Background On Social Security Benefits For State And Local Government Workers
When Congress created Social Security in 1935, it made participation mandatory for most workers employed in the private sector but excluded state and local governments. Later, it let state and local governments choose whether they wanted to participate. Today, about 25% of all state and local government workersincluding teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other state employeesare not covered by Social Security. The participation rates vary by role and, nationally, about 40% of teachers lack coverage. Those teachers are concentrated in 15 statesAlaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Texasand the District of Columbia, where many or all public school teachers neither pay into nor receive benefits from the system.
For public-sector teachers who are not participating, neither they nor their employers contribute toward the 12.4% payroll tax that all other employees face. In theory, Congress requires state and local governments that are not participating in Social Security to provide their workers with retirement benefits that are at least as generous as Social Security. That rule protects workers who stay in one pension system for their full careers, but it fails to protect short- and medium-term workers who would be better off in Social Security.
Fact: Biden Has Been Open To Solutions That Would Be Akin To Social Security Cuts
The fact is there is some truth to the idea that Joe Biden has advocated cutting Social Security benefits in the past. Keep in mind that when I say “cutting Social Security benefits,” I’m not talking about Biden taking scissors and lopping off a percentage of monthly benefits to the program’s tens of millions of beneficiaries. Rather, the idea of benefit cuts is most often viewed as a way to reduce lifetime benefits paid.
For example, when Biden was vying for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 2007, he told NBC News that he would be open to the idea of a bipartisan solution to resolve Social Security’s long-term cash shortfall. This would include the Democratic Party’s core proposal of an increase in taxation on the wealthy to raise additional revenue, as well as the Republican Party’s favored solution of gradually raising the full retirement age — i.e., the age when a retired worker becomes eligible to collect 100% of their monthly payout, as determined by their birth year.
Additionally, when speaking at a Brookings event in May 2018, the former vice president made an off-the-cuff remark that implied means testing might be an intriguing idea to save the program money:
The idea of means testing involves partially reducing or completely withholding Social Security benefits if an individual or couple surpasses a predefined annual income threshold. In other words, it would keep the well-to-do, who aren’t in need of Social Security, from receiving a payout.
Joe Biden Falsely Claims He Never Called For Social Security Cuts
During the Democratic debate Sunday night, former Vice President Joe Biden falsely claimed he had never called for cuts to Social Security.
Biden made the claim when he was asked by his opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders, whether he had ever called for such cuts.
Were you on the floor , time and time again, for whatever reason, talking about the need to cut Social Security, and Medicare and veterans programs? Sanders asked Biden.
No, Biden replied. I did not talk about the need to cut any of those programs.
All that I would say to the American people, go to YouTube. Its all over the place. Joe said it many, many times, Sanders said. You can defend it or change your mind on it, but you cant deny the reality.
Sanders has made Bidens past calls for cuts to Social Security a focus of his campaign this month as the Democratic presidential primary has come down to the two men. Biden has aggressively fought back, including with an ad that stressed his current platform, which calls for expanding Social Security benefits.
The pair began debating the issue Sunday when Biden brought up a Sanderss ad attacking him for advocating for Social Security cuts.
Speaking of negative ads, my Lord, Bernie: Youre running ads saying Im opposed to Social Security that Politifact says is a flat lie and that the Wash Post said is a flat lie, Biden said.
Sanders pressed Biden on this during the debate.
Sanders concluded by reiterating his point.
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In Practice Few Teachers Face A Wep Penalty
Just because someone has split Social Security coverage, however, does not automatically mean they face a WEP penalty. There are two conditions that limit which workers face a WEP penalty, and how much of a penalty they face.
The first condition is an obvious one: Workers cant face a WEP penalty unless they qualify for both a pension and a Social Security benefit. Workers would need to meet both eligibility thresholds at least 5 or 10 years in a state pension plan and at least 10 years of Social Security contributionsbefore the WEP even comes into play. These eligibility thresholds preclude a lot of teachers from facing a WEP penalty. Across the states that do not offer Social Security coverage to their teachers, more than half of all new teachers wont stay long enough to qualify for a pension benefit from their state. The WEP cannot apply to them.
The second condition effectively limits the WEP only to people with at least a modest state pension. The rule states that the WEP can never reduce a retirees Social Security benefit by more than half of their pension amount. Essentially, this rule means that the WEP does not affect people with only a small pension from their state or local government employer.
In Times Like These People Are Relying On Social Security Now More Than Ever It Has Never Missed A Payment And Joe Bidens Plan Will Ensure It Remains That Way Without Cutting Benefits
Joe Biden speaks at a campaign stop in Cincinnati, Oct. 12.
