Duncan (He can't be Sirius) Black, the econ degree holder formerly known as Atrios, explains in USA Today that baby boomers face a retirement crisis which can only be solved by raising both taxes and Social Security benefits. Really:
Recent and near-retirees, the first major cohort of the 401(k) era, do not have nearly enough in retirement savings to even come close to maintaining their current lifestyles.
We need an across the board increase in Social Security retirement benefits of 20% or more. We need it to happen right now, even if that means raising taxes on high incomes or removing the salary cap in Social Security taxes.
People want need (!) a more generous retirement plan and they want need someone else to pay for it! Hmm, one might have thought that means-testing of Social Security benefits would tie in here somewhere, if Social Security is really going to be re-imagined as a full welfare program for the elderly. And I assume that even though the cap on taxable earning may be removed, the cap on benefits will not be.
Fuzzy math is a key part of the argument:
According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, the median household retirement account balance in 2010 for workers between the ages of 55-64 was just $120,000. For people expecting to retire at around age 65, and to live for another 15 years or more, this will provide for only a trivial supplement to Social Security benefits.
Hmm. Assuming a zero real return, $150,000 spent evenly over fifteen years is $8,000 per year. And what are Social Security benefits?
And that's for people who actually have a retirement account of some kind. A third of households do not. For these people, their sole retirement income, aside from potential aid from friends and family, comes from Social Security, for which the current average monthly benefit is $1,230.
Well, $1,230 per month is about $14,760 per year. Is $8,000 really a "trivial" supplement to that amount? Would $8,000 be a "trivial" supplement to double that amount, i.e., $30,000 per year? I encourage folks who think so to make a trivial donation here.
Moving the goalposts on the objective of Social Security is also part of the 'logic':
If the consensus is that we need policies in place to ensure that the vast majority of people have at least a comfortable retirement, then we need to adjust our current failing policies. Expecting people to save sufficiently for their retirement, even if those savings are subsidized by our tax code, is unrealistic.
"It is impossible under any social insurance system to provide ideal security for every individual. The practical objective is to pay benefits that provide a minimum degree of social security—as a basis upon which the worker, through his own efforts, will have a better chance to provide adequately for his individual security." -- From the Report of the Social Security Board recommending the changes which were embodied in the 1939 Amendments.
In other words, if people want comfort, they can get it on their own dime.
Finally, we are treated to a long exposition explaining that college grads and advanced degree holders are burdened with debt, so how can anyone be expected to save for their own retirement? The suggested answer is to raise taxes on someone else.
One might think that focusing on policies that promoted growth and employment would be the way to secure our future, but evidently, taxing the rich is the only way forward. In Atrios' world.
To be fair, this is a dreadful time to be retiring, with both housing prices and 401(k)s wiped out by the Great Recession. But raising Social Security benefits and taxes indiscriminately and forever is an overreaction, and a misdirected one.