Increasing Benefits, Now We’re Talking!

Ideas and Issues

New Orleans     The new Democratic majority in the US House of Representatives has   now submitted the Social Security 2100 Act in the new Congress.  The first proposed expansion of the social security since 1972.  That’s 47 years.  I’m not naïve.  It’s not suddenly going to become law, but finally at long last after decades of neoliberal attacks on anything that included their dreaded word, entitlements, a little bitty step forward has been made.

The bill would provide a 2% across-the-board increase in benefits.  Not huge, but it would help.  Additionally, the level of cost-of-living raises would increase.  Ironically, supporters argue this it to take care of additional health care costs for seniors, which almost seems like a backdoor insurance and hospital subsidy, since all of these seniors are on Medicare, so this rationale is handling copays.  Seems like better healthcare coverage should take of this, but I don’t want to quibble.

There would be an increase in the minimum benefit.  That’s also a good thing for lower waged workers or workers in the informal sector who might have enjoyed more limited times on a regular paycheck.  It also is an indirect subsidy for the gig economy, but I don’t want to quibble.  The bill would cut federal income taxes on Social Security benefits for some 12 million largely middle-income people, according to Robert Pear, the longtime benefit specialist for the New York Times. 

The pay up plan is kind of weird.  On the straight up side, they propose that over 24 years the rate on payroll taxes would go from 12.4% to 14.8%.  Right now, there is a cap on payroll taxes for the well-to-do and rich at $132,900, which makes no sense whatsoever.  The proposal is not a whole lot better, but it is a bit better.

The proposal would create a free-fire zone between $132,900 and $400,00 that would be tax-free, and then payroll over $400,000 would be taxed without a cap.  How in the world does that make sense?  Are campaign donors largely clustered in the doughnut hole gap?  Is that where Democrats think most of their suburban and urban chronic voter base is situated?  The answer has to be somewhere in that hole, because other than that, tell me why high earners should get a break and the rest of us should be cruising towards a 15% bite?

Republicans claimed this plan would “fix Social Security for 75 years.”  I hate to admit it, but some of them are asking the same questions that I’m asking:  why the big handout to middle-and-upper-income retirees, who are not the ones hurting?

Finally, in 2020, we may actually have some things worth fighting for down the road, other than the broken white line in the middle of the highway that we’ve been offered in past cycles.


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