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Majority of House Democrats join the Expand Social Security Caucus

a href="https://www.socialsecurityworks.org/">SocialSecurityWorks.org
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Written by Diane Archer

More than 100 of 193 House Democrats as well as 18 Senate Democrats have joined the Expand Social Security Caucus. It currently has more than 150 members. These Democrats are committed to ensuring that a key part of the Democratic agenda in Congress is strengthening Social Security and increasing its benefits. 

Alex Thompson reports for Vice that the majority support  for increasing Social Security benefits among House Democrats represents a major shift to the left for House Democratic members. It was not that long ago that House Democrats were fighting simply to keep Social Security from being cut. Indeed, in 2011, Barack Obama and many Democrats in Congress were willing to cut Social Security in exchange for tax hikes on the wealthy.

Rep. John Larson (D-CT), who co-chairs the House side of the Expand Social Security Caucus, introduced a bill to expand Social Security in 2015.  It had only 54 cosponsors when it was introduced. Today, it has 174.  Larson may have power to take action on the bill as the most likely chair of the Social Security subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, if Democrats take back control of Congress in November.

The seven co-chairs of the caucus in the House and Senate represent a politically and geographically diverse group of Democrats. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Terri A. Sewell (D-AL), Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), and Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA) co-chair the caucus with John Larson in the House. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders co-chair the Senate side of the Expand Social Security Caucus. Alex Lawson, Executive Director of Social Security Works, helped launch the caucus.

Republicans in Congress continue to call for cuts to Social Security benefits. If the midterm elections leave them in control of the House, their budget will cut Social Security, Medicare and other critical social programs.

As the divide between the wealthy and the less well off widens, and an increasing number of working class Americans are threatened with poverty in retirement, a large number of Democrats in Congress are supporting mainstream proposals that will help their constituents. Medicare for All and debt-free college are two other policy proposals that are gaining steam in Congress.

If you want Congress to expand Social Security, please sign this petition.

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  • ..Social Security is becoming the only means of retirement income for more and more people due to long term stagnant wages and living costs that keep rising. When wages for most nonprofessional non-college degree jobs flatlined in the 1980s it resulted the value of what many workers contributed into the trust to actually decline. Had wages continued to rise in pace with living costs and productivity it would have meant more being deducted for one’s SS account and a larger benefit when one retired. That has not been the case. Furthermore lower wages and rising costs (particularly over the last two and a half decades) have made it difficult to impossible for many to put money away to supplement retirement. In a sense for many such as myself, it became a “Lose – Lose” situation.

    Add to this the fallout from the demise of the S&Ls which historically offered significantly higher interest rates on savings than banks do today. The meagre percentages given by banks do not even keep pace with inflation meaning one has to stash away a significant amount to have anything there upon retirement. Not easy to do when you are making 11$ an hour living in one of many of today’s cities. Housing costs (rents) have seen one of the fastest increases over the last couple decades, particularly so since the previous recession. 11$ an hour doesn’t go very far when even as small studio flat costs upwards of 900$ or more a month. Even at 15$ an hour the average rent in say Portland OR for a 1 BR flat would be over 50% of one’s monthly income before taxes (and Oregon has a higher personal tax burden than many other states).

    What is worse is low income housing here, as well as other cities, is reaching a critical situation. In 2016, Section 8 eligibility in Portland hit it’s limit after only four days of open registration with more than double the number of applications for voucher slots. New applications are still not being accepted two years later. Most housing development in the city is geared towards more attracting affluent, upscale renters than providing good housing for the working poor or those on a fixed income. I was “lucky” to clear a wait list and where i am living, I am paying 50% of my monthly SS benefit just on rent alone. Meanwhile, my SNAP benefits have been reduced by nearly 40% from last year and in three months I will have to start paying 136$ per month in Medicare premiums. out of what little i have left following rent and utilities (as well as having to purchase food out of pocket for about a week every month due to the SNAP reductions). The average market rent here for a “shoebox” of a studio flat is around 130% of my monthly benefit cheque.

    We seriously need Social Security to be expanded. A 2 or 3% living cost adjustment goes nowhere these days considering the “real” annual increase in living costs, and in particular, the high rents even in what is termed “low income” housing, that are being charged today. Many retired citizens, like myself, are not long time homeowners who have a mortgage paid off and the equity that comes with it. We are renters who have nothing to show for the money we put down every month to keep a roof over our heads who are also at the mercy of landlords and rental agencies. We are also at the mercy of people like Secretary Ben Carson who looks to not only cut the budget for affordable housing but is pushing to increase rents for existing low income tenants as well as Paul Ryan who seems to be on a mission to gut Social Security (who himself will receive an annual pension that is six to seven times what most of us on SS get, as well as free healthcare). People like these should not be rewarded for what they’ve done (or haven’t done) particularly on the taxpayers dime while people like myself have to struggle and live with the angst that we may find ourselves out on the street next month.

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