Of all the federal government programs in the U.S., Social Security is perhaps the most treasured. Democratic and Republican voters alike value Social Security deeply. But, Republican leaders in the House and the Senate want to end Social Security as we know it. What keeps me up at night? If Trump becomes President, here are five ways Congress could weaken Social Security.
- Republicans in Congress want to privatize Social Security: Privatizing Social Security means investing Social Security monies in the stock market. Stock market dips, drops or crashes would mean cuts in people’s benefits. The amount of their monthly Social Security benefits would no longer be guaranteed each year.
- Republicans in Congress want people to get smaller Social Security checks, not guarantee them what they currently get or increase their checks: They tend to claim that the way to “save” Social Security is to reduce its benefits. They do not see lifting the cap on Social Security contributions or otherwise raising additional revenue for Social Security as an option. They do not want the wealthiest Americans to contribute more to Social Security.
- Republicans in Congress want to make people wait longer to receive their full Social Security retirement benefits: Today, the full Social Security retirement age is 66 for people born between 1943 and 1954, up from age 65. And, it is going up further to age 67. Raising Social Security’s retirement age means fewer benefits for everyone in retirement. And, it does particular harm to people with lower incomes, people who likely had no choice but to retire early because of work-related health conditions. It is unfair and inequitable. People who claim benefits at age 62 receive a 25 percent cut in their monthly check and, because they are more prone to serious health conditions, they tend to have shorter life expectancies than others.
- Republicans in Congress want to limit Social Security benefit inflation adjustments.They support a “chained CPI,” which effectively would keep benefits from increasing in tandem with inflation because of the way the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment is calculated. Already, Social Security benefits do not increase in tandem with the increases in total expenses for older adults because they do not take account of the larger amount older adults spend on health care relative to younger adults; health care costs are increasing much more quickly than other household expenses. For this reason, it’s likely that Social Security checks will not increase in 2017.
- Republicans in Congress want to “means test” Social Security benefits: They want to take away from wealthier Americans their earned Social Security benefits, arguing that Social Security should be for people who lack adequate means or “means-tested.” But Social Security is not a welfare program, it’s insurance. As with any insurance, people who pay in receive benefits when triggered, regardless of need. With Social Security, they receive benefits upon disability, death, or retirement. Means-testing benefits also will increase Social Security’s administrative costs. Social Security is now the most efficient insurance around, with administrative costs of less than one percent. More than .99 cents of every Social Security dollar is paid in benefits. Means-testing benefits makes no sense.
The U.S. is facing a retirement security crisis. Americans do not want to see benefits cut. They believe that they are too modest. In response, the 2016 Democratic Party Platform, in sharp contrast to Republican policymakers, focuses on expanding Social Security benefits, while requiring the wealthiest to pay their fair share. Sign this petition if you support expanding Social Security benefits.
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