Throughout history, many societies have provided for the vulnerable – the unemployed, the sick, the disabled, the elderly, and the widowed. In ancient times, the Greeks stockpiled olive oil. And here in the United States, we have Social Security.
My grandmother is 90 years old and still drives (go, Grandma!). When she was born, Social Security didn’t exist. Can you imagine? If we didn’t have Social Security, over 44 percent of our seniors would currently live in poverty. Lucky for my grandmother and for all of our senior citizens, President Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law 81 years ago today, marking the first-ever federal assistance program for the elderly.
Unfortunately, Social Security isn’t fulfilling its promise to provide for our seniors. Each year, Social Security benefits are supposed to be adjusted to keep up with inflation. But in reality, these Social Security cost-of-living-adjustments (COLAs) have fallen short. That’s because the COLA is based upon the cost of living for working people, who spend more on things like gas, whereas retirees spend more on things like healthcare. So, over the past 40 years, seniors have been cheated out of billions and billions of dollars of their earned benefits.
The solution is simple: Social Security COLAs should reflect how seniors spend their money. Fortunately, we already have such a formula— it’s called the CPI-E – Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (although I like to call it, “Experienced”). Last year, seniors received a 0% COLA – that’s right – not one red cent. Zippo. Nada. Zilch. If the CPI-E had been used, seniors would have gotten a 2.9% raise.
We also must ensure the long-term viability of Social Security for future generations. Most Americans pay 6.2% of their income for Social Security tax. However, the Social Security tax only applies to the first $118,500 of income (the so-called “cap”). So, millionaires and billionaires end up paying much less than 6.2% of what they make. That’s not fair. Everyone, even the rich, should have to pay the same percentage of Social Security taxes as everyone else.
Some worry that Social Security will go broke. But we cannot let that happen. If we “scrap the cap” on Social Security taxes then Social Security will remain solvent forever. In Congress, I will fight to make sure that the rich pay their fair share of Social Security taxes so that senior citizens continue to receive their earned benefits.
Eighty years ago today, FDR enacted Social Security as part of the New Deal. In Congress, I will demand a New Millennial Deal that takes care of our most vulnerable Americans, including our seniors. I will fight to give our seniors a raise by requiring that the Social Security COLA be calculated using the CPI-E.
Help me fight for a New Millennial Deal so that we can fulfill our promise to provide for our seniors. After all, our parents and grandparents took care of us, and now it’s our turn to take care of them.
Dr. Dena Grayson