It is an outrage that Rand Paul is lying to the American people about Social Security.
In a bid to get some attention for his floundering presidential campaign, Mr. Paul recently went on the attack against Senator Bernie Sanders' Social Security Expansion Act. Without apparent irony, he said the Sanders proposal was a "disservice to the country" and claimed that the proposal "just means somebody else is paying for it and they're not showing you who's paying for it instead...If Social Security is short of money, you can't promise people more of it. You have to figure out how to do it with less money."
These uninformed lies about Senator Sanders' bill are just the latest in a long series of Sen. Paul's attacks on Social Security. Back in January, the Senator turned his outrage on Social Security disability benefits, claiming that "over half the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts. Join the club."
As I said at the time, Sen. Paul should be ashamed of himself for attacking Americans living with disabilities, many of whom are veterans. The fact is that America has one of the strictest disability standards in the developed world. Applying for benefits is a long and arduous process, and over two-thirds of initial applications are rejected. Even after appeal, less than 40 percent are approved. Those who are approved are Americans who suffer from serious medical conditions -- so serious that one in five men and nearly one in six women die within five years of being approved.
No person with serious and permanent disabilities, no child of a worker who has died, and no senior citizen, retired after a lifetime of work, is getting rich from Social Security. The average benefit for all beneficiaries is less than $14,700 per year, but they are essential for the vast majority of beneficiaries who receive them.
But it's not surprising that Senator Paul refuses to listen to the basic facts about Social Security. In 2013, Paul released a budget proposal that included raising the Social Security retirement age, which is a benefit cut of 6 to 7 percent for each year it goes up. His budget also began the process of turning Social Security over to Wall Street by creating private accounts.
In fact, Sanders' bill fully funds the expansion of Social Security, while restoring the program to long range actuarial balance. Currently, individuals who have over $118,500 a year in income do not have to pay into Social Security on that additional amount. This means that a member of the wealthiest one percent stops paying into Social Security in February 10th. Mr. Trump and other billionaires may stop paying on January 1! This is in contrast to 94 percent of the workforce who contribute to Social Security every pay period all year long. The Social Security Expansion Act corrects this inequity by gradually eliminating this cap (starting with those making over $250,000) so that everyone, even millionaires and billionaires, contribute their fair share.
Senator Sanders further funds the bill by closing another loophole that serves the wealthiest Americans: Unearned income, such as capital gains from stock market investments, is not currently subject to the payroll tax. Over half of all capital gains are earned by the wealthiest 0.1 percent. Most low and middle income workers have only their earned income, and therefore contribute to Social Security on all of their income. The Social Security Expansion Act would correct this inequity by applying the Social Security tax to unearned income over $250,000 so that the wealthiest among us pay fairly.
What would Senator Sanders do with this additional funding? In addition to restoring Social Security to long range balance, his bill expands Social Security's modest benefits in several important ways. Sen. Sanders would increase benefits across the board by about $65 a month. He would switch to the most accurate CPI-E, which more accurately reflects the high medical costs seniors face, to calculate cost of living adjustments. And he would provide a minimum Social Security benefit to ensure that seniors who worked hard to earn their retirement are not spending their remaining years in poverty.
Senator Sanders' bill and Senator Paul's plans present the American people with a stark choice: Dismantle Social Security and sell it off brick by brick to Wall Street, or protect and expand the system by increasing benefits for everyone. The people have made it clear where they stand. Polling has shown that 79 percent of Americans (including 73 percent of Republican voters) support expanding benefits. And they take this into consideration in the voting booth - 70 percent would be less likely to vote to reelect their member of Congress if that member supported Social Security cuts.
If you need any more evidence, just look at Senator Paul's poll numbers, which are averaging around 1 to 2 percent. Meanwhile, Senator Sanders' support has been surging for months. Cutting Social Security is terrible policy and terrible politics. If Rand and his fellow candidates, many of whom hold similar positions, were interested in the future of this nation they would listen to the American people, as it is they are interested in their political futures and so listen only to their super-rich donors.