Inflation has made buying gas, food and other goods painful for many Americans, but for seniors living on fixed Social Security benefits the skyrocketing prices are especially brutal.
To combat the shortfall many seniors are experiencing, a newly-proposed bill would add $200 per month – or $2,400 annually – to recipients’ Social Security payments.
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced the Social Security Expansion Act last week, which is designed to boost benefits and create a safety net to keep Social Security solvent through the year 2096.
“At a time when half of older Americans have no retirement savings and millions of senior citizens are living in poverty, our job is not to cut Social Security,” said Sen. Sanders.
Social Security recipients get a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) once a year, with a bump of 5.9% for 2022. That increase, however, may not keep pace with this year’s soaring inflation numbers. In May, the consumer price index jumped a staggering 8.6% over the same month last year, the largest increase in the cost of consumer staples in four decades.
The bill also comes in the wake of the Social Security Administration’s grim projection that Social Security funds will run out by 2035.
The legislation would fund Social Security by raising taxes on high-income individuals.
“If you are a multi-billionaire, you pay the same amount of money into Social Security as someone who makes $147,000 a year,” Sanders said last week.
High earners don’t currently pay any additional Social Security tax on any money made above the $147,000 level. The bill would raise the income tax cap, but DeFazio says the additional taxes would only affect the top 7% of earners in the country.
“As a trained gerontologist, I have devoted my career to protecting and expanding programs that are vital to seniors,” DeFazio said in a news release for the bill.
“One of my highest priorities is protecting Social Security, which millions of Americans rely on, including hundreds of thousands of Oregonians. With the cost of living at an all-time high, Social Security has never been more important, yet Congressional Republicans continue to play games with its funding.”
The bill would also restore benefits eliminated in 1983 that are designed to help full-time students whose parents who are disabled or have died.
The proposed legislation is already encountering resistance from Republicans on the Hill.
Prominent Republican senators including Mitt Romney and Lindsey Graham called the bill a non-starter for every GOP member of Congress.
Graham agreed that Social Security needs more revenue to remain viable, but added that “if you think taxing the wealthy is going to save Social Security, you’re wrong.”
Romney maintains that any effort to save Social Security that doesn’t have bipartisan support is doomed to fail.
Experts on the viability of Social Security say taking action now is necessary to preserve the benefit for younger generations.