Sam Johnson Wants to Cut Your Social Security Benefits By a Third

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For reasons that are a little unclear, Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) has decided to introduce a shiny new plan to reform Social Security when Congress meets next year. Johnson’s idea of “reform” is to slash everyone’s benefits, so this idea seems slightly suicidal—not to mention pointless, since Donald Trump campaigned very loudly on a promise not to touch anyone’s Social Security.

But Johnson is a very conservative guy, and maybe he just wants to lay down a marker. So what would his plan do? It has 15 components, all of them crammed full of Social Security’s usual alphabet soup of acronyms—AWI, PIA, AIME, MAGI, bend points, etc.—but it turns out that only six of them are big enough to be meaningful. Here is the Social Security actuary’s estimate of how much money they’d save:

Basically, there are four big proposals that would cut benefits by 5.76 percent of payroll, and two proposals that would increase benefits by 1.37 percent of payroll. I assure you that this chart is far simpler to understand than the actual analysis, but it probably still leaves you a little baffled. Whose benefits would be cut? And by how much? I’m here to help:

Roughly speaking, people with extremely low average earnings over their working lives would see their benefits rise. That’s good! Unfortunately, everyone with an average lifetime income over $22,000 would see their benefits slashed—in some cases by a lot. An income of $60,000 is not exactly a king’s ransom, but nonetheless Johnson would cut benefits for these folks by a third.

As usual with these plans, a lot of its provisions are phased in gradually over time. But unlike most of these plans, some of them start to kick in right away. This means that even people who are already retired would suffer benefit cuts. For example, Johnson’s plan reduces the annual cost-of-living increase—and eliminates it entirely for anyone earning over $85,000—beginning in 2018.

Anyway, since I tortured myself by reading this plan, I figured I should torture all the rest of you by blogging about it. Happy Holidays!

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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