Allison Schrager in her recent Bloomberg Opinion piece [Oct. 13, Commentary, “Enjoy the Social Security Bump Now. You’ll Pay Later”] makes some valid points about Social Security. She recognizes that those who rely on Social Security will receive a cost-of-living increase that is a “godsend” during this time of high inflation. Seniors who are living on a fixed income are hit hardest during inflation and also suffered the most from the pandemic.
But she makes errors. Social Security does not add a penny to the nation’s debt and does not affect other federal spending programs. Social Security is completely funded by the contributions made by each and every covered worker from their paychecks and the interest on bonds purchased with those contributions.
That is why we call Social Security an “earned benefit.” It does not come from the federal government’s general revenues. The premise is simple. Workers pay into Social Security, and in return they are promised benefits to provide for their and their family’s financial security. It is, in effect, our nation’s largest insurance program.
This was FDR’s genius. Social Security is a federal program that is not a “handout” but one that is self-funded by those who receive its benefits. It is a program that Americans can take pride in because they have paid for the benefits they receive for retirement, disability, and for their loved ones in the event of their death.
Ms. Schrager is correct that Congress needs to take action now. If Congress does not vote to shore up the Trust Funds by 2035, there will be a 20 percent cut across the board in benefits.
Don’t be fooled by scare tactics that Ms. Schrager and the Republicans employ when calling for “reform.” The Republicans’ way to reform the program is to cut benefits. Instead, we should require millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share into the program. Democrats have plans to do just that, and use the additional revenue to protect and expand benefits and extend solvency.
Too many seniors who have worked and paid into Social Security all their lives are living in poverty and struggling to make ends meet. To hold them hostage over the debt ceiling is unconscionable, yet that is exactly what the Republicans aim to do.
They have made their plans clear, in writing, and in recent interviews. Just look at the Republican Study Committee budget plan supported by House Republicans, or Sen. Rick Scott’s plan for Social Security to be reapproved every five years. Or listen to Sen. Ron Johnson when he says Social Security should be ended every year, so that Congress must vote to continue the program each year. Or the four House Republicans running for the Budget Committee who have publicly outlined their plans to hold the debt ceiling hostage in order to cut Social Security.
We represent the 65 million current beneficiaries and the 182 million workers paying into Social Security every day. We know the truth. Democrats are fighting to protect and improve Social Security. Republicans want to gut it.
Max Richtman is president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. Nancy Altman is president of Social Security Works. Richard Fiesta is executive rirector of the Alliance for Retired Americans.