At a time when lawmakers are trying to forge a compromise on reducing federal spending and control the rise in Social Security payments, Sen. Sherrod Brown is backing a bill that would increase Social Security benefits to seniors.
At a news conference Monday in Youngstown, Brown, D-Ohio, said he would co-sponsor a measure with a group of Senate Democrats that would increase Social Security monthly benefits to many recipients by $70 a month while requiring upper-income Americans to paying higher Social Security taxes.
Under current law, individuals pay Social Security taxes only on the first $113,700 they make. Aides to Brown said by lifting what has become known as an income cap above $113,700, the solvency of the Social Security would be extended beyond 2033, which is when the federal government projects the program would not collect enough taxes to pay promised benefits.
“The Serious People — with a capital S and a capital P — all have really good pensions and good health care and good salaries,” Brown said in an interview with the Washington Post. “Raise the cap. There are ways we can bring a lot of money into Social Security. Some Democrats are a bit cowed by the Serious People.”
Although the measure has little chance of winning congressional approval, Brown told the Post that “the situation for seniors is only going to get worse, because the assault on pensions and wages is making it more and more difficult for a worker to save for the future.
“Why are we having a debate over how much we are going to hurt seniors?’’ Brown asked. “The debate should be over how we should structure a pension for seniors that will help them. Why would we play on their playing field? Democrats need to play offense here. Force Republicans to say what it is they really want to do. Republicans just don’t like social insurance.”
Nearly 60 million Americans receive Social Security. The federal government this year is projected to spend $809 billion on Social Security this year, which is roughly one-fourth of the annual federal budget.
Most analysts contend that without restraining the growth of Social Security, Medicare and other entitlements, the government would have to massively increase taxes on all Americans to balance the federal budget.
But while Brown told the Post that “a third of seniors rely on Social Security for virtually their entire income,’’ a fresh report by the Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis contends that between 1989 and 2010, the median family income increased at a far higher rate for older families than younger families.
In addition, the report concluded “virtually all of the data that has become available since the’’ 2007 recession “suggests that older families have fared better than young families both during the recent period of economic and financial weakness and during longer periods of greater economic and financial strength.’’