In reviewing reform proposals, lawmakers typically assess the adequacy of retirement benefits by looking just at annual benefits in the Social Security program alone. However, it is the lifetime package of retirement benefits--including Medicare--that gives the most comprehensive picture of what government is being asked to provide for the elderly. Moreover, it is only by considering benefits as a whole that reformers can consider trade-offs among cash versus medical benefits, more years of retirement versus higher annual benefits, and benefits for the very old versus the younger old. This brief estimates the value of lifetime retirement benefits and taxes promised under current law.
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