Congressional Corner: It’s Time to Bolster and Expand Social Security

by Representative Matt Cartwright (PA-08)

Social Security is a unifying force in America.  It is the single most important and effective income support program ever introduced in the United States.

Its premise is simple:  You pay into Social Security out of every paycheck during your working years and then the benefits are there when you need them most.  Millions of Americans, ranging from retired seniors to disabled war veterans to children who have lost a parent, rely on it.  It’s been credited with alleviating the burden of poverty for millions of Americans, particularly the elderly.

Since 1935, the Federal Government has delivered on its promise that if you contribute to Social Security, you retire with dignity.  And while Social Security has been hailed as a successful program from all sides of the aisle, we know that all successful programs require fine-tuning from time to time.

Such is the case with Social Security.

That’s why I co-sponsored the Social Security 2100 Act (H.R. 5723) in the U.S. House of Representatives, with more than 200 of my fellow House Members joining me in this crucial effort.  I think it is Congress’ responsibility not just to safeguard Social Security but also to ensure that benefits keep up with American expenses.

So, what does Social Security 2100 propose?  First and foremost, it provides a benefit bump to current and new beneficiaries to make up for inadequate, long-overdue Cost-of-Living-Adjustments that haven’t been updated since 1972.

This new legislation will also protect low-income workers by setting the new minimum benefit at 25 percent above the poverty line and would tie it to increases in wage levels nationwide to ensure the minimum benefit does not fall behind.

Social Security 2100 also adds a caregiver credit so that people – disproportionately women – who take time out of the workforce to care for children or other loved ones aren’t penalized when the time comes to retire.

Other highlights of the Social Security 2100 Act include:

  • Repealing the Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset that currently reduces Social Security benefits for public servants, including teachers.
  • Improving Social Security benefits for widows and widowers in two income households so they are not penalized for having two incomes.
  • Ending the 5-month waiting period for disability benefits to kick in so those diagnosed with severe disabilities, like terminal cancer, no longer have to wait.
  • Increasing access to Social Security dependent benefits for children who live with their grandparents or other relatives.

It’s important to note that these Social Security enhancements, as well as a number of others, are fully paid for by the proposed Act.  High income Americans currently stop paying into Social Security after their first $147,000 of annual income.  Social Security 2100 would require them to pay the same rate as the rest of us on their very high incomes.

I have noted with dismay that protecting and expanding Social Security has become a partisan issue.  Senator Rick Scott (FL) has actually proposed a five-year “sunset” for both Social Security and Medicare, which could kill both programs.  That’s a foolish and dangerous idea.

We need to strengthen Social Security which is why I’m leading a group of Members who are calling for a House floor vote on the 2100 Act.  I’d love to help deliver a victory for the American people, and my hope is that it can be bipartisan.  It’s time to vote for a plan to bolster Social Security.

Congressman Matt Cartwright is a member of House Democratic Leadership team and serves as Chairman of the Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee.  He represents Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District, which includes Lackawanna, Wayne, and Pike Counties and portions of Luzerne and Monroe Counties.

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