Huffington Post: A Bipartisan Plan to Protect Social Security

I’m not willing to let Social Security be one of the many things that Congress fails to address. Hardworking Americans should not be asked to continue paying the price of gridlock.

Last week, Huffington Post ran an op-ed by Nancy Altman on my Social Security Commission Act. The op-ed contained multiple false statements and claims about my positions, my legislation, and me that should be corrected.

I agree with Ms. Altman that Social Security is vital and that the program’s benefits are more important than ever. That’s precisely why I’ve proudly introduced this legislation in each of my three terms in Congress. The legislation would create a bipartisan commission for the purpose of making sure Social Security is solvent and capable of delivering benefits for the next 75 years.

My legislation is modeled after the Greenspan Commission from the 1980s, which modernized Social Security and made sure that the program would be there for those that depend upon it. That commission was a success – Social Security was strengthened for fifty years and the poverty rate among seniors has continued to drop. My bipartisan commission would consult with experts, look at the facts, and reach a consensus. Then Congress would debate the proposal and give it an up or down vote. If their proposal is a bad one, Congress would surely reject it. If they come up with a sound solution to Social Security’s inevitable fiscal crunch, Congress would pass it, and the country will benefit.

It is a sign of how broken politics is that Ms. Altman’s organization wrongfully lambasts a straightforward, commonsense bill that has only one goal: ensuring the fiscal health of this wonderful program so that we can avoid drastic benefit cuts. Isn’t that what we are supposed to do?

As I have stated many times, Social Security is not broken. Social Security is not a pyramid scheme. Social Security should not be privatized. My legislation is grounded in the facts that the Social Security Trustees have made abundantly clear for years: the ratio of retirees to workers has increased, and people are living longer. In the short term, Social Security is in stable condition, but the Trustees have stated that Social Security will only be able to pay out full benefits until 2035. I believe to my core that letting drastic benefit cuts take place because we lacked the courage to solve this problem would be immoral. That’s why I’m proud to author this bill.

In the era of Trump, it’s more important than ever to attack falsehoods and defend the truth, so let’s set the record straight. I want to specifically highlight three items from Altman’s op-ed that just aren’t true. First, Altman’s column begins by framing my legislation as being filed with the debt ceiling debate this fall in mind. In truth, I have introduced this legislation during each Congress that I’ve been in office, first filing the bill in 2014, then again in 2015, then again this summer. I suspect she knows this, because her organization has criticized my bill for years. There is nothing related to the debt ceiling in my legislation.

Second, Altman states repeatedly that my legislation would inevitably lead to cuts to Social Security. This is a baseless and contradictory prediction on her part. Indeed, one of her premises is that no reasonable politician would ever countenance such a policy. But this claim is dead wrong and contrary to how the bill actually works. My legislation would require a supermajority of the commission agree on a recommendation – a provision specifically put into the bill to avoid extreme one-party approaches being rammed through.

My legislation clearly states that the commission would consist of 13 members, six appointed by the majority party, six by the minority party, and one member appointed by the President. But before ANY proposal from the commission could even be considered by Congress, nine commission members would need to agree to the proposal. In this way, the bill eliminates the possibility of producing legislation only supported by Republicans. For commission recommendations to go to Congress, the proposal would have to be supported by multiple appointees placed on the commission by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. This is a crucial part of the legislation that I cannot stress enough; the legislation calls for doing the opposite of what Altman says.

Thirdly, Altman falsely claims that under my legislation there would be no congressional hearings. Actually, the bill does provide for hearings. After the commission makes their recommendation, the committees of jurisdiction would have the opportunity to report the bill out of committee. Should the committees not approve of the bill, they could report the bill unfavorably or with no recommendation, effectively recommending that Members vote against the bill.

Given the personal nature of the attacks in the piece, I would be remiss not to state clearly my personal beliefs on this issue. I believe justice and fairness should be the basis for any adjustments to Social Security, with special consideration for the most vulnerable. My desire to create a commission is rooted in my view that we need a process in place that will make this possible. If we fail to act, future generations will pay a heavy price. If we demand a one-party solution, we all but ensure that Social Security benefits will be cut in two decades.

Social Security’s annual deficit is relatively small, and the following changes could be made to both strengthen and expand the program and make sure that it is able to operate for the long term. If I were serving on the commission, I would recommend the following: 1) increase the taxable maximum and add a second threshold for very high-incomes so that wealthier Americans pay more into the system; 2) improve the benefits formula so that the recipients with the greatest need receive higher benefits through strengthening the special minimum benefit and or other changes; 3) enhance benefits for the very old; 4) adjust the inflation calculation to reflect more accurately price changes that seniors must deal with; and 5) value caregivers by providing those who care for a dependent relative without monetary compensation credit under the benefits computation.

Some argue that Democrats should not be introducing any legislation on Social Security. “Leave it alone” people say, or “it won’t be a problem for over a decade and it’s a good political issue for us.” I didn’t run for office to ignore important issues. The importance of this program should not be overlooked for one second by any policymaker. My dad worked as an electrician for sixty years to earn his retirement benefits, just like over sixty million Americans who receive Social Security benefits each year.

I believe the “cost of doing nothing is not nothing.” Our failure to deal with so many problems – infrastructure, climate change, minimum wage – is the result of hyper-partisan politics that is threatening our representative democracy and is preventing the federal government from helping people. I’m not willing to let Social Security be one of the many things that Congress fails to address. Hardworking Americans should not be asked to continue paying the price of gridlock.

I am running for President because we need an honest conversation about the facts, we need to focus on the future, and we need to come together as a nation and get government working for hard-working Americans instead of for the rich, for the connected, and for the Washington lobbying and advocacy crowd.