Here's a question to ponder: In Hawaii, with its high food, energy and housing costs, what figure exactly constitutes wealth? Is somebody making $110,000 a year here rich?
Apparently some of our politicians think so. Both candidates for United States Senate said in a debate Tuesday that they favored raising the payroll tax cap on Social Security so that wealthy citizens keep contributing to the fund.
In fact, that is the only change to the system Rep. Mazie Hirono says she supports to keep Social Security solvent. She wants to do away with the cap completely.
She will not support gradually increasing the age at which retirees can receive full benefits - no matter how far out life expectancy goes.
The only problem with just raising the cap is that the cap is currently $110,000. Now, since the stated goal is to make the wealthy pay more, it can only be assumed our politicians think a salary of $110,000 makes one wealthy.
We'll bet there's not a person in Hawaii making $110,000 who thinks of himself as rich.
Even President Obama - the champion of "tax the rich" - defines wealth as beginning at $250,000 per year. Our politicians have a much lower bar, apparently.
So, what would be the effect of doing away with the cap? Well, for someone making $165,000 per year - still $85,000 under the president's definition of wealth - the Social Security contribution would go up 50 percent! Mind you, the president considers this person to be middle class.
What happened to not increasing taxes on the middle class?
The combination of gradually increasing the cap but also gradually increasing the age when full benefits can be received worked in the 1980s to stabilize the system for decades. No one has proposed changing the rules for those near retirement age. But people below the age of 50 or so should see some changes.
The creators of Social Security never envisioned people collecting from the system for decades on end. When people live longer, they have to work longer. Period.
A balanced approach - gradually raising the cap and full benefit age - is the only fair way to approach the problem. Unless, of course, you are a politician who thinks someone making $110,000 a year in Hawaii is rich.
* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.