Given the toxic nature of political debate in the United States ahead of the 2024 presidential election, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that some issues will affect all Americans, regardless of political persuasion. One of those issues in Social Security — and the 2024 election outcome could have a major impact on the future of the program and those who depend on it.
Much of the focus will be on a looming funding shortfall involving the Social Security Old Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund. The fund is expected to run out of money in about a decade. When it does, payroll taxes will cover only about 77% of current benefits — and some retirees will face a massive reduction in benefits.
In an Aug. 8 report, the nonprofit Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated that when the OASI fund becomes insolvent — likely by 2033 — annual benefits “would be cut by $17,400 for a typical newly retired dual-income couple.” A typical single-income family would face an annual cut of $13,100.
Those reductions have put Social Security front-and-center in policy debates ahead of the 2024 election, with some candidates proposing across-the-board cuts, some advocating for privatization and others calling for an increase in payroll taxes.
An AARP survey of 1,200 likely voters in competitive Congressional districts found that voters 50 and older will be the “deciding” voter bloc in 2024. These voters are expected to represent the majority in battleground districts next year. What’s more, 50-plus voters are “much more motivated to vote,” according to AARP.
More than a year ahead of the election, leading presidential candidates have already laid out their plans for Social Security should they end up in the White House.
President Joe Biden, who seeks re-election in 2024, unveiled a 4-point plan to fix Social Security that would do the following:
- Tax earned income above $400,000, leaving wages between $160,200 and $400,000 untaxed. Currently, any wages above $160,200 are not taxed
- Change the calculation for determining annual Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) so they are no longer based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). Biden favors basing the COLA on the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E)
- Raise the primary insurance amount (PIA) that determines how much money you’ll receive in Social Security benefits
- Raise the special minimum benefit for lifetime lower-wage workers to 125% of the federal poverty level for Social Security beneficiaries
“Under no circumstances should Republicans vote to cut a single penny from Medicare or Social Security,” Trump said in a January video. “Cut waste, fraud and abuse everywhere that we can find it, and there is plenty of it. But do not cut the benefits our seniors worked for and paid for their entire lives. Save Social Security, don’t destroy it.”
Other Republican candidates have floated different ideas. As The Washington Post reported, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, another GOP candidate, has proposed cutting benefits for younger people but not for those who currently or will soon claim Social Security.
“When people say that we’re going to somehow cut seniors, that is totally not true,” DeSantis recently told Fox News. “Talking about making changes for people in their 30s and their 40s so the program’s viable — that’s a much different thing, and something I think there’s going to need to be discussion on.”
Former vice president and 2024 GOP candidate Mike Pence favors privatizing Social Security by giving younger Americans “the ability to take a portion of their Social Security withholdings and put that into a private savings account.”
Meanwhile, Republican candidate and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has proposed raising the Social Security full retirement age for workers currently in their 20s and limiting Social Security and Medicare benefits for the wealthy.
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