August 20, 2013 

Social Security

I am not a Social Security expert, but I do know that over the years I have paid a portion of my earnings to Social Security and Medicare. I read a letter in the Statesman (Phillip Handzel, Aug. 10) in which the writer lamented the fact that he could not live long enough to recover the money he had paid into the Social Security system. He believes he will have to live until he is 157 years old.

His statement did not fit at all with my beliefs, so I looked up the data (taxpolicycenter.org). I calculated the maximum taxed earnings and the tax rates for the time the writer has paid into the system. I determined that the maximum that he could have paid into Social Security could be no higher than $183,000. I don't believe it will take the writer 100 years to recover $183,000. In fact, I think he will recover his contribution amount in less than 10 years. These kinds of beliefs and spurious logic permeate our society today. Is there any hope for our country?

FRANK GALLANT, Boise

Philip Handzel in his letter on Social Security benefits (Aug. 10) came up with some numbers that were truly mysterious to me.

I started collecting Social Security payments in 2007 at age 62, and I have already recovered the amount I contributed in my 46 years.

Not by age 157, as Mr. Handzel says. By age 66! Of course to really do this analysis properly, you need to consider the time value of money, a complicated task.

Using Mr. Handzel's 46 year period from 1968 through 2013, the maximum contribution would have been $156K. Given his life expectancy of 19.7 years, this would lead to a collection of $450K at today's rates, not even including cost of living increases. Payouts to a spouse can increase this by as much as half. Again, time value of money is important, as well as investment opportunities.

Social Security is the most successful social program in American history.

I'm hoping we have the willpower to keep it on a firm footing.

NEIL LUCAS, Meridian

A recent writer claimed it would take 95 years (age 157) to receive back what he paid in to Social Security through (FICA) payroll taxes. I don't doubt his sincerity, just his math. Here are a couple reasonable estimates and calculations.

1. If you get the average payout of $12K per year, you would receive in 95 years $1,140,000. You contributed over $1 million? That doesn't seem possible! I think you may be confusing your Social Security 'lifetime earnings' with the 'FICA taxes paid' on those earnings. Two different things entirely.

2. Using round numbers, if a worker earned $1 million lifetime at the 6.2 percent tax rate, they would pay in $62K lifetime. If that person receives $12K per year (probably more) they recoup their lifetime individual FICA tax contributions in about 5.1 years time.

I hope this little exercise helps everyone sleep better. It's important for people, younger people in particular, to know there's a lot of misunderstanding, misinformation and just plain lies being passed around about Social Security, even by well-meaning and honest people that have simply been misled.

Kids, you don't want to lose your Social Security. In the end, it may be all you have.

CHRIS MORRIS, Caldwell

Statesman coverage

Why does the Statesman provide such disproportionate and prominent coverage to stories of lewd, degenerate individuals in our community?

Details of their vile activities frequent the "stories to catch up on" section in the first few pages of the paper. Recently listed at No. 1 was a man who had sex with a cat and Aug. 9 in the first and second spot are stories about individuals charged with porn and lewd conduct. These types of stories frequent this section of the paper and are a poor reflection of our community and what we consider important news.

While I am glad that these individuals are being stopped and charged for their offenses, I'd rather read about it on the back page of the last section of the paper.

With all the significant events occurring in our community, country and around the world it seems there are more worthwhile "stories to catch up on."

CAROL DIXON, Boise

Focus on love

Growing up Christian I have often heard the phrase "Hate the sin, Love the sinner."

A compassionate Pope Francis (Matthew 16:17), speaking informally, asked that we shift our focus to love in this equation. He did not negate the first half. It is not for us to judge the celibate man or priest striving to fulfill God's will (Ephesians 4:23-24).

We are called to treat everyone we encounter during the course of our day with the same respect, compassion and sensitivity.

As Christians we avoid all unjust discrimination.

CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON, Eagle

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