Americans who rely on Social Security can exhale for a moment now that the program’s Trustees have reported that the trust fund will remain solvent until 2034. That’s only one year earlier than projected in last year’s report.
“There is no need to sound the alarm, but now is the time to address Social Security’s long-term solvency – and provide an overdue boost in benefits. Phone calls and emails to Congress are definitely warranted at this critical juncture,” says Max Richtman, President and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.
The program, which has never missed a benefit payment in its 86-year history, remains strong. If Congress does not take curative action and the trust fund becomes depleted, Social Security still could pay 78% of benefits because of the steady inflow of revenue from workers’ payroll contributions. But that poses a huge financial risk for the millions of retirees who depend on Social Security for most if not all of their income. It also raises a serious political risk for members of Congress who fail to boost the program’s finances so that the trust fund remains solvent beyond 2034.
At the same time, benefit adequacy needs to be addressed. Living on an average monthly benefit of $1,540 is tough. Retirement savings are dwindling, pensions are disappearing, and the cost of senior housing and medical care are soaring. For over six years, Congressman John Larson has been driving efforts to strengthen Social Security by adjusting the payroll wage cap so that high income earners begin paying their fair share.
Rep. Larson has also proposed an across-the-board boost for all retirees, enhanced benefits for the most vulnerable seniors, and a more accurate formula for calculating annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) so that benefits truly keep pace with inflation. Rep. Larson’s proposals align with President Biden’s own prescriptions for improving Social Security. These proposals win approval from a majority of Americans in poll after poll.
“Of course, the default response from conservatives will be to suggest, indirectly or otherwise, that Social Security benefits must be cut to address the program’s funding shortfall,” Richtman said. “Some will insist that Social Security be privatized, which would gamble workers’ hard-earned retirement benefits on Wall Street. Meanwhile, conservatives likely will oppose common sense revenue-side measures that would actually boost benefits, including Rep. Larson’s proposed adjustment of the payroll wage cap.”
The depletion of the trust fund in 2034 is not a foregone conclusion. With Democrats in control of the House and Senate — and an advocate for Social Security in the White House — advancing legislation to strengthen and expand the program is finally within reach. But the public must demand that Congress muster the political will to get it done. The Trustees Report is a firm reminder that time is running short.
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