WASHINGTON, Sept. 14 - Sen. Bernie Sanders today introduced legislation to strengthen Social Security by applying the payroll tax that most Americans already pay to those with annual incomes above $250,000.
The measure is cosponsored by Sens. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).
Rep. Peter DeFazio introduced the companion bill in the House. He joined Sanders and other senators at a Capitol Hill press conference where they also voiced concern that Social Security benefits are in jeopardy as a powerful new congressional super committee looks for ways to cut deficits by up to $1.5 trillion over the next decade.
"We are here today to send a loud and clear message to this super committee: do not cut Social Security," Sanders said.
Under the proposed legislation, the wealthiest Americans would pay the same payroll tax already assessed on those with incomes up to $106,800 a year. Social Security officials have calculated that the simple change would keep the retirement program strong for another 75 years.
The legislation also follows through on a proposal that President Barack Obama made in 2008 when he was running for the White House.
"Social Security is the most successful government program in our nation's history. For 76 years, through good times and bad, Social Security has paid out every benefit owed to every eligible American," Sander said. "The most effective way to strengthen Social Security for the next 75 years is to eliminate the cap on the payroll tax on income above $250,000. Right now, someone who earns $106,800 pays the same amount of money into Social Security as a billionaire. That makes no sense. The Keeping Our Social Security Promises Act will ensure the long-term solvency of Social Security without cutting benefits or raising taxes on the middle class."
Since it was signed into law 76 years ago, Social Security has kept millions of senior citizens, widows, widowers, orphans, and the disabled out of poverty. Before Social Security, about half of senior citizens lived in poverty. Today, less than 10 percent live in poverty and more than 53 million Americans receive retirement or disability benefits.
The most successful government program in our nation's history has not contributed one dime to the federal deficit. It has a $2.5 trillion surplus, and it can pay out every nickel owed to every eligible American for at least the next 25 years, according to the Social Security Administration. A recent report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that Social Security is in even better financial shape and can pay all promised benefits until 2038.