75 percent of benefits, unless Congress acts.

Lawmakers from both political parties say there is a good chance Congress will address Social Security in the next year or two — if the White House takes the lead. Yet so far, Social Security has not played a big role in the presidential election.

In previous polls, Democrats have typically scored better than Republicans on handling Social Security. But the AP-GfK poll shows Americans are closely divided on which presidential candidate they trust to handle the issue.

Forty-seven percent said they trust President Barack Obama to do a better job on Social Security, and 44 percent said they trust his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney. The difference is within the poll's margin of sampling error.

Charles McSwain, 69, of Philadelphia, said he trusts Obama because he thinks the president is more likely to stick up for the middle class.

"He at least gives the appearance of trying to help people that aren't super rich, and Romney doesn't," said McSwain, who works part time selling real estate.

But Jeff Victory of Nashville, Tenn., worries that Obama doesn't have the stomach to cut benefits to help rein in the program.

"Barack has already shown he's going to give anything free out to everyone he possibly can, so I'm going to have to go with Romney on that one," said Victory, a 26-year-old electrician.

Romney has said he favors gradually increasing the retirement age, but he opposes tax increases to shore up Social Security. For future generations, Romney would slow the growth of benefits "for those with higher incomes."

Obama hasn't laid out a detailed plan for addressing Social Security. But during the 2008 campaign, he called for applying the Social Security payroll tax to wages above $250,000. It is now limited to wages below $110,100, a level that increases with inflation.

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joseph007 wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on August 26,2012 | 08:07AM
OldDiver wrote:
But that means the rich will have to pay the same percentage as the rest of us. Think rich guy Mitt Romney is going to voluntary pay the same percentage of their income to SS? I Think not.
on August 26,2012 | 09:21AM
Highinthesierras wrote:
Nearly 50% of us pay no income tax, so should everyone pay more? Or just those making more than $200,00, that is Barry's millionaires?
on August 26,2012 | 09:38AM
hawaiikone wrote:
Since Mitt gives far more away to charity than your entire income Od, I don't think he'll have a problem.
on August 26,2012 | 11:50AM
1local wrote:
tax all pension plans - tax all income - leave retirement age the same on when the required quarters are attained...
on August 26,2012 | 11:21AM
thepartyfirst wrote:
No! Cut spending and wasteful spending!
on August 26,2012 | 01:05PM
CAHAOLE wrote:
on August 26,2012 | 12:06PM
false wrote:
the Republican Congress will never agree. They're fixated on fixing social security by cutting entitlements and increasing the retirement age---they won't support increased taxes on the wealthy, although they apparently don't mind if the middle class takes a hit.
on August 26,2012 | 08:45AM
allie wrote:
on August 26,2012 | 08:55AM
Oye_Como_Va wrote:
Think again. If what you suggest was so, why hadn't our Democrat congressional delegation ever suggested it when the SS defecit was known to many a long time ago? Because they are in the so called '1 %" and don't want you to know it. They continue to profess themselves as being hardworking people of the middle class. Yeah sure, are I have a bridge for sale from Oahu to the west coast of the continental U.S.
on August 26,2012 | 02:57PM
Highinthesierras wrote:
Barry won't either, over 70% of his campaingn funds come from true millionaires. Just politics as usual, and we fall for it every time. Has our lives improved in the last four years? Is the country better off today?
on August 26,2012 | 09:40AM
hawaiikone wrote:
In a democracy, once the voter realizes he can draw an income from the government without earning it, he'll vote for whoever offers the best chance of preserving his freebies. Which explains the success of the democratic party.
on August 26,2012 | 11:55AM
Classic_59Chevy wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on August 26,2012 | 08:46AM
allie wrote:
good point
on August 26,2012 | 08:55AM
Highinthesierras wrote:
Real problem, we are living on average 20 more years than when SS was adopted.
on August 26,2012 | 09:41AM
Dragonman wrote:
Agree, we are also working longer, well into our 60's and even 70's. That is why the age for social security needs to be raised, but at the same time lets not forget about those people that have health issues and can not.
on August 26,2012 | 10:03AM
Dragonman wrote:
Good point. I do know that a congresman only needs to serve one term and he collects around 170K and free medical for life. No telling what else they get for serving. This is part of the problem, how can they represent the low to middle class when their retirement befefits are so much more than ours. If they had to live on what I live on, they would be more agreable to seeing that benefits don't dry up for the needy. I have no issues with raising the social security retirement age or raising social security taxes. Jeff Victory, read your quote in article, some day you will be 60 years old and trying to live on an almost fixed income, things will be different for you and your family. More medical expenses, both in premiums and medications. Don't be shortsighted, your day will come when you will need help unless you are in the upper income bracket that can take care of your monetary needs for the rest of your life.
on August 26,2012 | 10:00AM
hawaiikone wrote:
A grass roots constitutional amendment has circulated for years demanding that whatever legislation congress passes shall be equally applied to them as well as us, including medicare and social security. Wonder if Tulsi would champion us and introduce it to congress, even though she'd risk her own benefits?
on August 26,2012 | 12:05PM
primowarrior wrote:
SS had been running a surplus for decades and everyone knew the effect that the Baby Boom generation was going to have on it, yet for decades the Congress and Presidents continually raided the SS surplus for extra funds to run government operations instead of doing a better job of balancing the budget. Now we will all have to pay in some way for their mismanagement.
on August 26,2012 | 10:45AM
Grimbold wrote:
The survey was based on faulty questioning. The right question would be: Do you want the government keep raiding the social security fund to pay for other things, and therefore do you want to raise the tax? The answer would have been 95% no.
on August 26,2012 | 10:56AM
false wrote:
Everyone agrees we need to fix social security. But we shouldn't have to throw people under the bus to do it. People talk about raising the retirement age. And that would work for many people. But imagine working construction into your 70s, or getting down on your knees to lay tile. Or having to stand for eight hours a day. People with white collar jobs don't mind working until they're 70.
on August 26,2012 | 11:12AM
CAHAOLE wrote:
on August 26,2012 | 12:05PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
Congress has no incentive to act on SS because they don't have to depend on it. They get their pay and medical for life after serving just 1 term in congress. It's the best retirement plan available anywhere. All income should be subject to SS tax, not just the first 100K. In addition, those who don't need SS should not recieve SS at all. Why should the government give SS to millionaires? They don't need it but many others do. Perhaps a small federal sales tax would be appropriate since 50% don't pay any federal income tax at all. It's just not fair for some to pay nothing and collect all the benefits the federal government offers to citizens.Maybe then, we could afford universal health coverage for all people.
on August 26,2012 | 02:15PM
Mana07 wrote:
The Hawaii brainwashed liberals are hilarious.....Can't wait until your "native son" communist is thrown out of office!
on August 26,2012 | 04:42PM
roadsterred wrote:
Before raising the Social Security Tax, voters should take a look at the current beneficiaries. If you believe that only contributors to the system are receiving benefits, then you know only half the story. Previous Congresses and Presidents have not only raided the system by transferring Social Security revenues to the General Fund, they have also added over the years additional classes/categories of beneficiaries who have not contributed a cent. Don't take my word for it, look up Social Security on the Internet. Not only is Social Security a supplemental retirement plan, it has also been transformed into a quasi-welfare program.
on August 27,2012 | 05:44AM
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