ENGLEWOOD – Congress generally doesn’t act unless it’s an emergency. That’s just the nature of the place. Bill Pascrell wants to change that mindset, at least when it comes to Social Security.
Social Security truly is the “third rail” of politics. Touch it, or play around with it, and you normally get burned. But there’s a legitimate problem. Primarily because of demographic changes – more
people retiring, fewer people replacing them – the system needs some refinement.
The “day of reckoning” is still 15 years away in 2034. That is when the Social Security reserve fund will cover only 75 percent of its obligation. Many in Congress may prefer to do nothing, figuring they
won’t be in office in 15 years, so why do they need the aggravation?
Pascrell, the Democratic congressman from the 9th District in northern New Jersey, says he’s not one of them.
He visited a senior center in Englewood on Friday to talk about a way to fix things for the next 75 years. This is a federal issue to be sure, but Pascrell had a lot of support from the locals. On hand were
state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, Assemblyman Gordon Johnson and Mayor Michael Wildes.
The key to a bill that Pascrell says is now supported by about 200 House Democrats centers on the threshold for paying Social Security taxes. Right now, individuals pay Social Security taxes (money
deducted from their pay check) on their first $132,900 of annual income. The bill would keep that ceiling, but Social Security taxes would kick in again on income above $400,000. So, those who are superwealthy – think pro athletes, Wall Street bigwigs and the like – would contribute much more to the Social Security system than they do now.
There are other parts to this proposal – mandatory cost of living raises, a small hike in employee and workers’ Social Security contributions and increasing the threshold on taxing benefits from
$25,000 to $50,000 annually.
But make no mistake, the $400,000 threshold for paying into the system is probably the most controversial aspect of this.
Pascrell admitted that as of now, there are no Republican sponsors.
Democrats, of course, don’t need any Republicans to pass a bill in the House, but they do in the Senate.
The congressman said the bill in question has been around for six years and, relatively speaking, is gaining momentum. He said meetings are being held on it by supporters all over the country.
There were about 100 seniors at the meeting and few quibbled with what the congressman was saying. Then again, those hearing him presumably are already receiving Social Security.
So, Pascrell tried to broaden the focus group, saying, “Social Security better be the concern of everybody.”
That’s true, but the reality is that many young people probably never think about Social Security.
That really puts the responsibility on Congress to look further down the road than the next election.
Pascrell acknowledged that over the years Congress has not had the “guts” to fix the problem. Clearly, Pascrell hopes that will change.