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Public Policy: Social Security

The nation’s current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour has not been increased since 2007.  The Raise the Wage Act of 2017 (S. 1242 and H.R. 15), introduced by Senators Patty Murray, Bernie Sanders and Representatives Bobby Scott and Keith Ellison would increase the federal minimum wage from its current rate of $7.25 per hour in eight steps to $15 per hour by 2024.  The first step in 2017 would raise the minimum wage to $9.25 per hour.  Although many retirees may question what impact an increase in the minimum wage would have on their lives, the increase could make a difference for seniors.

On May 23, 2017, President Trump submitted his Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget recommendations to Congress.  This budget would drastically cut programs that benefit America’s oldest — including many vulnerable — citizens.  The President’s spending plan calls for deep reductions to Social Security Disability Insurance, breaking his promise not to touch Social Security. 


According to the Social Security Trustees, the Social Security Trust Fund will be able to pay full benefits until 2034, and incoming payroll taxes will be sufficient to pay about 79 percent of benefits thereafter. Some are using this gap in long-term funding as a pretext to justify proposals for large cuts in Social Security benefits. One frequently-discussed change to Social Security is to increase the age at which a retiree receives full benefits.


Social Security protects families in the event that a worker retires, becomes disabled or dies. These guaranteed insurance benefits are especially crucial to people of color who tend to have fewer alternative resources, become disabled at higher rates, and rely on Social Security's family benefit features disproportionately. 

It is estimated that there are about 11 million undocumented workers in the United States today. These immigrants come to our country to work.  They contribute to the economic health of our nation.  They also make substantial contributions to Social Security through the payroll tax, even though neither they nor their families are eligible to receive benefits.  The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare believes that bringing undocumented workers into our national family would be beneficial for the country and good for Social Security as well. 


Media reports have been circulating in Washington for the last few weeks that the Trump Administration is considering a proposal to eliminate the payroll tax.  Since this tax is used exclusively to fund Social Security and Medicare, its elimination would be tantamount either to ending these two vitally important programs or converting them into welfare programs where retirees’ benefits would be subject to the whims of Congress and the vagaries of the legislative process. 


Representative Sam Johnson (R-TX) has introduced a bill that shows how Social Security can be “reformed” by slashing benefits for everyone.  Sadly, in what would be a massive violation of the commitment between the generations that is at the heart of Social Security, Mr. Johnson targets his largest cuts on the youngest Americans, safely assuming that children in elementary school aren’t likely to know what would be in store for them if this bill were to be enacted and that their parents and grandparents won’t care.
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