Next week, Social Security will mark its 86th anniversary of providing Americans with basic financial security in old age (and, since 1956, upon becoming disabled). And yet, quite incredibly, baseline Social Security benefits haven’t been expanded in fifty years – even though seniors’ living costs have soared over the decades. Congressman John Larson (D-CT) is once again hoping to change that. Larson, a true Social Security champion who introduced legislation to boost Social Security in previous Congresses, has now released the details of a revamped bill to increase benefits and extend the program’s solvency.
The updated legislation is called Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust. The name echoes candidate Joe Biden’s declaration during the 2020 campaign that Social Security is a “sacred obligation.” In fact, Larson revised his bill to align with President Biden’s proposals for Social Security, which also aim to strengthen and expand the program. Here are some of the many ways the bill would enhance seniors’ retirement security:
*Increases benefits across the board for all Social Security beneficiaries
*Improves the Cost-of-Living-Adjustment (COLA), so it reflects the inflation actually experienced by seniors.
*Ensures no one retires into poverty after a full career of work by improving benefits for long-serving, low-wage workers
*Improves benefits for widows and widowers from two-income households.
*Restores student benefits up to age 22, for the dependent children of disabled, deceased, or retired workers.
The bill also would boost customer service from the Social Security Administration (SSA) by preventing unnecessary field office closures and requiring the agency to mail annual statements to all workers 25 and older.
These are long-awaited improvements that Social Security beneficiaries need after years of flat incomes and rising living expenses. Congressman Larson would pay for these enhancements by adjusting the payroll wage cap so that high earners pay their fair share. Social Security contributions are currently capped at $142,800 in annual wages. The new bill would reimpose the payroll tax after $400,000 in wages, bringing the program much-needed revenue – and honoring President Biden’s pledge not to raise taxes on anyone earning under $400,000 a year.
The National Committee strongly supports Rep. Larson’s ongoing efforts to boost Social Security. Congressman Larson is currently seeking cosponsors in the House for the bill. (His previous legislation had more than a hundred.) He is expected to officially introduce the bill in September, after the House returns from summer recess.
If the legislation passes the House, it would need at least 60 votes in the Senate. That would require ten Republican votes. Though many Republicans have called for Social Security benefit cuts, they may be compelled to vote for Larson’s bill. Policy insiders point out that Republicans haven’t yet been forced to cast a floor vote on this issue, noting that expanding Social Security and asking the wealthy to pay more are “wildly popular” with voters.