Monthly Column: The Status of Social Security
Today, Social Security celebrates eight decades of providing economic security for America's workers and their families. Social Security has provided a strong safety net - easing pressure on families, reducing uncertainty and keeping millions of Americans out of poverty. It's hard to imagine how different retirement was when my Dad was a young boy, before Social Security. Now, like millions of Americans, it's an important part of his retirement security.
Social Security faces increasing financial challenges as Baby Boomers retire in large numbers, straining the system. Congress has a duty to protect Social Security for all those who have paid into the system throughout their lives, and we must not be afraid to confront the realities the program will face in the coming decades.
Social Security is a sacred pact our government has made with its citizens. As an earned benefit, we must keep our promises to today's retirees and to those nearing retirement, who have planned their futures with it in mind. And we must work to make the program sustainable for future generations. Any serious discussions of reform needs to begin with making sure all these people are secure.
Last week, the Social Security Trustees report released updated numbers on the financial condition of the program, indicating a diminished or depleted program by 2035. The message from the Trustees report is clear: we must take steps now to fix Social Security or face dire consequences.
Considering that any discussion of Social Security reform has long been called the “third rail of politics,” the real question is whether anyone-Republican, Democrat, liberal or conservative-will have the courage to address reform in a bipartisan and comprehensive way? Frankly, we need to find that courage soon or risk watching this great program implode over the next several decades until it is no more.
Recently, Members of Congress demonstrated bipartisan cooperation with members from both sides of the aisle coming together to solve the annual “doc fix” issue that has plagued Medicare since 2001. Every year, a formula that determines how doctors get paid for seeing Medicare patients was threatened with cuts that could compromise the care our seniors receive, with some providers unable to afford helping Medicare patients at all. Instead of fixing the problem, federal lawmakers had repeatedly settled for last-minute deals to avert a crisis. I am proud to be part of the Congress that finally solved this problem once and for all.
We must now look for similar opportunities to come together on Social Security and ensure the program's solvency long-term. As stated earlier, while those who are retired and nearing retirement should be exempt from any potential changes - Republicans and Democrats need to be open to solutions like gradually raising the retirement age for young workers entering the workforce, like my 17 year old daughter and 25 year old son. I discussed that issue during my campaign last year and both seniors and younger people agree that it is something worthy of consideration.
We also need to prevent politicians from "borrowing" from the Trust Fund and using those monies to pay for things unrelated to Social Security. To that end, another item for bipartisan discussion would be some kind of lock box to prevent any future raiding of the Social Security Trust Fund. Perhaps most important of all, we must take steps to improve our economy and allow more people to work in full time, good paying jobs. This will do more to strengthen social security than anything else.
Bipartisan solutions need to happen now and I’m ready to work with anyone on this inherently nonpartisan issue. Protecting our promise is not intrinsically Republican or Democrat – it’s just the right thing to do.