How to means-test Social Security

I do not think we should make any modifications to Social Security benefits. Closing the small Social Security deficit would be trivially easy with tweaks on the revenue side, and there is just no reason not to do that. However, if we are actually going to make cuts to the program, why don’t we do so by creating different eligibility ages for different income levels?

That is, we can create a system where poor people become eligible for Social Security before rich people, as measured by lifetime earnings. So for instance, we could set rich people’s retirement age back 3 years. For every rich person, we would save 3 years worth of Social Security checks. In fact, we could bump the rich retirement age back in order to fund bumping the poor retirement age forward. Given that poor people live harder and shorter lives, having different retirement ages arguably makes sense for more than just budgetary reasons.

Again, I am not of the opinion that these changes are necessary. But if we are going to get into cutting programs and such, this seems to be a much better way of doing so than, for instance, imposing across-the-board benefit cuts by using the chained-CPI.