Congressional Corner: How We Can Protect Social Security While Expanding Benefits

Congressional Corner: How We Can Protect Social Security While Expanding Benefits

Representative Peter DeFazio (OR-4)

Millions of Americans depend on the earned benefit of Social Security as their livelihood, yet congressional Republicans continue to play games with its funding. I have introduced legislation with Senator Bernie Sanders to protect this vital program from future attempts to dismantle it while expanding benefits to better meet the needs of our nation’s seniors. My legislation, the Social Security Expansion Act, would:

  • Modify how the Social Security Administration calculates cost-of-living-adjustments (COLA) for seniors. Instead of using the current COLA formula, which is based on the price index of goods the average consumer purchases, my bill would use a new CPI-E index to factor in goods seniors actually buy such as prescription drugs, utility bills and property taxes.  If we had used the CPI-E in 2017, seniors would have received a cost-of-living adjustment that was five times higher.
  • Close a tax loophole so that earned income over $250,000 is subject to the Social Security payroll tax. Social Security could pay its full promised benefits for the next sixty years if we asked all Americans to pay their fair share of FICA taxes. Millionaires should pay the same percentage of their salaries as average American workers.
  • Increase benefits for Social Security recipients by an estimated $65 a month.
  • Update the Special Minimum Benefit so more low-income people qualify.
  • Apply a Social Security tax on investment income for high-income households.

The fight for Social Security and protecting our nation’s seniors is more relevant than ever. On May 4, House Republicans passed the American Health Care Act. The latest version of the bill is a direct assault on lower and middle income seniors. Insurance companies would be able to charge anyone aged 50 or older five times more than the premium for a younger person. A 64-year-old earning $27,000 a year would see their health care costs go from $1,700 a year to $14,600 a year. Additionally, the bill cuts Medicaid by nearly a trillion dollars, shifting $43 billion in health care costs on to Medicare and exhausting the trust fund four years earlier from 2028 to 2024. I voted against this egregious bill and spoke against it on the House floor, and will continue to fight to protect seniors from partisan attacks.

When it comes to the future of Social Security, we have a choice: we can tell our children and grandchildren that their Social Security benefits won’t be there for them because of a regressive tax that benefits the wealthy. Or, we can do what’s right to make sure America’s seniors and disabled citizens don’t fear living in poverty. Our country is stronger when everyone can be financially independent and living with dignity, thanks to a program they paid into.


The opinions expressed in “Congressional Corner” reflect the views of the writer and are not necessarily those of TSCL.