House Democrat John Larson (D-CT) honored Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s birthday on January 30 by introducing the Social Security 2100 Act, a bill that could keep Social Security afloat for the next 80 years.
The rocky history of Social Security
Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Social Security into law on August 14, 1935. Since the bill was signed, Social Security has gone through tumultuous times and has been threatened with insolvency (to run out of money) every decade or so. However, lawmakers always find a way to save the crucial retirement program.
The most recent insolvency scare happened in the summer of 2018 when the Social Security Board of Trustees reported that Social Security could run out of money by 2034. Although scary for the millions of Americans who rely on Social Security for retirement income, Social Security is protected because it’s a self-sustaining program. This means the people who are working and paying into the program keep it afloat until it’s their turn to collect benefits.
Social Security 2100 Act
The bill proposed by Representative John Larson, Chairman of the Social Security Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, has gained more than 200 original cosponsors. This high number highlights the fact that many Democratic House members support the protection and expansion of Social Security. The House Representatives who sponsor the bill believe that no one should be forced to retire into poverty after working and contributing to the system for the majority of their lives.
No Republican Representatives elected to cosponsor the Social Security 2100 Act. Democrats expect Republicans to put up a fight in the Senate as well once the bill reaches the Senate floor.
How the bill would improve Social Security
The Social Security 2100 Act would increase benefits for the 63 million Americans already on Social Security as well as every single American who would receive benefits in the future. Here are three of the ways Social Security would be impacted.
First, it would increase the minimum Social Security benefits for those who worked in low-paying jobs their entire careers while still contributing to the program.
Second, the bill would provide a more accurate measure for the annual cost-of-living adjustment and ensure beneficiaries will not see their benefits gradually erode due to inflation.
Third, the bill would ensure that benefits can be paid in full and on time to those who are eligible to receive them, including Gold Star families, children of deceased or disabled workers, seniors, and many more.
Threats to Social Security
Social Security funds are threatened mostly by larger portions of the American population aging into the system. Around four million baby boomers retire each year and strain the system as Social Security taxes have not increased enough to keep up with the growing number of beneficiaries. Other factors that lead to the problem are longer life expectancy and growing income inequality.
Nancy Altman from Social Security Works said the program could “bring in enough revenue by requiring millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share [of taxes].”
Supporters of Social Security protection and expansion
Despite the high price tag, the majority of Americans support not making cuts to the program. In a 2016 poll, 73 percent of Donald Trump supporters, 71 percent of Hillary Clinton supporters, and 72 percent of Bernie Sanders supporters did not want Social Security benefits to be reduced.
Democrats who support Social Security expansion and could possibly run for the 2020 presidency include Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, and Beto O’Rourke.
Importance of Social Security
At the time it was passed, Social Security benefits were meant to supplement the income of retired Americans, but many Americans rely on it as their majority or sole source of income. About 21 percent of married couples and 44 percent of unmarried people rely on Social Security to supply at least 90 percent of their income every month.
Representative Larson said, “You cannot stand by and let 5 million people who are currently on Social Security live in poverty. There will be a 2 percent across the board increase. No one can retire into poverty.”