If you are represented by a Democrat in the U.S. House, chances are that your member of Congress has already cosponsored a piece of landmark legislation to boost and strengthen Social Security: Rep. John Larson’s Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust. In fact, the bill currently has 202 Democratic cosponsors (and zero Republicans). But some Democrats have not signed on as cosponsors, even though improving Social Security benefits and extending the solvency of the trust fund are priorities that Democrats should agree on. The more Democratic co-sponsorships the bill garners, the stronger the case that House leadership should bring it to the floor for a vote.
Rep. Larson, chair of the House Ways and Means Social Security subcommittee, introduced a new version of the bill in October, 2021. Among other things, Social Security 2100 would provide an across-the-board benefit increase for all beneficiaries. It would also boost benefits for particularly vulnerable groups – including widows, widowers, and the ‘oldest of the old’ seniors. The bill also includes a new COLA formula that better reflects seniors’ spending priorities.
“The pandemic has only underscored what we already knew and has exacerbated systemic inequities — current benefits are not enough! 5 million seniors are living in poverty due to longstanding workplace discrimination affecting mostly people of color and women. For too long, Congress has forsaken its duty to enhance benefits. With 10,000 Baby Boomers a day becoming eligible, and with Millennials needing Social Security more than any generation, the time for Congress to act is now.” – Rep. John Larson, 10/26/21
Social Security 2100 covers the costs of expanding benefits by adjusting the payroll wage cap so that higher earners contribute their fair share. This would only impact those earning more than $400,000 per year in wages – or less than 2% of working Americans.
In addition to the 202 House cosponsors, Social Security 2100 has been endorsed by over 100 advocacy groups, including the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. Among the members who have not yet stepped forward as cosponsors, the National Committee hopes that Reps. Cynthia Axne (D-IA), Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV), and Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ) will do so now. Each of these House members are Social Security champions who earned 100% ratings on the National Committee’s most recent legislative scorecard.
Some of these Democrats may be worried that if they cosponsor the bill, Republicans will run attack ads accusing them of raising taxes. But President Biden won the White House promising not to increase taxes on anyone earning less than $400,000 a year, and the Sacred Trust bill conforms with that pledge. Many high earners who would be affected by the bill have told pollsters they don’t mind paying their fair share. And the group Patriotic Millionaires has long advocated adjusting the payroll wage cap.
The measures in Rep. Larson’s bill have overwhelming public support. A poll by Lake Research Partners showed that across party lines, 79% supported paying for an increase in benefits by having wealthy Americans pay the same rate into Social Security as everyone else. A recent survey of our members and supporters indicated 96 percent support for raising the cap. Survey respondents were unequivocal in their comments:
“Eliminate the wage cap! It’s common sense.”
“Make them pay their fair share!”
“The wealthy should pay Social Security taxes on everything they earn – just like we do.”
“There should not be a cap at all!”
Rep. Larson’s bill is awaiting mark-up by the full House Ways and Means committee, which is expected to happen in June. Lawmakers are also waiting for the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to score the legislation, which is required for Social Security 2100 to be brought to the House floor for a vote.
Rep. Larson’s bill is truly historic. Social Security benefits have not been increased in more than fifty years. Retirees, people with disabilities, and their families need a benefit boost and a better COLA formula to meet ever-rising costs. They need the certainty that Social Security’s trust fund will remain solvent past the projected depletion date of 2034. The Republican response to Social Security’s challenges is to raise the retirement age (or enact other benefit cuts) and privatize the program — or as the chairman of the party’s Senatorial campaign committee proposed, to sunset all federal programs (including Social Security and Medicare) after five years.
Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust presents an opportunity for Democrats to continue building on the foundation that President Franklin D. Roosevelt built when the program was created in 1935. Eighty-six years later, the program is at a crossroads. For the sake of all Americans who rely on Social Security, Rep. Larson’s bill is something that all House Democrats can – and should – get behind.