The Honorable John Larson
1501 Longworth House Office Building
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Congressman Larson:
On behalf of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare’s millions of members and supporters, I am writing to voice our strong support for your bill, Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust. This legislation would improve Social Security benefits and extend the solvency of the Social Security Trust Funds while not increasing taxes for anyone earning under $400,000.
Social Security is our Nation’s most important social insurance program, helping keep millions of Americans out of poverty in retirement. However, Social Security is not only a retirement program for seniors; it is our nation’s largest disability and survivors’ benefit program. It provides more financial support for disabled veterans than the Department of Veterans Affairs and is the federal government’s largest permanent program for children. Social Security provides critical future financial security for younger generations, is especially important for women as beneficiaries who live the longest and earn the least, and spurs economic development by pumping $1.5 trillion into the economy every year.
Unfortunately, Social Security’s benefits have not been updated in half a century. As a result, benefits have eroded, leaving millions of seniors unable to make ends meet even though they worked their whole lives and paid into Social Security. Social Security is one of the few retirement programs with automatic Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs), but they are inadequate to keep up with the skyrocketing increases in the costs of prescription drugs and other health care services, which are used disproportionately by older Americans. In many cases, Social Security COLA increases are consumed by increases in Medicare premiums.
From the program’s beginning, Social Security was intended to be a base of protection, supplemented by private pensions and savings, not an individual’s sole source of retirement income. Over the decades, it has become the cornerstone of retirement as nine out of ten people over age 65 receive Social Security benefits. More than half of seniors receive over half of their income from Social Security, and it provides at least 90 percent of income for more than one-in-five seniors. Without Social Security, almost half of older Americans (40 percent) would live in poverty.
As the value of the program’s benefits have eroded over the decades, five million seniors, many of whom have worked and paid into Social Security their entire lives, currently live in poverty. It is well past time to strengthen Social Security and enhance its critical benefits, both goals achieved by your legislation. Among other improvements, the Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust Act provides these important enhancements:
- Increases benefits across the board for all Social Security beneficiaries, which is especially important for women and people of color who are most likely to rely on the program.
- Improves the Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) so it better reflects the inflation actually experienced by seniors.
- Ensures no one retires into poverty after a lifetime of work by improving benefits for long-serving, low-wage workers.
- Improves benefits for widows and widowers from two-income households.
- Increases benefits for the oldest retirees, those who have been receiving benefits for 20 years or more.
- Repeals the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO) that unfairly penalizes many federal, state and local government civil servants, especially surviving spouses.
- Provides caregiver credits to ensure that people (mostly women) are not penalized in retirement for taking time out of the workforce to care for children or elderly family members.
- Restores student benefits up to age 22 for dependent children of disabled, deceased, or retired workers.
The Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust Act provides these important benefit enhancements while at the same time extending the solvency of the Social Security Trust Funds by over three decades. Your bill strengthens Social Security’s financial foundations by increasing revenue dedicated to support the program. First, it applies the payroll tax to all wages paid to workers that are in excess of $400,000 and provides that the additional Social Security taxable wages stemming from this provision will be taken into account in determining workers’ benefits.
The second revenue measure would subject an individual’s unearned income above $400,000 to a tax of 12.4 percent. This is the same Social Security tax rate that applies to most earned income (when worker and employer contributions are combined) and would provide an important new stream of revenue that would help strengthen Americans’ confidence that Social Security will be there for them in years to come. This provision also better reflects the evolution of income for our nation’s workforce, as higher-income workers receive increasingly smaller portions of their income from wages. While the National Committee supports this provision, we believe it could be improved by providing additional Social Security benefits for the enhanced contributions, thus better preserving the earned nature of the Social Security program.
Public opinion about Social Security has been favorable throughout the history of the program. Surveys have consistently shown that the program is popular and well-supported. Strong support has been voiced for spending more on Social Security, for benefits to increase with inflation, and for benefits to increase generally even if it means higher taxes. Many individuals rely on income from the program or expect to rely on it when they retire. The public clearly wants the program to continue.
In fact, according to a poll commissioned by the National Committee, 79 percent of likely voters including Democrats, Republicans and Independents, supported increasing Social Security benefits and paying for it by having wealthy Americans pay the same rate into Social Security as everyone else.
These results are similar to a poll conducted by the National Academy of Social Insurance. Large majorities said they do not mind paying Social Security taxes because of the security and stability the benefits provide to millions of retired Americans, disabled individuals, and children and widowed spouses of deceased workers. These findings hold true across party lines (those agreeing include 87 percent of Democrats, 81 percent of Independents, and 72 percent of Republicans). Americans are also willing to pay for Social Security because they value it for themselves (73 percent) and their families (73 percent).
On behalf of the American people, we commend your work over the years as a champion of Social Security and America’s seniors. In light of the strong, bipartisan public support for strengthening and expanding Social Security, we strongly endorse the Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust Act. Social Security gives the American people a secure, basic income that lasts as long as they live. We thank you for your commitment to preserving it for all generations.
President and CEO