Inequality Is Weakening Social Security. Here’s How We Fix That.

(INEQUALITY.ORG) Linda Benesch, February 28

When Congress set the cap on Social Security contributions in 1983, they didn’t anticipate forty years of rising inequality. And it’s cost us — a lot.

Is your salary less than $160,200? If so, you’re among the 94 percent of American workers who pay into Social Security all year long. But there’s a privileged group that’s about to stop paying into Social Security for the rest of 2023: People who make $1,000,000 a year. Their last day of contributing to Social Security is February 28.

That’s not even the worst of it. Tucker Carlson, who makes a reported $8 million a year, stopped contributing to Social Security on January 8. Joe Rogan, who reportedly makes $4 million a month, stopped contributing on January 2. Many billionaires receive all of their money in the form of bonuses and stock options. Elon Musk is the highest paid CEO in the world, but because none of it is wage income, he doesn’t pay a single penny into Social Security.

Right-wing politicians and cable news pundits frequently say that we “can’t afford” Social Security. Their solution? Cut benefits for working people who’ve paid into the program for our entire lives. They never suggest that we simply require the wealthiest people in America to pay into Social Security all year long, just like the rest of us. If we do, we can afford to not just protect but expand benefits.

The Social Security Expansion Act, recently introduced by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) along with its House counterpart, introduced by Congresswomen Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Val Hoyle (D-OR), would do just that. This legislation would require the wealthy to contribute into Social Security on all their income over $250,000 — including unearned investment income. It uses the additional revenue to increase Social Security’s modest benefits and keep the program strong through the end of the century and beyond.

Another piece of legislation, Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust, is sponsored by Rep. John Larson (D-CT). This bill, which also lifts the cap on Social Security contributions and uses the revenue to expand benefits, had the support of about 90 percent of House Democrats in the last Congress. 

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