Liberal groups push for tax increases to expand Social Security benefits

A coalition of liberal groups is pushing for tax increases to pay for an expansion of Social Security, bucking GOP calls to cut the program in order to shore up its finances. 

The groups admitted that most of the 10 changes they are advocating would deepen the funding problems facing Social Security, which will not be able to meet all its financial obligations after 2033.

The coalition calling for the changes includes the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, the National Organization for Women Foundation and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

The most costly of the proposals is an across-the-board benefit increase to make up for what the groups called inadequate cost-of-living increases. That proposal would increase Social Security's shortfall by 28 percent. 

Altering future cost of living increases would increase the shortfall by 13 percent, while crediting caregivers with years of work would add 9 percent to the shortfall.

Other proposals for expanding the entitlement program include providing a widow or widower with 75 percent of the couple's combined benefit, giving full benefits to gay and lesbian same-sex couples, and giving survivor benefits to college students, something Congress ended in 1981.

To correct the shortfall and pay for the expanded benefits, the groups called for a variety of payroll tax increases.

The coalition proposed eliminating the $110,100 cap on Social Security payroll contributions and slowly increasing the Social Security contribution rate by 1/40th of 1 percent over 20 years.

Republicans, in contrast, have pushed for allowing workers to opt for private accounts in lieu of Social Security. More recently, bipartisan deficit proposals such as the Bowles-Simpson plan have called for raising the retirement age, lowering the cost of living increase and means testing benefits for wealthier recipients. The groups oppose those changes.

“Social Security is not bankrupt or in crisis, and it can pay all promised benefits in full for the next 20 years, through 2033,” the groups say in a report. “In our view, this shortfall is manageable and resolvable.”