Social Security and Retirement Security
To be financially secure throughout our retirement years, we depend on the three pillars of Social Security, pensions and individual savings. As our aging population continues to grow, it becomes more and more important that each pillar be as strong and robust as possible. I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to ensure the solvency of Social Security and to encourage personal savings.
Social Security is more than just retirement income, it is an essential safety net protecting our seniors, disabled workers, and their families. Every month, over 60 million Americans receive Social Security benefits totaling more than $63 billion. Rhode Island ranks ninth in the nation for the percentage of residents over 65 and fourth in the nation in terms of residents over age 75. In the Second Congressional District alone, over 105,000 people collect their Social Security benefits, which they and their families earned throughout their working lives. The Social Security checks our senior citizens receive have nearly eradicated senior poverty, and without them, half of the nation’s elderly would fall below the poverty level.
By 2033, the assets saved up in the Social Security trust funds are projected to be exhausted and only incoming payroll tax revenues will be available to pay benefits, resulting in lower average benefits per person.
Social Security will have to be reformed in order to make it fiscally sustainable. To that end, I am a cosponsor of H.R. 649, the Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act, which would phase out the Social Security payroll tax cap that benefits wealthier individuals and would restore the fund to 75-year solvency. Under this proposal, future Social Security Cost of Living Adjustments, or COLAs, would be based on the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly, which more accurately gauges the cost of living for seniors by placing a greater weight on the goods and services that seniors utilize, like housing and health care.
Oppose Efforts to Privatize Social Security and Reduce Benefits
While we must take serious steps to ensure the continued solvency of this program, I will not support legislation that cuts Social Security benefits and jeopardizes this important safety net. Creating private accounts would divert payroll taxes away from the trust fund, preventing Social Security from paying full benefits. Moreover, seniors are still recovering from the economic recession that decimated private retirement accounts and erased trillions in wealth. Social Security didn’t lose a dime during the financial crisis. America’s seniors deserve to be confident in the knowledge that their retirement savings will be available in the future, and not subject to the uncertainty of the financial markets.
Another concern expressed by seniors is the potential implementation of the Chained Consumer Price Index (Chained CPI), which would reduce the annual cost of living adjustments to Social Security benefits in the name of deficit reduction. I have signed multiple letters to the President and Congressional Leadership stating my opposition to these benefit cuts, and I am proud to have joined Congressman Cicilline in co-leading H.Con.Res. 34, a resolution opposing the use of the Chained CPI.
Support Equity in Social Security
All seniors should be treated fairly when it comes to retirement benefits, regardless of whether they have performed government service during their careers. I support the elimination of both the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) to ensure that retirees are not penalized simply because they may also be eligible for a government pension in addition to Social Security. Social Security is a commitment to all Americans, and the government must meet its obligations to everyone.
Encouraging Additional Savings
As traditional, employer-funded pension plans continue to shift toward contribution plans funded by workers, retirees need to have the tools necessary to better manage their assets during the savings phase and ensure that they do not outlive their income during retirement. Therefore, it is absolutely critical that Congress ensure that Americans have the resources necessary to achieve a financially secure retirement. I will support pro-growth tax policies that encourage individuals to save for retirement.