After 79 years as the retirement mainstay of most American workers, Social Security is showing its age and desperately needs reform. That was the message in West Palm Beach Tuesday night from a trio of Democratic congressmen who vow to protect Social Security from Republican deficit hawks and make it more generous.
U. S. Reps. Ted Deutch, Alcee Hastings and Patrick Murphy came to West Palm Beach City Hall with four retired constituents ax examples of the need to maintain and reform Social Security. Among them was Betty Allen, who worked her last 23 years as a lunch lady in a school cafeteria. She retired with a pension of $114 a month. These days, it's her Social Security that allows her to break even every month.
"I'm just thankful I can live independently still and I don't have to live in my car," Allen said.
But a bigger Social Security check for Betty Allen is still a pipe dream. According to the latest Social Security trustees' report, the system as is can pay full benefits only until 2033. Deutch says Congress should pass the Democratic Social Security reform bill.
"That would shore up Social Security for more than 75 years and it would address our problems," he said.
The bill would collect a slightly increased Social Security tax on all salaries, not just the ones below $117,000. It would come with a new and more generous cost-of-living adjustment scheme.
The problem is, legislative deficit hawks are just as energetic as the Social Security champions and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy says the system is no longer the "third rail," the career death sentence for politicians who try to scale it back. "It might not be as much of a third rail if you have 200 and some folks voting to privatize it," Murphy said.
Social Security is 79 years old this week. It was designed as a supplement to private pensions and personal savings. But traditional pensions have all but disappeared and the data show median retirement savings among 55-year-old workers is around $12,000.