Social security touches more lives than any other US government program. Thirty-six million US citizens get a benefit check once a month, courtesy of the payroll tax paid by 116 million workers.
Most of the US population thus has a personal interest in the recommendations of the National Commission on Social Security Reform. How would the commission's package of proposed changes in social security affect retirees? What would happen to workers' taxes?
* Retirees' checks would keep coming right on time, and they wouldn't be a penny smaller. But the annual cost-of-living adjustment, normally tacked on in July, would be postponed until next January. COLA increases would thereafter always begin the first of the year. This would ''cost'' the average single retiree $133 this year, the American Association of Retired Persons estimates. A retired couple would lose $222.
* Single retirees whose incomes are $20,000 or more ($25,000 for joint-filing couples) would have to pay income taxes on half their benefits. Perhaps you're a single retiree whose social security payment is $500 a month. Add in a company pension and income from investments, and you make $30,000 a year. This new tax would cost you $689 a year, the NCSSR estimates. A retired couple making around
* Workers might have a bit more to grumble about on payday, as already-scheduled tax increases are moved forward a year. In 1984, the social security tax would rise to 7 percent. This would cost the average $21,000-a-year worker $1.21 a week, says the commission. Further tax hikes would cost the average worker $1.87 more a week in 1988, and an extra $2 weekly in 1989.
But in 1984 only, workers in effect wouldn't really have to pay extra tax, as they'd be allowed to credit the social security tax increase against their regular income tax.
* Employees of nonprofit organizations would have to join social security. About 15 percent of such workers currently aren't in the system. Newly hired federal workers would also enroll in social security, instead of the Federal Civil Service Pension system.