By Daisy Brown, TSCL Legislative Liaison
How have you fared through the past year of record inflation? Karen K. of FL recently told us, “My income has been stretched to the limit. I no longer have the little extra dollars to buy a treat for myself each month. I can’t afford to splurge any longer. It makes me uneasy when I see politicians want to decrease my benefits. I think our elected officials should be supporting senior citizens, not turning their back to us.”
Other older Americans nationwide share this unease and uncertainty as well as all of us here at TSCL. We recently reviewed a budget blueprint released by the Republican Study Committee in the fall of 2022 which contains proposals for an array of benefit cuts for both Social Security and Medicare.
While TSCL feels that the time has come for Congress to get going on strengthening the programs, finding balanced bipartisan plans that can be enacted in our very divided new Congress will be enormously challenging. With our benefits at stake, we will need each and every one of you to help with contacting legislators in the coming months.
Our most recent surveys found time and again that older Americans reject Social Security reform proposals that cut benefits. Retired or disabled, our survey participants have told us that they want program reforms to focus on revenue changes that would make the payroll tax system more equitable by requiring the application of the 12.4% Social Security payroll tax on all earnings instead of just the first $160,200. A CEO making $650,000 should pay into Social Security for every dollar earned, just the same as the guy making $65,000. Our surveys have also found that the majority of our respondents also favor similar revenue changes for Medicare.
But this path is on a collision course with those in Congress who have put forward plans that focus on cutting benefits. They favor lowering the amount of wages subject to payroll taxes, to levels below that set under current law. Their plans favor allowing employers and employees to divert payroll taxes meant to pay benefits for current retirees out of the Social Security Trust Fund for investing in private retirement accounts. How will legislators keep the program strong for all without cutting the benefits of today’s beneficiaries? There are also concerns that efforts may be made in the House to repeal new legislation that gives Medicare the authority to negotiate drug prices and caps the price of insulin covered by Part D plans at $35 per prescription per month.
Most importantly of all, we are vigilantly watching for proposals that would cut cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs). Provisions that would cut the growth in COLAs have formed the basis of virtually every plan to reform Social Security since 1983. With the help of our members and supporters, TSCL has been fighting off such measures for the past 28 years.
TSCL has not lost sight of the crumbling financial situation of Social Security beneficiaries. We will be working to get legislation re-introduced that would provide:
- A $1,400 payment for Social Security recipients drowning in a flood of rising prices.
- A fairer COLA, by tying the annual adjustment to a senior’s price index like the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E) and backing it up with a 3% minimum COLA guarantee.
- Social Security tax fairness by adjusting income thresholds that subject Social Security benefits to taxation for inflation.
We will need everyone on board this year to defend Social Security and Medicare from cuts, and to strengthen the program for everyone.
What do you think of proposals to change Social Security and Medicare benefits? Take TSCL’s new 2023 Senior Survey at www.SeniorsLeague.org/2023seniorsurvey.