A reader writes:
Hold on, you mean for my own case, I've been paying the maximum into SS for 20 years now, and now you want to whack it because I had the foresight to make additional investments that will provide income in my old age? I think this is dangerous territory and could have negative consequences. Extending retirement age, ok. Maybe a phase out for net assets in the top 1-2 %, ok, but be careful hitting the middle class, that could be zero sum if people figure they might as well spend it now instead of trying to save it.
I'm more in favor of eliminating the max contribution, making SS tax less regressive.
The question of penalizing thrift by means-testing social security is a serious one (it's why Thatcher rejected it). I'm pathologically thrifty - but that's because I see social security as insurance against poverty in my old age (if I have any), not a guarantee of permanent welfare. If that's your ethic, not getting government support becomes an element of pride, rather than unfairness. But I can see how eliminating the maximum contribution makes sense and would be open to it as an alternative or as an additional element of fiscal realism. Social security is not in as bad a shape as Medicare, so these changes should be a no-brainer in a functioning democracy. Which, of course, the US often isn't. Another writes:
Your support of means testing as currently envisaged for the various government programs is misguided. It will encourage avoidance. If you get your benefits capped if you earn more than $40k/year, people will start to move their assets around so that they don't break that. While this doesn't mean it won't work, I do think it makes it less effective than many people predict.
This goes doubly so for asset testing. If you have a nice house free and clear, it would make a lot of sense to sell it to your kids, rent it from them for a dollar a month, and suddenly you're net worth is down by $300k.
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