Several years ago, Atrios began a campaign to try to protect the status quo for Social Security against a burgeoning austerity fetish. He pointed out that instead of talking about cutting the program, we needed to be expanding it. The idea was to stake out a far left position giving Democrats political room to simply fight off proposed cuts and leave the program be. But a funny thing happened: elected Democrats took up the call. Now there's a concerted effort, supported by one member of Senate leadership, to expand Social Security and to actually provide some folks with more generous benefits. Greg Sargent reports.
Today, I’m told, Senate Democrats will introduce a proposal to expand Social Security benefits for certain groups—and it is picking up the support of a member of the Democratic leadership, Senator Patty Murray of Washington State. Senator Mark Begich of Alaska will take the lead on the proposal, and he and Murray will speak about it on the Senate floor this afternoon.Sargent has Murray's prepared remarks which include the point activists have been making for a while now: "Wages have stayed flat—or even declined for some. And fewer companies offer the kinds of generous pension plans that used to help so many workers stay financially secure." To do so, Murray argues, Congress needs to "make some common sense updates to ensure our Social Security system is doing everything possible to help seniors and their families."
The new proposal is called the Retirement and Income Security Enhancements Act, or RAISE Act, and it would increase benefits specifically for groups who have seen their retirement security eroded by recent economic trends such as the transition to two-earner families, stagnating wages, declining savings, and the erosion of pensions. It would increase benefits for many divorced spouses, and widows and widowers, and would extend benefit eligibility for some children of retired, disabled or deceased workers—to be paid for by a two-percent payroll tax on earnings over $400,000, which is also designed to help shore up the program’s long-term finances.
This legislation is a very good start to solving the retirement crisis millions of older Americans face. It's good politics, too. As Mark Begich—running for re-election this year—says, "Are we for or against helping seniors have a dignified life in their later years? I'm for that."