WASHINGTON ― In an unusual move, a small group of House Republicans has endorsed higher taxes as part of a bipartisan strategy to improve the long-term financing of Social Security retirement insurance.
“It’s the only bipartisan bill on Social Security reform that’s in the Congress right now,” said bill author Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.), speaking on the HuffPost Politics podcast “So That Happened.”
Listen to our interview with Ribble at the 38-minute mark:
Joined by four other Republicans and one Democrat, Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee, Ribble unveiled the legislation at a press conference outside the Capitol this week ― just before Congress adjourned for the rest of the summer.
It’s highly uncommon for Republicans to endorse any kind of tax increase, even if it’s paired with benefit cuts. It’s probably not a coincidence that Ribble and all of his GOP co-sponsors are leaving Congress at the end of this term.
Ribble told HuffPost that he thought some sort of reform would happen before he left. But he’s not on the House committee that oversees Social Security.
“I kept expecting somebody to do it,” he said. “I was expecting the committees to do it, but they didn’t.”
Social Security retirement insurance, which provides monthly benefits for 44 million older Americans, has enough money in its trust fund to cover those benefits until 2034. Through a combination of tax increases and benefit cuts ― mostly the latter ― Ribble’s legislation would make the program solvent for the next 75 years.
Social Security is funded by a payroll tax, but only the first $118,000 in wages is subject to the tax. Even though that limit is adjusted for inflation each year, thanks to income inequality the tax captures a lower percentage of overall earnings than it used to. Ribble’s bill would achieve about a third of its revenue by gradually lifting the cap to $308,750, at which point he said the tax would capture the same percentage of wages as it did when Ronald Reagan was president.
Nancy Altman is co-director of Social Security Works, a group that opposes any cuts to the program. She said she opposes Ribble’s bill, which would reduce benefits for some, in part by increasing the retirement age. But she welcomed the fact that even a few Republicans came out for raising the cap on the payroll tax.
“What he is proposing is something that should have been done decades ago,” Altman said.
“So That Happened” is hosted by Jason Linkins, Zach Carter and Arthur Delaney. Joining them this week: Wisconsin Rep. Reid Ribble; Tim Black, host of “The Tim Black At Night Show”; and Huffington Post reporters Dana Liebelson, Ryan Reilly and Lauren Weber.
This podcast was produced, edited and engineered by Christine Conetta.