Reform Social Security to respond to recipients' needs

By Rep. Chellie Pingree | Sep 07, 2019

The Great Depression was a turning point for our country. Around $26 billion of wealth completely disappeared overnight; unemployment exceeded 25 percent; 10,000 banks failed. The volatility of American markets devastated the economic security of rich and poor families alike. People stood for hours in bread lines for a ration of food they could no longer afford.

President Franklin Roosevelt proposed the New Deal to create a social safety net to mitigate human suffering if an economic downturn ever happened again. Roosevelt’s labor secretary, Frances Perkins — a Mainer and the first woman to hold a cabinet post — was the principal architect of the New Deal. She hatched the idea for Social Security, a program that still supports the well-being of elderly Americans and people with disabilities.

Under this innovative plan, workers contributed a small portion of their paychecks towards their future financial security. Since Roosevelt signed Social Security into law Aug. 14, 1935, tens of millions of people have received support from the program. As we speak, 344,482 Mainers are current Social Security beneficiaries. As the oldest state by population and home to many retirees, Social Security helps to ensure that Mainers can live without worry.

So much has changed in the more than 80 years since Social Security was established. Company pension plans are almost nonexistent, skyrocketing college tuition bills have put a dent in the ability of parents to save for retirement, and the mobility of our workforce creates roadblocks to building 401(k)s. The truth is that Social Security is no longer just one leg of a three-legged plan that includes savings and pensions as well. For too many, Social Security is the only plan for retirement, and we need it to evolve to address these changes.

I find it outrageous that the conversation about Social Security in Washington has often been about how to restrict benefits by either privatizing the Trust Fund, raising the retirement age, limiting cost-of-living adjustments or reducing benefits. We have to change the conversation and focus on how to best expand Social Security to ensure that seniors and the disabled can live with dignity. That is why I joined the Expand Social Security Caucus, which supports policies to protect and expand Social Security and secure its long-term future in a fair and responsible manner.

I’m an original cosponsor of H.R. 860, the Social Security 2100 Act, which would include an immediate 2 percent raise in benefits, change the formula for cost-of-living adjustments to more accurately reflect the price increases that seniors face, and protect benefits from being subject to income taxes. For low-income beneficiaries, this bill would set a minimum benefit at 25 percent above the poverty line.

Social Security has long been a vital program for Mainers. We’re at a critical juncture for its long-term success, and it is our duty as elected officials to make sure it endures long into the future. I’m proud to represent Maine in the House, and I’ll fight against attacks on programs that support our seniors and people with disabilities. It has never been more important to fight for the issues that matter most.

Democrat Chellie Pingree represents Maine's 1st District in the U.S. Congress.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Sep 07, 2019 14:35

Social Security has lost its function. The dollar now is not the dollar it was when Social Security started. Most Seniors barely make it. Most Seniors continue working. Is it fixable? I do not underestimate the governments ability to fix it, but I think it is now up to the politicians. And they are more concerned about their pensions than ours. Am I skeptic, you bet I am. I may be old but still have common sense. I read the news and  watch the politics. Even thoughtfully voting. And still no solution for the generation up coming, sadly!

Mary "Mickey" (Brown) McKeever

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