‘Time to Scrap the Cap’: Sanders, Warren Bill Targets Rich to Expand Social Security

‘Time to Scrap the Cap’: Sanders, Warren Bill Targets Rich to Expand Social Security 1

Yves here. It’s no secret that the assertions that Social Security is in dire financial straits are fabrications. First, like so much of our Federal government funding, the device of having a trust fund is a convenient fiction. In reality, Social Security is a pay as you go program. Second, for those who nevertheless like the appearance that Social Security is paid for by payroll contributions, the most obvious fix has long been to raise or eliminate the cap on salaries subject to payroll taxes. The fact that this problem has not been solved strongly suggests some influential parties don’t want it solved.

By Jake Johnson, a staff writer at Common Dreams. Originally published at Common Dreams

Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren led a group of lawmakers Thursday in unveiling legislation that would expand Social Security’s modest annual benefits by $2,400 and ensure the program is fully funded for the next 75 years.

The benefit boost under the Social Security Expansion Act would be funded by lifting the cap on the maximum amount of income subject to the Social Security payroll tax. This year the cap was $147,000—meaning millionaires stopped paying into the program in late February.

If passed, the expansion bill would apply the payroll tax to all income, including capital gains, above $250,000 a year, a change that would only raise taxes on around 7% of U.S. households.

“At a time when half of older Americans have no retirement savings and millions of senior citizens are living in poverty, our job is not to cut Social Security,” Sanders (I-Vt.), head of the Senate Budget Committee and a co-chair of the Expand Social Security Caucus, said in a statement.

“Our job must be to expand Social Security so that every senior citizen in America can retire with the dignity they deserve and every person with a disability can live with the security they need,” the senator continued. “And we will do that by demanding that the wealthiest people in America finally pay their fair share of taxes. It is absurd that a billionaire in America today pays the same amount of Social Security taxes as someone making $147,000 a year. It is time to scrap the cap, expand benefits, and fully fund Social Security.”

The legislation comes a week after the annual Social Security trustees report showed that—contrary to Republicans’ claims that it is barreling toward insolvency—the program is positioned to fully fund benefits until 2035. Thereafter, even if Congress takes no action, the program is projected to be 90% funded for the next 25 years and 81% funded for the next 75 years.

“Social Security is an economic lifeline for millions of Americans, but many seniors are struggling with rising costs,” said Warren (D-Mass.). “As Republicans try to phase out Social Security and raise taxes on more than 70 million hardworking Americans, I’m working with Senator Sanders to expand Social Security and extend its solvency by making the wealthy pay their fair share, so everyone can retire with dignity.”

Sanders announced the new bill Thursday during a Senate Budget Committee hearing, at which Republicans—including Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who has previously voiced support for privatizing Social Security—made clear they would oppose the legislation, which has been endorsed by more than 50 advocacy organizations and labor unions.

In addition to increasing annual benefits and lifting the tax cap, the Social Security Expansion Act would also boost the program’s cost-of-living adjustments by switching to a more accurate measure of inflation. According to the Social Security Administration, the average monthly Social Security benefit payment was around $1,540 as of April 2022.

“With the cost of living at an all-time high, Social Security has never been more important, yet congressional Republicans continue to play games with its funding,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the lead sponsor of a companion bill in the House.

“This legislation would ensure that the Social Security Trust Fund remains solvent for another 75 years, increase monthly benefits for most recipients by $200, and alter the cost-of-living-adjustment formula to meet the everyday needs of our nation’s seniors,” DeFazio added.

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