Workers Prefer Higher Taxes to Entitlement Cuts

Survey finds most Americans oppose cuts to Social Security and Medicare.


When given a choice between tax increases and cuts to Social Security and Medicare, most Americans say they are willing to pay higher taxes to maintain these popular programs. A large majority of Americans prefer paying higher Social Security taxes (63 percent) to benefit reductions (25 percent). They also support increasing Medicare taxes (64 percent) more than cutting covered services (24 percent), according to a New York Times and CBS News poll of 1,036 people conducted this month.

[See 4 Social Security Changes Coming in 2011.]

When given more options about how to make these entitlement programs more sustainable, Americans largely think the wealthiest among us should pay more into the system. The survey respondents say that Social Security benefits should be reduced for high income retirees (66 percent) before the age people can receive full retirement benefits is raised beyond age 67 (18 percent) or benefits are decreased for future retirees (8 percent). They also say Medicare premiums should be increased for high income Medicare recipients (48 percent), rather than increasing the eligibly age for Medicare above age 65 (21 percent), increasing the premiums all Medicare recipients pay (16 percent), and covering fewer treatments (9 percent). Republicans, Democrats, and Independents all support the idea of having high-income Americans pay more for their benefits.

[See 12 Ways to Fix Social Security.]

These findings echo the results of a Gallup and USA Today poll conducted in July 2010 that asked 1,020 adults for their opinions about six possible changes to Social Security. The only two proposals that a majority of the respondents supported were requiring high income workers to pay Social Security tax on all their wages (67 percent), instead of only on earnings up to $106,800 as they do now, and limiting benefits for wealthy retirees (63 percent). Clear majorities of adults were opposed to reducing benefits for all workers currently under age 55 or increasing the retirement age, Gallup found.

[See Will You Get Back Your Social Security Taxes in Retirement?]

Members of both political parties and Independents all say they prize both entitlement programs over defense spending. When given a choice between cutting one of the three largest items in the federal budget—Medicare, Social Security, or the military—most Americans prefer to reduce the Pentagon’s budget, CBS News found. Over half (55 percent) of those surveyed would cut the military budget before touching Medicare (21 percent) or Social Security (13 percent).