Senior Honors Projects, 2020-current

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

5-7-2021

Publish

yes

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (BS)

Department

Department of Political Science

Advisor(s)

Liliokanaio Peaslee

Kathleen Ferraiolo

Kristin Wylie

Abstract

Social Security, the United States’ largest federal entitlement program, provides old-age and disability protection to over 64 million Americans. However, rigorous evaluations indicate that the program will reach insolvency by 2035. This means that there are projected cash-flow shortfalls through which tax revenue alone will soon be insufficient in covering the annual program cost. Researchers suggest that the exhaustion of the Social Security trust funds is explained by (a) demographic shifts that depress the worker-to-beneficiary ratio and (b) financing imbalances caused by program deficits. My research addresses methods for ensuring the solvency of the Social Security program by exploring the question: How can the government prevent the bankruptcy of the Social Security Program in the United States? Theoretical knowledge from Kingdon’s Multiple Streams Approach is used to explore the problem and past reform proposals in order to determine the factors associated with policy failure and policy momentum. The factors determined to increase the likelihood of implementation were (a) policies with strong influence from policy entrepreneurs, (b) policies that align with the political environment and public opinion, and (c) policies with the greatest projected ability to extend program solvency. In addition to considering whether the policy is likely to be implemented, this thesis also assesses the abilities of three different policies to successfully remedy the program’s insolvency: (a) privatization, (b) increasing the taxable maximum, and (c) increasing the payroll tax. Each is compared based on three criteria: effectiveness, equity, and political feasibility. My results suggest that increasing the taxable maximum and increasing the income tax rate both offer a promising ability to extend the program’s solvency. Comparative findings conclude that increasing the taxable maximum has the greatest likelihood of implementation and is best suited to extend long-term solvency to the greatest extent.

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