Senator Elizabeth Warren just proposed a $200 a month increase in Social Security benefits in order to help ensure people have decent retirement income. Warren has the boldest proposal yet for ensuring that older adults live comfortably in retirement. In stark contrast, President Trump and his Republican allies plan to slash Social Security benefits.
Warren’s proposal is based on the reality that rising health care, education, child care and housing costs, coupled with near stagnant wages, has made it very hard for people to save for retirement. And pensions are disappearing. Most Americans lack retirement security.
Today, Social Security benefits are quite small. The average monthly check is $1,354. Social Security only covers about 41 percent of a typical worker’s earnings, which makes it hard to live in comfort in retirement. Between having to pay for housing and high health care costs, even with Medicare, a growing number of older adults are impoverished in old age. About 7.2 million live in poverty.
Most older adults rely heavily on Social Security. One in two married older adults depend upon Social Security for about half of their income. One in five married older adults depend upon Social Security for 90 percent of their income.
Single older adults depend even more heavily than married older adults on Social Security. Seven in ten single older adults depend upon Social Security for half of their income. And 45 percent of them depend upon Social Security for 90 percent of their income.
Black, Latinx and Asian Pacific Islander older adults rely still more heavily on Social Security. About one in three black older adults, four in ten Latinx older adults, and one in four Asian Pacific Islanders depend entirely upon Social Security for their income.
We need to raise Social Security benefits. Wealthy Americans–Americans earning in the top 2 percent–need to contribute their fair share to Social Security. In addition to raising Social Security benefits by $200 a month for everyone currently receiving benefits and all future recipients, Warren proposes increasing benefits further for people with low incomes and public-sector workers.
Warren’s plan would shrink the number of older adults living in poverty dramatically, down to 2.3 million. It would increase average Social Security benefits by 25 percent for people with income in the bottom 50 percent. As important, it would reduce the deficit by more than $1 trillion over ten years.
How is it paid for? Warren proposes that the top two percent of income earners pay their “fair share” for this expansion in Social Security benefits. Their contribution would also keep the Social Security Trust Fund strong for an additional 20 years.
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