Rural America has a big stake in the future of Social Security. Why? Well, mostly because we’re older. Take a look at this chart from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Also because so few baby boomers or GenXers have set aside enough money for a fully self-supporting retirement and many of us carry debt that will continue to be a burden in our retirement years. And now, with the COVID pandemic causing serious employment dislocation, our small and rural communities that are home to lots of elders, need to be especially mindful of the future of social security and Medicare.
Just months ago, before the COVID outbreak ground the economy to a halt, the Social Security Administration projected benefits cuts without funding changes by 2035. But since COVID, that projected date has moved to as soon as 2029.
One proposal being discussed is raising the cap for payroll tax collection. Currently, Social Security withholding stops (for both employees and their employers) after an employee reaches $137,700 in annual wages. In my long ago corporate years, my entire social security requirement was often paid in one January bonus check. That’s not uncommon in high-wage markets. But few folks in rural and small town America will ever earn over the Social Security cap, yet we rely heavily on a healthy Social Security funding. So we can probably agree that a good way to begin shoring up the Social Security we’re all depending on, is to eliminate the high wage earner cap.
(Please note: the Fox story, linked above, incorrectly reports the Social Security wage cap at $132,900. Per the Social Security Administration, the current cap is $137,700. Fox reports the 2019 limit.)