May 19, 2013

I agree with Jim Roumell’s general point [“A balance-sheet fix,” op-ed, May 16] that Social Security should favor poor retirees over rich ones, but in combination with the income tax, it already does. The Social Security benefits of lower-income retirees are tax-free, while retirees with high or even moderate incomes pay income tax on up to 85 percent of their benefits, and retirees with very high incomes pay it at a rate of up to 39.6 percent. Mr. Roumell’s proposal that those who have saved a lot receive nothing at all from Social Security amounts to yet another tax, this one on those savings rather than income, and one that would be paid on the same savings every year.

Keith Smith, Silver Spring

While Jim Roumell’s op-ed contained some irrelevancies (the valor of our troops doesn’t have much to do with Social Security and the wealthy), I agree with him that Social Security should be means-tested. I’m 75 and collect $24,000 yearly from Social Security. I also pay about $12,000 in Social Security taxes because I’m still working, so my net is about $12,000. I would cheerfully forgo this benefit if others similarly placed were asked to do the same. I don’t think it matters much whether you base the means-test on income or assets, but I have no objection to the sort of asset test that Mr. Roumell suggested.

The problem here is that many of those on the left side of the aisle do not like means-testing for Social Security because they fear it will begin to identify Social Security as a program for the poor, even though it still would primarily serve the middle class. I think that is something we will have to accept. We cannot continue on the same path we’re on now.

Philip D. Harvey, Washington

Continue reading