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Will Retirees TRUST Romney Plan For Social Security?

Romney

Romney warned that without legislative action, the Medicare Hospital Insurance, Social Security Disability Insurance, and Social Security Old-Age and Survivors Insurance — would be exhausted in the next 13 years.

By Al Norman

At the end of October, U.S. Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, filed legislation called the Time to Rescue United States’ Trusts (TRUST) Act, which, according to Romney, “would create congressional committees specifically tasked to develop legislation to restore and strengthen endangered federal trust funds.”

Romney warned that without legislative action, the Medicare Hospital Insurance, Social Security Disability Insurance, and Social Security Old-Age and Survivors Insurance — would be exhausted in the next 13 years. “We must put in place a responsible process now,” Romney said, “to prevent dramatic cuts to programs like Social Security and Medicare or be forced to enact massive tax hikes down the road, both of which would be devastating to middle class Americans.”

According to Romney, here is how the TRUST bill would work:

Social Security♦ The U.S. Treasury would have 45 days upon passage of the legislation to deliver to Congress a report of the government’s major, endangered federal trust funds.

Congressional leaders would appoint members to serve on “Rescue Committees” — one per trust fund — with the mandate to draft legislation that restores solvency and otherwise improves each trust fund program.

♦ Rescue Committees would ensure bipartisan consensus by requiring at least two members of each party to report legislation.

♦ If a Rescue Committee reports a qualifying bill for its trust fund program, it would receive expedited consideration in both chambers. While 60 votes would be required to invoke cloture for final passage in the Senate, only a simple majority would be needed for the motion to proceed, which would be privileged.

Elder rights groups were quick to respond. “The last thing America’s retirees need is Sen. Mitt Romney’s hands on their future Social Security benefits,” warned Max Richtman, head of the National Committee To Protect Social Security and Medicare. “Romney’s proposed TRUST act aims to establish ‘rescue committees’ for federal trust funds, including Social Security. These committees would operate outside of regular order and their recommendations would be fast-tracked to the Senate floor. We need only to look to recent history to determine what Romney has in mind.”

Seven years ago, when Romney ran for president with running mate Paul Ryan, he proposed a plan to raise the Social Security Retirement Age, and slow the growth in benefits for some retirees. As Speaker, Ryan proposed the privatization of Social Security. Richtman charges that Romney’s plan “would set up a process that puts benefits at risk, forcing millions of older Americans onto a pathway toward poverty.”

“Politicians don’t shut the doors when they’re trying to do something popular,” explained the group Social Security Works in an online petition to oppose Romney’s bill. “That’s why when members of Congress want to cut Social Security, they propose doing so in a ‘fast-track’ process behind closed doors where they won’t have to shoulder the blame.”

Several months ago, I wrote about another piece of legislation filed by Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-VT, the Social Security 2100 Act, which would keep Social Security solvent for more than 75 years without raising the retirement age, and without cutting benefits. This bill increases the cost of living adjustments by using a measure called the CPI-E, which tracks expenses for households where at least one member is 62.

The 2100 Act also increases the maximum wage base subject to the Social Security payroll tax. Currently, you pay Social Security taxes on the first $132,900 in wages or self-employment income. Amounts above that are not subject to Social Security taxes. The 2100 Act raises payroll taxes on wages over $400,000.  The bill also raises the limit for non-Social Security income — like employment wages for people on Social Security who still work — before benefits begin to be taxed. The new limits would go to $50,000 for individuals and $100,000 for couples, up from the current $25,000 and $32,000 thresholds.

Romney’s TRUST Act has an ironic title, because I think its main opposition will come from voters who don’t trust Romney’s plan will help them. Politicians have been telling us for decades that we can’t afford to give retired workers a decent Social Security plan. At the same time, Americans are not making enough to save privately for their retirement years, and fewer workers have a pension at work that amounts to anything. There is no “three-legged stool” for retirement. Most workers will rely mostly on Social Security in their retirement years. The TRUST plan simply is not something worth trusting.

Cut and paste this column, and email it to your federal members of the House and Senate. Look them up online by their name. Each website has a “contact us” page where you can paste in this column.

Al Norman worked in the elder home care field in Massachusetts for 38 years. He can be reached at: alnormaneldercare@gmail.com.

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