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Public Policy: Social Security

The House majority leadership intends to schedule a vote on a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution sometime this spring. The amendment would likely require a balanced budget every year regardless of the state of the economy, unless a supermajority of both houses overrode that requirement. Previous versions of the amendment would have limited any increase to the debt ceiling unless approved by three-fifths of the whole number of the House and Senate, and prohibited any increases in revenue unless agreed to by two-thirds of Congress.


As I began to write this column, the stock market was in the midst of another sell-off, this time in response to the announced departure of Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn and fears of an impending trade war. The Dow has dropped more than 300 points (or 1.3 %) – and it’s only lunchtime. In February, wage inflation and concerns that the Fed would raise interest rates spooked the market, kicking off a month of volatility not seen since the crash of 2008, when Americans’ retirement funds lost trillions of dollars in value.


H.R. 1625, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Omnibus Appropriations bill, favorably responds to a March 14 letter sent by the National Committee to House and Senate Appropriations Committee members urging them to prioritize funding for federal programs and agencies vitally important to older Americans.  H.R. 1625 passed the House on March 22nd and was approved by the Senate and signed into law by the President on March 23rd.  What follows are funding levels for these programs for the remainder of FY 2018.


The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare has long advocated for the removal of Social Security Numbers (SSNs) from Medicare cards. Thankfully, legislation calling for this change was enacted in 2015 and is now scheduled to be implemented starting this spring.


On February 12, 2018, President Trump submitted his Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 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.  It also includes cuts in Medicare, another program he promised not to touch.



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 77 percent of benefits thereafter. Some are using this modest gap in long-term funding as a pretext to justify proposals for large cuts in Social Security benefits. Others have proposed closing the gap by increasing income received by the Trust Fund. One way to increase revenue is to raise the Social Security tax cap.
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The Balanced Budget Amendment introduced by House Republicans went down to defeat Thursday night by a vote of 233-184, falling fall short of the 2/3 majority required to advance the measure to the Senate. The amendment’s demise was a relief for our nation’s seniors, because it threatened the earned benefits they have contributed to during their entire working lives.

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