“On the strength of a better-than-expected economy, the Social Security Trustees have pushed back the expected depletion date of the program’s OASDI (retirement & disability) trust fund to 2035, one year later than previously projected.  At that time, the Trustees say that Social Security still will be able to pay 83% of promised benefits.

The 2035 depletion date means Congress must act NOW to strengthen Social Security for the 67 million Americans who depend on it. We cannot afford to wait to take action until the trust fund is mere months from insolvency, as Congress did in 1983.  The sooner Congress acts, the less painful the remedies will be.

No doubt we will hear cries from so-called ‘fiscal conservatives’ that Social Security is going ‘bankrupt,’ supposedly requiring Draconian measures — which couldn’t be further than the truth. Revenue always will flow into Social Security from workers’ payroll contributions, so the program will never be ‘broke.’ But no one wants seniors to suffer an automatic 17% benefit cut in 2035, so Congress must act deliberately, but not recklessly.  A bad deal driven by cuts to earned benefits could be worse than no deal at all.

We strongly support revenue-side solutions that would bring more money into the trust fund by demanding that the wealthy pay their fair share.  Rep. John Larson (D-CT) has offered legislation that would do just that — by maintaining the current payroll wage cap (currently set at $168,600), but subjecting wages $400,000 and above to payroll taxes, as well — and dedicating some of high-earners’ investment income to Social Security. Rep. Larson’s bill also would provide seniors with a much-needed benefit boost.

Many Republicans, on the other hand, want to slash workers’ earned benefits by raising the retirement age, means-testing, and adopting a more miserly COLA formula.  The GOP-controlled House Budget Committee has proposed to create a fiscal commission to give members political cover to enact these cuts, which they know are deeply unpopular.

Average Social Security benefits are already very modest — about $23,000 per year, which is only $3,000 higher than the federal poverty line for a household of two.  Seniors on fixed incomes cannot afford to sacrifice their income; but wealthy individuals and investors can afford to contribute more, without making a dent in their considerable prosperity.” – Max Richtman, President & CEO, National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare


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Walter Gottlieb

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