Talk about strange bill-fellows!
HR 860 (Social Security 2100 Act) has gained the endorsement of former Republican Congressman Mark Meadows. A founder of the House Freedom Caucus in 2015, Meadows was just named White House Chief of Staff by President Donald Trump.
This same House bill to modernize Social Security is co-sponsored by Democrat Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. She has hundreds of thousands of contributors in her active quest for the Democrat Party’s nomination for President in the November general election.
Unfortunately, the bill is held up in the House Ways and Means, House Education and Labor, and House Energy and Commerce committees.
Despite hundreds of supporters for passage of the bill, the Speaker of the House has not called for a vote in more than a year.
HR 860 establishes the Social Security Trust Fund to replace the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund and the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund.
- It would provide an immediate increase for beneficiaries equal to 2% of the average benefit
- HR 860 would set the minimum benefit at 25% above the poverty line
- The law would change the way the annual cost-of-living adjustment is calculated to include medical and other expenses significant for seniors..
- The plan raises the limits on non-Social Security income before benefits begin to be taxed. The new caps would go to $50,000 for individuals and $100,000 for couples, up from the current (1986 original) $25,000 and $32,000. This includes mandated RMDs, which cause double taxation for many.
To pay for those changes to sustain the system through the end of the 21st century, the plan would also apply payroll taxes to wages more than $400,000, and gradually increase the contribution rate for both workers and employers to 7.4% from 6.2% of wages between 2020 and 2043.
This bill is backed by groups including the AFL-CIO, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare and Social Security Works.
Rep. John Larson, D-Conn is spearheading the effort to pass this real reform. He currently has 202 members of the House ready to vote for it. He has also talked to Ivanka Trump and others in the White House and hopes for bipartisan support.
One needed area of support to get the bill passed will be the Senate, as well as the president. There are indications that the administration is at least considering the issue, Larson said.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has also met with the bill’s supporters several times and she likes the approach.
But the big surprise is the support for the measure by Conservative leader Mark Meadows.
The plot thickens when you realize Meadows replaced Mick Mulvaney as Chief of Staff.
Mulvaney has publicly pushed for radical benefit cuts to Social Security and Medicare as recently as two weeks ago. He was a co-founder of Freedom Works with Meadows, and the two began with the same negative views on so-called “entitlements”, but now find themselves on opposite sides.
When Trump exiled Mulvaney to Northern Ireland last week and brought in Meadows it provided a great relief to advocates for seniors.
After hearing from his mother last year on how crucial Social Security benefits and Medicare are to her budget, Meadows changed his mind in October, last year, and said he plans to work with Larson to come up with a Social Security fix.
“It is a bipartisan issue,” Meadows said in an interview
The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) is encouraging its members to raise the issue at debates and town halls. Passing HR 860 has been a taboo subject for media reporters so far this primary season.
Meanwhile, Mulvaney’s enthusiasm to take away people’s earned benefits mirrors the motives of Mitch McConnell, who has called for Social Security and Medicare to be “adjusted” (destroyed). However, the Senate Majority Leader has met his match with Meadows, who will wield significant power as WH Chief of Staff, dealing not only with Trump, but also the Senate and House.
Why are so many in Congress, as well as the last five Presidents, so anxious to cut senior benefits by raising the retirement age, reducing Cost of Living Adjustments, or privatizing the insurance program? Reagan and Obama used commissions to urge reductions in benefits, while Trump, Clinton and the Bush duo sought cuts in their proposed budgets.
Nancy Altman, President of Social Security Works (SSW) explained “the private sector is incapable of providing the wage and health insurance that Social Security and Medicare provide as efficiently, universally, securely or effectively as the federal government.”
Insurance works best when the greatest numbers of people are covered. The only entity that can require that everyone is covered and pays premiums as soon as they start working is the federal government. That is one of the reasons both Social Security and Medicare work so well.
And that is why Mulvaney, McConnell, and other opponents of these programs want to end them. These programs put the lie to their ideological zealotry, which insists that the private sector is always better than government.
Altman said the new crusade against Social Security uses words like “reform” and opponents pretend to like the program.
Mulvaney, McConnell, and other opponents hide their straightforward ideological opposition. Rather, these opponents subversively seek to undermine confidence in Social Security’s and Medicare’s future by asserting that both programs are not affordable.
Worse, in their efforts to end Social Security and Medicare, they seek to turn Americans against each other. They tell us that seniors are taking from children, that people with disabilities are taking from seniors.
The public should cheer now that Mulvaney has been exiled to the Green Island. When explaining to a conference that he had plans for Social Security after the 2020 election, Mulvaney predicted:
In the long term you’ll have to make more major changes. The president has asked me to fix the easy stuff first.
In defending HR 860 and other bills to improve Social Security, Altman was adamant:
These opponents will not give up. And neither must we. Expanding, not cutting, our Social Security and Medicare is profoundly wise policy and is overwhelmingly popular.
But it will only become a reality if we keep our voices loud, reminding our political leaders that it’s voters, not donors, to whom they must account next election day.