Representative John Larson (D-CT), Chairman of the Social Security Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, is holding historic hearings on expanding Social Security. These are the first such hearings in nearly half a century. At the hearings, Republican members of Congress are cloaking their desire to cut Social Security in dulcet tones of bipartisanship. In doing so, they are spreading damaging myths about Social Security. Here is the truth regarding the following five claims pushed by Congressional Republicans in these hearings:
- Claim that to be bipartisan, Democrats must agree to Social Security benefit cuts –though even the Republican base rejects cuts and wants benefits expanded
Two comprehensive legislative Social Security proposals have been introduced in the current Congress so far. The Social Security 2100 Act, sponsored by Representative John Larson (D-CT), has over 200 cosponsors; the Social Security Expansion Act, sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), is cosponsored by a who’s who of leading contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, including Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Kamala Harris (D-CA). Both bills, which have companions in the other chamber, increase benefits for every current and future Social Security beneficiary. They also restore Social Security to long-range actuarial balance: the first, for three-quarters of a century; the second, for half a century.
Neither bill has a single Republican cosponsor. Nevertheless, what the Democrats are proposing is fully bipartisan. It is bipartisan in the way that matters. An overwhelming majority of Republican voters, according to poll after poll, support what the Democrats are proposing.
Just a few weeks ago, on March 21, the Pew Research Center released a poll showing that 68% of those identified as Republican/Lean Republican believe that Congress should make no cuts to Social Security whatsoever. A year ago, in the lead-up to the 2018 midterm elections, Public Policy Polling found that 56% of those who voted for Donald Trump and 55% of those who identify as Republican would be more likely to vote for a candidate who “supported expanding and increasing Social Security.”
Furthermore, a 2014 National Academy of Social Insurance survey found that 80% of Republicans believe that Social Security is more important than ever; 72% of Republicans responded that they “don’t/didn’t mind paying Social Security taxes;” and 65% of Republicans agreed that “we should consider increasing Social Security benefits.”
Perhaps most striking, the same National Academy poll found that 69% of Republicans supported “increasing the Social Security taxes paid by working Americans,” if needed to “preserve Social Security benefits for future generations.” That percentage increased to 71% when the question was whether “top earners” should pay more.
Talk of bipartisanship by Republican politicians simply cloaks their desire for cuts. Representative Larson called out the hypocrisy in an early hearing: “Gee, you know, funny thing, we introduced [the Social Security 2100 Act] 6 years ago, and we couldn’t even get a public hearing on it for 6 years. And so the ‑‑ let’s say the spirit of bipartisanship was a little waning.”