Another Democratic Senator has now joined the push for a proposal that had previously been mostly debated in the blogosphere, far outside the boundaries of acceptable discourse: Increasing Social Security benefits, rather than cutting them.It deserves more attention. Lots of attention. As does Merkley, who comes from a blue state, but will have a well-financed Republican opponent this year, as he faces his first re-election.
Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon announced his support for increasing Social Security benefits in a release after a committee hearing he chaired yesterday on retirement security, but it has gotten little to no attention.
Please read below the fold for more on this story.
From Merkley's statement:
Too many Americans are concerned they will never be able to afford to retire. Through Social Security, we can and should put a comfortable retirement within reach of more hardworking Americans. With traditional pensions available to fewer people and ordinary families facing risks and difficulties in saving enough for retirement through 401(k)s and IRAs, the landscape of retirement is changing and we must act. It’s time to give seniors a modest raise and change cost-of-living adjustments to reflect the real costs seniors face.Because:
Social Security today provides nearly 40 percent of income for seniors and disabled Americans and creates a safety net for workers and their families. Among seniors who receive Social Security benefits, 23 percent of married couples and about 46 percent of single persons rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income.At the hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Economic Policy, which Merkley chairs, Oregon State Treasurer Ted Wheeler explained that without Social Security, his state's senior poverty rate would be a staggering 40 percent. We need more Social Security, not less.
This puts Merkley in a small but growing camp that is advocating for an idea, first put forward by Dem Senator Mark Begich of Alaska, that would lift or change the payroll tax cap, meaning higher earners would pay more, while adopting a new measure for inflation that would increase benefits for all seniors. That measure is rooted in the idea, as Merkley put it in his release, that “seniors are more likely than others to spend large percentages of their income on costs that have risen faster than inflation, such as housing and medical care.”And he noted that the list of supporters for increasing benefits now includes Senators Begich, Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT). This must be but the beginning. This movement must prevail.