The Social Security Debate Is About More Than Politics

To read some of the headlines over the past few weeks, it is clear that the chattering class in Washington is once again trying to scare the American public about the future of Social Security. These fear-mongers would have you believe that Social Security is driving our nation further into debt, and forcing us to choose between our seniors and their grandchildren. But these arguments are nothing more than worn out attacks on our nation's most successful social program based on false information and half-truths.

The reality is that nationwide we face an acute retirement crisis, and it is only getting worse. The retirement income deficit -- that is, the difference between what people have actually saved for retirement and what they need to have saved at this point to have a secure retirement -- is a staggering $6.6 trillion.

Hardworking Americans of all ages -- from young people starting a family to older workers thinking about retirement -- are deeply worried that they will not have enough money to live on when they stop working. They find it difficult to save, and most lack an employer-provided pension. They look to Social Security as their only reliable lifeline.

That's why earlier this year I introduced legislation that would increase Social Security benefits modestly while extending the life of the Social Security Trust Fund through the year 2049. My proposal does so by:

• Boosting benefits for all Social Security beneficiaries by approximately $70 per month;
• Changing the way the Social Security Administration calculates the Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) to ensure that seniors are able to better keep up with rising costs;
• Phasing out the current taxable cap of $113,700 so that payroll taxes apply fairly to every dollar of wages, ensuring that wealthy Americans and working Americans pay into the Social Security Trust fund at the same rate.

As this legislation demonstrates, we do not have to choose between our seniors and young Americans. After all, by law, Social Security cannot contribute one dime to the deficit today, or in the future.

But here in Washington, so-called "serious" people are determined to slash Social Security benefits, and place the burden of deficit reduction on the backs of senior citizens. In fact, the Washington Post previously called using chained CPI, a pernicious Social Security cut, "an easy way to save money." But just because something is easy does not make it right.

It is not right when someone making $40,000 a year pays into Social Security at a far higher rate than someone making $200,000 a year. And it is certainly not right for some to argue that Social Security in in crisis when the Social Security Trust Fund has enough money to pay out full benefits until 2033, and 75 percent of benefits thereafter.

This is not some budget abstraction; this is about who we are as a nation. Do we believe that after a lifetime of hard work you should be left to fend for yourself in retirement? Or do we believe that, as a country, we should ensure that our seniors can retire with dignity?