The Washington Post recently penned a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing editorial purporting to “fix” Social Security by means-testing benefits. The Post calls it “progressive price indexing” but it amounts to the same thing — and two Letters to the Editor call them out on it.
The first is from Nancy Altman, president of Social Security Works and chair of the Strengthen Social Security Coalition:
Despite the headline, the Feb. 22 editorial “Social Security is not broken” endorsed a proposal that would radically transform Social Security. So-called progressive price indexing would gradually but inexorably change Social Security from an insurance program that replaces wages in the event of disability, death or old age to a subsistence-level benefit largely unrelated to prior earnings.
Republican presidential nominee Alf Landon and his party proposed universal subsistence-level benefits as an alternative to Social Security in 1936. He lost in a landslide. Rep. Carl Curtis (R-Neb.) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce tried to persuade President Dwight D. Eisenhower to champion the radical change. Eisenhower rejected it and instead successfully proposed expanding Social Security. President George W. Bush proposed it as part of his effort to privatize Social Security. A Republican-led Congress refused to even hold a vote.
Social Security can be restored to long-range actuarial balance while addressing the nation’s looming retirement income crisis with the Democratic Party’s plan to expand — not cut — Social Security.
The second letter is from Max Richmon, president and chief executive of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare and former staff director of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging:
The Feb. 22 editorial on Social Security hewed dangerously close to the rhetoric of Social Security’s opponents by attempting to pit one generation of Americans against the other. The argument that we cannot afford to take care of the nation’s children and boost Social Security benefits for seniors sets up a false choice.
More than 4 million children benefit from Social Security through benefits for survivors and families, including at one time former House speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.). With the average Social Security benefit around a meager $18,000 per year and about two-thirds of seniors relying on the program for more than half of their income, this is no time to cut benefits.
That’s why we support the bill from Rep. John B. Larson (D-Conn.) that would provide all beneficiaries a modest boost. We’re a long way from “tapping the rich” simply by asking the wealthy to pay into Social Security at the same rate as everyone else.
Meanwhile, the Trump/GOP tax cuts robbed the federal government of nearly $2 trillion in revenue that could have been put toward domestic priorities, including children. In a just and equitable United States, we don’t have to choose between a modest increase for Social Security recipients and funding programs for children. We can do both.