Regarding the March 19 editorial “Older, yes. What about wiser?”:

Elder entitlements need to be focused on need, not age. These programs need to be solvent.

Start by having affluent Medicare recipients pay more into the system in higher premiums on an escalating scale tied to current income; create another premium bracket above the highest that now exists. Allow the federal government to negotiate drug prices with manufacturers, using purchasing power to cut prices. Remove the limit on the amount of income to be taxed for Social Security while retaining the present system of annual benefit payments. Tax Social Security income at an escalating rate based on current income, reaching 100 percent for recipients with current incomes above $250,000.

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Peter A. Michel, Alexandria

Means-testing benefits to Social Security is the wrong approach for making this program solvent. Social Security is an insurance program that pays benefits on the occurrence of three life events: death, disability or retirement. It is not a welfare program but a mandatory program for most U.S. workers, and it should never be treated as welfare. Can you imagine a private insurance company deciding benefits you have already paid for should be means-tested?

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For 30 years, the government has spent excess Social Security funds and left IOUs behind, in the form of Treasury securities. The annual Social Security Trustees report for 2017 showed that these securities, with interest, amounted to $2.8 trillion that the government owed Social Security. In recent years the government has had to start paying back those debts because incoming Social Security taxes are beginning to fall short of outgoing Social Security benefits. Time to pay the piper, so to speak.

The Social Security Trustees report shows that the government will be able to pay full Social Security benefits until 2034, and thereafter, about 75 percent of current benefits through 2091. We need to shore up the program, but means-testing should be off the table.

Jim Beller, Rockville

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