On Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) gave a speech at the National Press Club in which he laid out his sweeping proposal to confront the nation’s retirement security crisis through cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Widely viewed as a potential candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, his speech followed comments aired last Sunday in which he said that he felt he was qualified to be president.
He began the speech by laying out policy changes involving retirement savings plans and incentives for older workers to remain in the workforce. The core of Senator Rubio's proposal for Social Security, however, is to raise the retirement age- a move that would force millions of Americans to work even longer to collect the benefits they have earned. Although Senator Rubio cited the “rise in life expectancy” as the rationale for this change, his proposal would disproportionately harm low-income and minority seniors who have not seen their life expectancies rise in step with other workers.
Senator Rubio also used to the speech to endorse Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) proposal to end the Medicare guarantee by privatizing the program and converting it to a voucher system. Under the proposed changes, Medicare would be replaced by a system in which seniors would be given a voucher redeemable towards the purchase of either private insurance or a modified Medicare plan. Since these vouchers would almost certainly fail to cover the full cost of coverage, seniors would be expected to make up the difference out of pocket. Adopting such a system would result in millions of seniors paying more for coverage.
Tony Fransetta, President of the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, responded to the proposal by saying,
Senator Rubio is once again politically posturing himself while ignoring the real needs of Florida retirees and working families. I am insulted that he is pitting older generations against younger ones and trying to convince my grandkids to settle for less than what they deserve, which is a secure retirement that they earn through their work.There is a sharp contrast between Sen. Rubio's proposal and the vision offered by Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. Linda Sanchez, who introduced the Strengthening Social Act. Rather than trying to improve Social Security by forcing Americans to work longer, their proposal would enhance benefit calculations, provide a more accurate method for calculating cost of living adjustments, and see all workers, including the very wealthy, pay their fair share into the system. Their proposal would actually provide a modest increase in benefits and extend the life of the Social Security Trust fund.
Sen. Rubio claims his proposals are designed to improve the nation's retirement security crisis, but in reality they would only make things worse. If his ideas are adopted, Americans will be forced to work for years longer and see more of their hard-earned retirement income going to cover out of pocket medical costs.