Mitt Romney ran for president in 2008 and 2012 on platforms of cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in order to balance the budget. He did not win, but last October, Romney, now a Utah senator, presented a piece of legislation that would do the same thing. This time, it would happen behind closed doors.
The TRUST Act
Mitt Romney reached across the aisle to create the bipartisan Time to Rescue United States’ Trusts (TRUST) Act. The bill proposes the formation of congressional “rescue committees” to inspect America’s trust funds and decide where funding can be cut in order to balance the budget. These committees would be able to bypass the normal routes of legislation and fast-track proposals to the Senate floor, effectively hiding them from the public and Congress at large.
Programs up for cuts in the bill include:
- Social Security retirement benefits,
- Social Security Survivors Insurance,
- Social Security Disability Insurance,
- Medicare Hospital Insurance (Part A), and
- The Highway Trust Fund.
Romney’s bill was born out of anxiety surrounding Social Security insolvency facing the program in 2034. After releasing the proposal, Romney said, “If you want to save those programs and save those trust funds from financial ruin, we have to make adjustments now.”
It is important to note that Romney’s proposal falls apart upon closer inspection because Social Security is a self-sustaining system that does not contribute to federal deficits.
Romney’s Social Security track record
During his 2012 presidential run, Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan to champion his desire to cut Social Security benefits. Ryan, who has been a historical foe to Social Security, advocated to raise the retirement age, lower the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), and privatize Social Security.
The average monthly Social Security check in 2020 is $1,503, up 1.6 percent (or $24) from last year. This leaves many seniors with $18,036 to live on for the year, and a large amount of that is automatically devoted to healthcare costs. To put it simply, it’s not enough. Here are four possible solutions.
- Pass the Social Security 2100 Act. This bill would tax the wealthy at a rate proportional to rates low- and middle-income Americans pay, increase payroll taxes by 1.2 percent over 24 years, increase benefits by 2 percent across the board, and use a new method to calculate COLAs more accurately.
- Tax the wealthy. A solution floated by some congressional members is to increase the amount of income that is taxable for wealthy Americans. Currently, no income over $137,700 has Social Security taxes withheld.
- Naturalize undocumented immigrants. Another possibility is to naturalize all undocumented immigrants who are already living and working in the United States but receiving pay under the table. Naturalizing these immigrants would make their income taxable.
- Increase the minimum wage. A dollar you paid into Social Security in 1983 is no longer there. The system is constantly cycling money in and out; the current workforce pays taxes into the trust fund to fund Social Security for today’s retirees. Increasing the minimum wage and boosting workers’ taxable wages would immediately increase the Social Security trust fund.
While it’s true that something must be done to save the Social Security trust fund, Romney’s bill implies that the only way to save Social Security is to reduce income for seniors who are already struggling to afford basic necessities like food, shelter, and healthcare.
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