Social Security reform

By Chellie Pingree | Oct 18, 2019

The Great Depression was a turning point for our country. $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 that 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. President 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 President Roosevelt signed Social Security into law on 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 non-existent, skyrocketing 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 of savings, pensions, and Social Security. 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 two percent raise in benefits, change the formula for Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLA) 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.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: George Terrien | Oct 19, 2019 10:01

Thank you, Representative Pingree, and commenter Mr. Horvath, for expressing the truth on this issue so clearly.  Perhaps those with the most to lose have accumulated sufficient wisdom to persuade others who have supported the alternate universe of alternative facts,  We all need to understand the significance of what is being considered:  the theft of already-strained funds that had been intended for decades to alleviate the poverty of aging, and the commitment of resources needed to address those who have earned society's appreciation and support.

Who are we as a people and a nation if we will not take care of our elderly?  At the best, woefully shortsighted, and much worse, a culture of destitute values.

We can, and must, do much better.

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