Friday, October 17, 2008

The Obama Social Security Plan

Via Jason Furman, director of economic policy for the Obama campaign:

Obama is confident that we can come together to find a workable solution. He believes that one strong option to improve Social Security's long-term solvency is asking people who earn more than $250,000 to pay a little more into the system. But Obama will not raise the retirement age or reduce Social Security benefits.
That is, it sounds like Senator Obama wants to close the projected gap between taxes and spending entirely by raising taxes.

N.B.: Most economists favor raising the retirement age.

Update: A reader notes a rhetorical correction:
you might ask Jason Furman if Obama is really going to "ask" people who earn more than $250,000 to pay a little more into the system, or is he going to "tell" them to pay?

Update 2: Andrew Biggs, an expert on this issue, emails me a more substantive problem:
There's a big mathematical hole in Sen. Obama's plans for Social Security. While Obama is vague about the exact tax rate he would apply to people earning over $250,000 and whether they would receive extra benefits in exchange for the new taxes, a best-case scenario is that Obama's plan would fix around 15% of the long-term deficit, adding 3-5 years to the life of the trust fund. He's ruled out cutting benefits or increasing the retirement age, which could otherwise fill the rest of the gap, so it's not clear where the other 85% of the fix comes from. Sen. Obama has put himself in a bit of a box, which is perhaps the best rationale for a post-election commission -- it lets both sides forget about their previous campaign promises.