This morning National Committee President Max Richtman interviewed a real fighter for Social Security and Medicare on Facebook Live from Capitol Hill – Congressman Richard Neal (D-MA-1).
The Congressman, who the Boston Globe called “an unassuming everyday guy from Western Massachusetts,” has a unique vantage point on seniors’ issues. He is the ranking member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees (among other things) Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and taxes. He assumed the post just before President Trump arrived in Washington, and has become a key point person against a Republican assault on these programs.
Neal is a true believer in Social Security, partly because he grew up with it. He and his sisters were raised by an aunt in Springfield, MA after their parents died, and relied on Social Security survivors’ benefits to make ends meet and remain under one roof. “Social Security allowed us to live as a family, and I’ve never forgotten that,” Neal told Max Richtman.
The Congressman is determined that Social Security be preserved for future generations – without benefit cuts – as a singular form of retirement insurance. “You can outlive an annuity. You cannot outlive Social Security,” he said on Facebook Live. “That’s the guarantee. That’s the genius of Mr. Roosevelt’s program.” (Social Security was signed into law in 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, father of National Committee founder James Roosevelt, Sr.)
Social Security, Neal says, gives American families a modicum of financial predictability for their senior years. He told the Globe that Social Security “is the reason Mom and Dad aren’t living in your attic.”
Neal is co-sponsoring Connecticut Rep. John Larson’s Social Security 2100 Act – one of the Democrats’ resounding replies to Republican schemes to shrink the program. Larson’s bill keeps Social Security solvent for decades without cutting benefits. In fact, The Social Security 2100 Act modestly increases benefits. Rep. Neal admits that the bill probably won’t go very far while Republicans control Congress. But he says the legislation “invites fresh thinking about how to encourage growth in Social Security.”
Meanwhile, the Congressman vehemently opposes a bill from House Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) that would do the opposite of Larson’s – reducing cost-of-living adjustments, raising the retirement age to 69 and cutting the benefit-computation formula. All of this, Neal says, would amount to a 30% cut in benefits for middle-class retirees.
Neal shoots down conservative arguments that Americans’ increasing longevity justifies raising the retirement age. Without Social Security, nearly half of our nation’s seniors would live in poverty – all the more reason, Neal says, not to pull the rug from under retirees by delaying eligibility for benefits. “We applaud each other regularly for increases in life expectancy in America,” says Neal. “But all that means is that we have to reinforce the guarantees that Social Security provides.”