To the Editor:

Peter Coy outlines a thoughtful approach for fixing Social Security finances and making the program work better for American retirees. While the system is complex, the basic formula for restoring fiscal balance is simple.

Benefit payments need to fall or program revenues — from payroll taxes or general appropriations — need to rise. The trick is getting Congress to act when supporting either policy is considered political malpractice.

To break the stalemate and avoid the severe consequences of inaction, Congress should study how state governments dealt with underfunded public employee pensions following the 2008 financial crisis. Lawmakers across the political spectrum responded by increasing worker contributionsreducing cost of living adjustments for retirees and allocating additional tax dollars to help stabilize the systems.

In isolation, any one of these policies could be criticized for political gain, but they were frequently approved as a package with bipartisan support and in states governed by Republicans and Democrats alike.

The lesson for Congress is that this approach — which prioritizes shared sacrifice across the population and shared political risk among lawmakers — provides a road map for finally fixing Social Security.

Chris McIsaac
The writer is a fellow with the governance program at the R Street Institute, a think tank.