By Lindsay Carey
Congressman John Larson recently introduced his new proposal to expand the benefits of Social Securityat the Calendar House in Southington on the 79th anniversary of the legislation.
Larson expressed his frustration with the perspective that views Social Security as an entitlement. The congressman instead referred to Social Security as insurance that has already been paid for.
“This is the insurance that you paid for, that you earned, that through your work and your direct deposits contributes to the more than $3 trillion that is in Social Security currently,” said Larson. “It was put there by you, so this is not an entitlement. This was earned by you.”
According to Larson, Social Security is solvent for the next 75 years and is currently covered through 2033. However, his proposed bill would secure it into the next century. The bill is called the Social Security2100 Act.
“It’s the 79 birthday of Social Security and we’re trying to make sure it’s around another 79 years,” said Larson. “Let’s give it the guarantee that it will be.”
The congressman said that he began working on Social Security reform because he serves on the Ways and Means Committee in Congress. Part of the committee’s jurisdiction is social security, in addition to Medicare and healthcare.
Larson referenced Robert Ball, who was known for his work as the former head of Social Securityf or the United States, and examined his views on how Social Security should function in this country. He used Ball’s view to figure out how to strengthen Social Security today.
Larson said that in his proposal, Social Security must be increased by about 2 percent overall. On average that is about $300 more for retirees. He also introduced the term Consumer Price Index Elderly (CPIE), which will function to take into consideration the cost of living for elderly rather than them being measured by the overall Consumer Price Index (CPI).
“The special needs of elderly once they reach the retirement age, their needs can’t be identified be defined just by the CPI,” said Larson. “The elderly incur special circumstances frankly that young people and others don’t.”
Larson’s proposal suggests adjusting the CPI to CPIE for the elderly to match their actual circumstances, such as disabilities and medical bills. He said that their cost of living could be easily calculated by actuaries and taken into consideration.
“We think that’s the fair and the right thing to do,” said Larson.
His plan also calls for tax breaks for seniors who are still working. Currently, a single senior making $25,000 is taxed and a couple is taxed at $32,000. Larson’s plan adjusts that to begin taxing an individual at $50,000 and a couple at $100,000.
“So that if people are working part time to come up with the pocket change you need to pay the bills, to buy the grandkids a present and maybe go to an ice cream shop or go out to dinner every now and again,” said Larson. “What do we want to be taxing people for that for?”
According to Larson, the Chief Actuary for Social Security has read through his plan and said that it is “actuarially sound beyond the next 75 years.” His proposal has also been endorsed by Social Security Works among many other individuals and has received a positive response from most.
“No one has said its perfect, but everyone has said it’s going in the right direction,” said Larson. “The start of the longest journey begins with the first step.”
Congressman Larson explained that his proposal will not only benefit seniors, who already paid for Social Security, but also the younger generations.
With more knowledge about living healthier and the strides in the medical industry, Larson believes the younger generations will live longer so his proposal will benefit them as well.
“People are living longer. They’re living healthier lifestyles and modern day medicine allows us to stay alive,” said Larson. “So for future generations, my children for example, are easily going to live into their hundreds without much of a problem.”
Larson said that he talked with a senior in Wethersfield, who was living in subsidized housing and had to receive food from Meals on Wheels. This was because she was only receiving $9,000 from Social Security, which was her only income. Women typically receive $12-$14,000.
Larson cited a figure from an article in the Washington that says that more than 20 percent of the population has no other income besides what they receive from Social Security.
“The older people should not fall into poverty, because times have changed,” said Larson.”
Many of the people that came were retirees with comments and questions for the Congressman regarding the future of social security. Larson welcomed the questions and concerns of all those who attended.
“I wanted to see where he stood,” said retiree Kent Smith Jr. “I figure I should come try to strengthen Social Security by talking to my representative, so that he knows where I stand and they don’t decrease Social Security for retirees where really that’s all they have.
Representatives from the Southington Apple Valley AARP were also present.
Overall, Congressman Larson’s new bill proposes an increase in the amount of money seniors receive from social security, consideration of the cost of living for elderly, and a tax break for those who are still working. His next step will be to begin collecting signatures among Congress to move the bill forward.
“The system should work on the behalf of the people that paid into it,” said Larson.