Social Security and Medicare

Published 3:09 pm Monday, July 17, 2017

As promised in an earlier letter, Social Security (and Medicare) shall receive the numerical scrutiny oft-times denied them, but first, a brief review of a trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000).

In rounded up numbers it will take 32,000 years to spend a trillion dollars at $1 per second. *Humanity has only been civilized (living in cities) for about 11,000 years. Alternatively, you can spend a trillion dollars in one year at the rate of $32,000 per second.

This years Social Security Trustees report, released 13 July, projects an accumulated surplus(!) of $2.9 trillion (after payments) by the end of the year. “It projects that, even if Congress took no action whatsoever, SS could pay 100% of benefits owed through 2034, and 77% of benefits owed after that.” Go to for more information.

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Clearly something must done — and sooner, rather than later. But first let’s discuss how much people pay into Social Security and Medicare. Point one to remember is that there is a $118,500 cap. Every individual pays 6.2% of whatever he makes under the cap. If you earn 118,500/yr, you pay  $7347 tax/yr to Social Security and 1.45% to Medicare–$1718/yr for a total of $9065per year. If you earn 40 Billion per year, you pay $9065 per year. If you are fortunate enough to earn $50,000, you pay $3825 for both SS and Medicare.

Most people I meet want to keep their Social Security and Medicare, and are more than willing to let the federal government handle them. Few want to turn these programs over to the vagaries of the stock market. While some believe there is no easy fix, it seems within the realm of possibilities that the $118,500 cap could be raised–even doubled–without causing widespread unrest among the 98%.

Bill Holcomb, Tryon, N.C.