IOWA CITY, Iowa – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday said it is unacceptable that hundreds of thousands of Iowa retirees, orphans and people with disabilities won’t get a Social Security cost-of-living adjustment next year.
Unless Congress acts, he added, last Thursday’s announcement by the Social Security Administration that it would freeze retirement benefits also means no increase during 2016 for disabled veterans.
“That is unacceptable,” Sanders said. The way cost-of-living adjustments are calculated “is clearly broken and must be fixed,” he added.
Sanders’ Social Security Expansion Act would make sure annual inflation adjustments are based on a formula that accurately measures the spending patterns of seniors. Sanders’ legislation would also increase Social Security benefits and scrap a cap on income subject to the payroll tax. Now, someone making millions of dollars a year pays no more than someone making $118,500 a year. Levying the same tax rate on annual income greater than $250,000 would only impact the top 1.5 percent of wage earners while boosting benefits for millions of retirees.
Sanders highlighted how Social Security helps Iowans.
“While Social Security is taken for granted today, let us remember that before it was signed into law nearly half of senior citizens in Iowa were living in poverty. Today, while much too high, the senior poverty rate in Iowa is 6.4 percent,” Sanders said.
More than 616,000 people in Iowa – nearly 20 percent of the population – received $9 billion in Social Security benefits last year. The benefits went to more than 430,000 seniors, 78,000 people with disabilities and more than 38,000 Iowa children. Social Security last year lifted more than 228,000 Iowans out of poverty.
“At a time when the average Social Security benefit is just $1,328 a month and more than two-thirds of the elderly population rely on Social Security for more than half of their income, our job must be to expand, not cut, Social Security,” Sanders said.
He said Republican White House hopefuls like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have proposed raising the retirement age to 69 or 70 and slashing Social Security benefits.
“I have a hard time understanding what world these Republicans and their billionaire campaign contributors live in,” Sanders said. He cited reports that more than half of workers between the ages of 55 and 64 have no retirement savings at all. And only 1 in 5 Americans has a traditional pension.