Congressional Corner: There’s No Need To Cut Or Privatize Social Security

Congressional Corner: There’s No Need To Cut Or Privatize Social Security

The following reflects the views of the writer and are not necessarily those of The Senior Citizens League.

Representative Peter DeFazio (OR-4)

Last fall, Republican candidates made a lot of campaign promises: to create more jobs, to roll back federal regulations and to increase energy production. But you didn’t see any bumper stickers or yard signs promising to gut Social Security. Yet, the first thing House Republicans did in the new session of Congress was to quietly change a rule that could force cuts in Social Security benefits for millions of Americans by the end of next year. By turning a simple procedural tool into a “doomsday” scenario, House Republicans want to manufacture a crisis in order to justify cuts and to move toward their goal of Social Security privatization, a long-time goal of Wall Street and right - wing think tanks.

In reality, there’s no need to cut or privatize Social Security in order to assure its solvency. Social Security could pay its full promised benefits for decades to come if we simply asked all Americans to pay their fair share of FICA taxes. Here’s the deal: Ninety- four percent of American workers pay into Social Security all year long on every dollar they earn. The wealthiest six percent do not. They stop paying after their income hits the $118,500 cap. For people taking home $1 million or more, that arrives just six weeks into the year. Some even finish paying just after New Year’s Day. This gaping loophole allows billionaire hedge fund managers and corporate CEOs to pay a far lower percentage of their income into Social Security than teachers, police officers and healthcare workers.

If we closed this loophole, we could ensure that Social Security continues paying full benefits to every single American who pays in, just as they were promised.

We should also ensure senior citizens are getting an accurate cost of living adjustment. The model the government is using right now would be fine if seniors were regularly buying iPods and laptop computers. But that’s just not the case. I’ve proposed a better way to calculate the COLA based on items seniors actually use, such as food, housing, gasoline, healthcare and prescription drugs.

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.