Benefit Bulletin: November 2015

Benefit Bulletin: November 2015

No Social Security Benefit Increase Next Year? That’s NOT Going To Get Our Votes!

Those are the words of Barbara B., a 72-year old resident of the Indianapolis area of Indiana. TSCL believes she’s right. If Congress does nothing at all, and there is NO annual Social Security boost in 2016 while healthcare costs spike, older voters will be demanding answers from incumbent lawmakers and candidates. The financial squeeze on retirees who vote in disproportionately higher numbers than other age categories, could become a game changer in a presidential election year.

“No COLA at all is really going to hurt people like me,” Barbara says. Until recently Barbara, who soon turns 73, was still working part-time, that is until the company she worked for shut down. Not eligible for unemployment, Barbara now depends entirely on Social Security for all of her income.

“Living on Social Security alone limits your lifestyle,” Barbara says. “You have to learn to do without and think long and hard before spending anything. You have to prioritize,” she says.   Barbara says she has not been able to get her eyes or teeth checked in a long time, and looks for bargains all the time. Medical expenses have sometimes required using credit cards and going into debt.

Barbara called TSCL to learn about the status of legislation that would provide a more fair COLA using the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E) and an estimated $70 benefit boost. That bill, called “The Social Security Expansion Act” introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (VT), and a similar bill in the House introduced by Representative John Larson(CT-1), are at the root of a major debate over Social Security. That is: Should Social Security’s solvency be addressed by cutting benefits, or by raising revenues?

Many members of Congress have often argued that Social Security is unsustainable as currently structured because there are not enough working taxpayers to support the number of retirees. They argue that benefit cuts are required to bring the system back into balance.

But others, including TSCL, say hold on! They point out that there’s a serious imbalance in the Social Security tax structure that allows the very wealthiest earners to get a huge tax break. Under the current law, workers (and their employers) only pay taxes on earnings up to $118,500. While the majority of middle - income worker pay taxes on all of their earnings all year, a powerful CEO who earns $350 million a year stops paying Social Security taxes after the first 45 minutes of work on the first day of his business year!

Barbara wanted to learn ways she could help support legislation to strengthen Social Security and provide more secure retirement benefits. We strongly urge Barbara and those of you like her to tell others about the legislation and attend town halls to question candidates on their positions for “fixing Social Security.”

Social Security can be fixed to remain solvent for another 50 years and provide greater retirement security without cuts.