For Most Seniors, Social Security Is Their Biggest Source of Income

For Most Seniors, Social Security Is Their Biggest Source of Income

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By Eric Pianin

The 80-year-old Social Security program has long been known as the third rail of American politics -- touch it and you die.

Last year alone, more than 59 million Americans received retirement, disability and survivor’s benefits totaling $863 billion. While some lawmakers and policy experts warn that the system will begin to run short of cash beginning in 2035, seniors’ advocacy groups have vigorously fought major changes and cuts.

Related:  Battle Lines Form in the Fight Over Social Security Payment Reductions

Some nine out of ten people who are 65 or older receive Social Security benefits, according to the Social Security Administration, with an average monthly benefit of $1,294 average for retirees. Overall, Social Security benefits constitute about 38 percent of the income of the elderly, but that number varies greatly from individual to individual.

For the majority of seniors, Social Security makes up the majority of their income. Sixty-five percent of beneficiaries age 65 and older get more than half of their income from the program. Nearly a third (28%) rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income.

Related: 4 Ways to Fix Social Security

The pie chart below, prepared by the staff of the congressional Joint Economic Committee, illustrates the range of seniors’ dependence on Social Security benefits:

Quote of the Day: Time to Raise Taxes?

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By The Fiscal Times Staff

“Tax revenue as a percentage of gross domestic product is expected to be 16.5 percent next year. The long-term average in a full-employment economy is 18.5 percent of GDP; if revenue were at that level for the coming decade, debt would be $3.2 trillion lower and the 10-year fiscal gap would be halved. Returning to past revenue levels, however, will be inadequate over time, because an aging population will increase Medicare and Social Security costs. This need not pose a problem: Revenue was roughly 19 percent of GDP in the late 1990s, and economic conditions were excellent.”

– Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Richard E. Rubin, writing in The Washington Post

Quote of the Day: When Tax Cuts Pay for Themselves

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By The Fiscal Times Staff

“You … often hear the claim that a lot of tax cuts will ‘pay for themselves,’ that they’ll cause so much additional economic activity that the revenue feedback from that activity will fully offset the direct revenue loss caused by the tax cut so that you end up making money for the federal government, or at least not losing any money. Now, of course that is theoretically possible and it would happen at extreme rates. I mean if a country had a 99 percent flat rate income tax and lowered it to 98 percent, I believe that they almost certainly would collect more revenue at the 98 percent rate than they did at the 99 percent rate. But the idea that this type of effect would occur at today’s tax levels just requires responses that are much bigger than statistical evidence would support and I think much bigger than common sense would indicate if you just ask people how they themselves would react to the tax cut.”

-- Alan Viard, tax policy expert at the American Enterprise Institute

Map of the Day: Gas Taxes

Saving $1.11 a gallon might not sound like much. But if you're filling up a 20 gallon tank, you could save $22. Do that once a week and you'd save $1,150 a year.
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By The Fiscal Times Staff

It’s summertime and the driving is anything but easy if you want to get to your favorite beach or mountain cabin for a well-deserved break. As lawmakers consider a plan to raise federal fuel taxes by 15 cents a gallon, here’s a look at the current state-level taxes on gasoline, courtesy of the Tax Foundation

Stat of the Day: 0.2%

U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 23, 2018.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Jonathan Ernst
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The New York Times’ Jim Tankersley tweets: “In order to raise enough revenue to start paying down the debt, Trump would need tariffs to be ~4% of GDP. They're currently 0.2%.”

Read Tankersley’s full breakdown of why tariffs won’t come close to eliminating the deficit or paying down the national debt here.