Case in point: the Social Security checks sent to the three younger children of Representative Pete Stark (D–CA). Stark is 80 years old, earns $174,000 a year as a Member of Congress, and has a personal fortune of about $27 million. Yet his kids get and will continue to get their government checks until they reach their 18th birthdays.

Stark is doing nothing illegal or untoward—that is just the way today’s Social Security works. Benefits for children and spouses were created back in 1939, when in most families, only the husband was employed. When he stopped work, the family had no more income other than a small Social Security check. Children’s benefits were intended to allow them to stay in school rather than go to work to support the family. No one expected these benefits to go to a millionaire’s kids.

It is well past time to thoroughly reform Social Security to meet the realities of the 21st century. It has been almost 30 years—a generation—since Congress last reviewed Social Security in 1983. In an era of trillion-dollar annual budget deficits and a Social Security program facing both $300 billion annual cash flow deficits in a few years and 25 percent benefit cuts thereafter, we just cannot afford using scarce resources to pay benefits to the very wealthy.

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