Democrats introduce bill to expand Social Security

Last week, on the 137th birthday of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Representative John B. Larson, Democrat of Connecticut introduced the Social Security 2100 Act in what would be the first major expansion of Social Security since 1972.  After years of Republican efforts to cut back on Social Security benefits, this ambitious plan would expand benefits while keeping it solvent through the rest of this century.  The New Deal-era social insurance program is the most successful and popular government program ever and large majorities of both parties support it’s expansion.  The measure embodies Democrats’ vision of social insurance at a time when many people have no private pension and meager savings.

The bill would provide an across-the-board benefit increase equivalent to about 2 percent of the average Social Security benefit. It would raise the annual cost-of-living adjustment to reflect the fact that older Americans tend to use more of some services like health care. And it would increase the minimum benefit to ensure that workers with many years of low earnings do not retire into poverty.

The bill would cut federal income taxes on Social Security benefits for about 12 million middle-income people while raising taxes elsewhere. The payroll tax rate would rise to 14.8 percent over the next 24 years, from 12.4 percent, and the payroll tax would be imposed on earnings over $400,000 a year.

Nonpartisan actuaries at the Social Security Administration say that the program will soon be spending more than it takes in and that the trust funds for retirement and disability benefits will be depleted by 2034 if Congress makes no changes.

By contrast, under Mr. Larson’s bill, Social Security would be solvent — “able to pay all scheduled benefits in full on a timely basis” — for 75 years, and after that its financial condition would be improving, according to projections by Stephen C. Goss, the chief actuary of Social Security.