Want to fix Social Security? The Well-Off Must Accept Smaller Checks.

Eleven years. That’s all that’s left until the combined Social Security accounts — the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund and the Disability Insurance Trust Fund — are likely to run out of money and can no longer pay full scheduled benefits, according to the latest report of the Social Security trustees.

I don’t worry too much that the checks won’t go out after the projected 2035 exhaustion of the funds, which though legally separate are often regarded as a single pool of money. Current beneficiaries wouldn’t stand for it, and neither would their children. (Even with no fix at all — highly unlikely — incoming payroll taxes would cover 83 percent of scheduled benefits.)

What I do worry about is what Washington’s patch for Social Security will look like. Flimsy, I’m afraid.

The cold math shows that fixing Social Security in a lasting way will require a combination of tax increases and benefit cuts. Both. Yet Republicans have been loath to discuss higher taxes. And both parties’ leaders — President Biden and former President Donald Trump — have ruled benefit cuts off the table.

I support benefit cuts, although not for everyone. Lower-income Americans should be spared. If anything, their benefits need to go up. People 55 and older should also be spared, since they’re either retired or close to it, so they can’t offset any reductions by working and saving more.

But upper-income Americans of working age are going to have to get used to the idea that Social Security will be less generous than they expected. They will need to stuff more money into their 401(k)s and maybe delay their retirement by a few years.

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