On Social Security, Democrats are listening to the people. Will Republicans follow?
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Over eighty percent of the Democratic caucus of the House of Representatives – 157 members – are original sponsors of Rep. John Larson’s (D-Conn.) Social Security 2100 Act. The bill expands benefits without any cuts whatsoever. Aptly named, the Social Security 2100 Act ensures that all Social Security benefits, including the expansions, will be paid in full and on time through the end of this century and beyond.

Expanding, without cutting, Social Security is extremely wise policy. It is a solution to a number of challenges facing our nation. It is a solution to the looming retirement income crisis, where too many working Americans accurately fear that they will never be able to retire and maintain their standards of living. As the most efficient, universal, fair, and secure part of the nation’s patchwork retirement income system, the expansion of Social Security is a solution to that looming crisis. 

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Expanding Social Security is also a solution to the growing economic squeeze on families, as well as to increasing and perilous income inequality. Throughout its history, Social Security has provided working families with basic economic security. In doing so, it has helped to build the middle class and establish a fairer society, where all of us together share risks and responsibilities. An expanded Social Security would strengthen the middle class, while providing all working families with greater economic security.

Social Security’s one shortcoming is that its benefits are extremely modest by virtually any standard. The Larson bill increases Social Security’s modest benefits for all of today’s sixty million Social Security beneficiaries and all who will follow. In addition, the Larson bill increases Social Security’s minimum benefit to ensure that those who work hard and contribute their entire lives will not retire into poverty. 

Importantly, the legislation ensures that Social Security’s benefits do not erode over time as the result of inadequate cost of living adjustments. The Larson bill uses the CPI-E, a more accurate measure of the inflation seniors and people with disabilities actually experience. This improvement is particularly important to women who have longer average life expectancies, as well as members of the armed services and others who become disabled at young ages and must depend on Social Security for long periods.

In addition, the Larson bill simplifies and streamlines Social Security by combining its two trust funds into one. After all, Social Security’s retirement, survivor, and disability benefits are intertwined, deriving from a single benefit formula. It makes perfect sense that all of these benefits should be paid from a single trust fund. 

The movement to expand Social Security is picking up steam in Congress. In the last Congress, Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenOvernight Finance: Lawmakers grill Equifax chief over hack | Wells Fargo CEO defends bank's progress | Trump jokes Puerto Rico threw budget 'out of whack' | Mortgage tax fight tests industry clout Michelle Obama is exactly who the Democrats need to win big in 2020 Wells Fargo chief defends bank's progress in tense Senate hearing MORE (D-Mass.) and  Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Energy: EPA aims to work more closely with industry Overnight Finance: Lawmakers grill Equifax chief over hack | Wells Fargo CEO defends bank's progress | Trump jokes Puerto Rico threw budget 'out of whack' | Mortgage tax fight tests industry clout Lawmakers try again on miners’ pension bill MORE (D-W.Va.) teamed up on an amendment resolving to expand, not cut, Social Security. Every Democratic senator present but two voted in favor.  Unfortunately, all Republicans present voted against. 

Also, last Congress about a dozen pieces of legislation expanding, without cutting, Social Security were introduced, though none with Republican co-sponsors. And now, Larson has re-introduced his legislation, together with more than eighty percent of his Democratic colleagues. He is hopeful that this will become a bipartisan bill. It should.

The American people overwhelmingly support expanding Social Security. This is true for those who are registered as Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. It is true for those who self-identify as members of the Tea Party, those who are members of unions, and those who self-identify as progressive.    

It is no surprise that Social Security has such broad and deep support. It embodies basic American values, including reward for hard work, protection of one’s family, shared and compassionate responsibilities toward ourselves, our families, and our neighbors, and prudent, responsible management of resources. In short, it embodies the fact that, as one nation, we are united, sharing our risks and responsibilities.

The Democratic Party, which created Social Security and has been its champion over its history, understands its importance. Its leaders understand that they are representing the will of the people in their support for expanding, not cutting, Social Security. In stark contrast, the leaders of the Republican Party are out of touch on this issue even with the base of their own party.

Given the sharp difference, at least, now, between the two parties and the fundamental importance of Social Security to our nation, the question of whether to expand or cut benefits is likely to be an important issue in the midterm elections, when seniors will vote in disproportionately large numbers. That would be a disaster for Republicans.

But the GOP could avert this, by accepting Larson’s offer to his Republican colleagues to co-sponsor the Social Security 2100 Act. Once the idea of expanding, not cutting Social Security becomes bipartisan, it could be easily enacted. That would be profoundly wise policy and exceptionally winning politics.

Nancy Altman is president of Social Security Works.


The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.