What the hell are congressional Republicans even doing right now? They have a majority in both the House and the Senate, yet they’re sitting on their hands with an unpredictable, so-called “conservative” President Trump in the White House.
Today, Bernie Sanders introduced a bill to increase Social Security to citizens across the board with a disproportionate increase given to low income earners. Under current law, employees making up to $127,200 in 2017 pay 6.2% into the OASDI Program and their employers pay the same. That $127,200 number has risen with the pay index over time, all the way from $3,000 in 1937 to $127,200 in 2017. That $127,200 number is a cap, meaning anyone making more than that only paid in the 6.2% on the first $127,200 of their income. So if you made $2.5 Million, you still only paid $7,886.40 into the system – same as an employee making $127,200.
What Sanders’ proposed law does is apply the 6.2% tax to anyone earning more than $250,000 per year – the top 1.6% of Americans. I haven’t been able to find out what happens to those making $127,200 and $250,000, but at this point it doesn’t matter. Sanders’ proposal also extends the tax to unearned incomes like capital gains and dividends, where it currently does not apply. Under its current structure, Social Security is only expected to be solvent until 2034, and after that year would only be able to pay 79% of benefits. Under the Sanders plan, that date gets pushed back to 2077. Basically this program buys 43 years of Social Security stability.
Great, it’s still a failing program. The reason the cap is in place is that benefits are paid out based on what you paid in. So if you made $250,000 previously, you received the same benefits as one who paid in at the $127,200 rate. This plan changes that. Since it doesn’t increase the benefit given to top earners, benefits would no longer be proportional to contribution across the board. In addition, the program will still become exhausted in 2077. The government cannot tax its way to permanent solvency. In fact this is just throwing more good money at bad.
Social Security is not intended to be 100% of one’s retirement. In fact, you could do much better investing on your own than what Social Security can do for you, but people depend on that money like it’s all they’re going to have at retirement. Say you had an average of $50,000 per year household income from the age of 25-65 (median income was $56,516 in 2015). If you invested the $3,100 you would pay in Social Security taxes annually in good growth stock mutual funds (10% return) over that time period, you would have more than $1.5 million at the age of 65. At that point you would be able to pull approximately $100,000-$150,000 to live off of and not reduce your nest egg.
However, people aren’t responsible enough to invest their own money unless the government does it for them. If you didn’t HAVE to pay the $3,100 in the previous example, would you do it? Would you buy a fancier car or a nicer house instead? The government handling your retirement basically raises the floor and lowers the ceiling of your retirement dream. By taking and investing that $3,100 per year in a failing program, they also reduce your ability to invest $3,100 per year of your own money because now you take home $3,100 less. They also make it almost impossible to retire with nothing leaving you homeless upon retirement if you were irresponsible and saved nothing. Are there other benefits such as disability and survivor benefits that are necessary? Yes, and I’m not here to debate those merits.
In fact, I’m not really here to debate the merits of retirement benefits in the Social Security program. I just got distracted for a minute. My point is, what the fuck are the GOP members of Congress doing? We’re a month in and the first meaningful piece of legislation on a major issue comes from a Democratic Socialist from Vermont? Are you intimidated by Trump? Are you waiting for his ship to sink? Here’s the deal. You have a four-year (and probably shrinking if we’re honest) window to pass the Social Security, healthcare and other meaningful reform that you always claimed you had when President Obama was in office. Now it appears you have nothing. I hope all of you get primaried and voted out of office because you’ve failed to show a backbone in standing up to a President that is clearly not based in conservative principles. If you had any meaningful legislation, you would try and get it through Congress and to the desk of a “Conservative” President to force his hand, would you not?
You are not even trying and you are failing constituents that have elected you to office. Keep this up and I hope you don’t get that privilege in the future. If they’re going to continue to let Trump legislate from the Executive branch, we’re all going to have a bad time.
In all honesty, this all feels so unimportant given the human rights issues, foreign policy failures and general chaos of the administration up until this point, but at least one member of congress is trying to live up to their campaign promises. Good on you Senator Sanders. I may not agree with a lot of your fundamental principles, but I respect the hell out of your honesty and work efforts. In a time in which truth and transparency is at an all time low in the political world, you’re doing the best you can to hold up your end of the bargain. One can only hope that other politicians start to do more of the same.