Andrew Biggss The Hidden Trap in Bidens Tax Hike criticizes Joe Bidens plan for Social Security, but is wrong on many counts.
Mr. Biggs writes that Americans are seeing an all-time high of retirement savings, but he is in denial about the retirement crisis our nation is facing. Before the pandemic, only about half of all Americans had any form of retirement savings. According to a report by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, retirement savings for those who have them are paltrywith a median value of $65,000. Social Security is the mainstay for most Americans. According to the Social Security Administration, for two-thirds of Social Security beneficiaries their benefits make up the majority of their income. For one-third of beneficiaries, Social Security is 90% or more of their income.
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Here’s a look at more on how to manage, grow and protect your money.
That would create a so-called donut hole, exempting those above the wage threshold, and then reapplied starting at $400,000.
However, over time, that gap would close as the wage base is increased each year.
Biden called for the increased levies to help pay for proposed benefit increases, including raising the minimum Social Security benefit to at least 125% of the federal poverty level.
There are several reasons why higher Medicare levies would make it into Biden’s tax package, while the Social Security wouldn’t, according to Shai Akabas, director of economic policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center.
For one, Biden’s tax package is likely to get taken up via budget reconciliation, and Social Security cannot be used in that process, per legislative rules.
“Even just proposing a payroll tax increase for Social Security would draw in naturally a larger debate about the solvency of the program,” Akabas said.
The Medicare changes don’t have the same gravity, he said.
How much the solvency of Social Security has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic is open to debate.
The agency’s annual trustees report is expected to be released soon. Last April, the trustees’ analysis pointed to the program’s funds running out in 2035, at which point 79% of promised benefits would be payable.
Other reports have suggested that date could be even sooner due to the pandemic.
Why Joe Bidens Social Security Record Matters
Vice President Joe Bidens record on Social Security should be extremely important to voters. It is essential that the truth about Bidens past openness to cuts is made clear, despite the fact that he now opposes cuts and supports expanding Social Security. It is crucial to see the truth to ensure that mainstream Democrats never again ignore the overwhelming will of the people on this issue, as they once did.
From Social Securitys enactment in 1935 until the 1970s, the Democratic Party pushed to expand Social Security. But a campaign orchestrated by a small number of extremely wealthy and well-connected individuals gradually convinced the media, the public and too many members of the Democratic Party, that Social Security was somehow unaffordable and so must be cut.
Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth. At its most expensive, at the end of the 21st century, Social Security will cost just 6% of the nations gross domestic product. Most other industrialized countries spend much higher percentages of their GDPs on their counterpart programs today.
But leaning on the simplistic and unremarkable fact that life expectancies are increasing, the campaign to undermine confidence in Social Security was successful for a time. It convinced too many mainstream Democratic politicians that Social Security could only be saved by going behind closed doors and producing a bipartisan package of benefit cuts and revenue increases.
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Fiction: Biden’s Current Social Security Proposal Calls For Cuts To Social Security
While there’s some truth to the idea that Biden has advocated for Social Security cuts in the past, there’s also quite a helping of fiction. Although the former vice president might still be open to the idea of a bipartisan compromise to strengthen Social Security over the long haul, his campaign proposal to fix the program focuses entirely on collecting additional revenue and expanding benefits for the most at-risk recipients.
Joe Biden Admits He Was Willing To Cut Social Security As Part Of Budget Talks
Former Vice President Joe Biden admitted on Sunday night that everything was on the table, including Social Security cuts, during bipartisan budget talks in which he participated.
In a one-on-one Democratic presidential debate in Washington, Biden accused Sen. Bernie Sanders of airing TV ads that inaccurately claimed Biden had supported cuts to Social Security benefits.
It sparked a prolonged exchange between the two in which Sanders pointed to times that Biden had either voted for or voiced support for cuts to the program.
You were in the Senate for a few years, time and time again, talking about the necessity with pride about cutting Social Security, cutting Medicare, cutting veterans programs, Sanders said.
Biden inaccurately argued that he had never cast votes for legislation that would have cut Social Security.
But he also conceded that everything was on the table during deficit-reduction talks he had taken part in, an apparent reference to negotiations with Congress when he was second-in-command in the Obama administration.
What is true is in terms of the negotiations that were taking place, how to deal with the deficit, everything was on the table, Biden said. I did not support any of those cuts in Social Security or in veterans .
Sanders, sensing a vulnerable moment, interjected.
Whoa, whoa, whoa everything was on the table: All right, youre right, you just said it including cuts to Social Security and veterans, Sanders said.
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Medicare Changes Under President Biden: Lower Drug Costs More Benefits
The low-hanging fruit for Medicare includes legislation to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. A bipartisan Senate bill, for example, would simplify Medicare Part D, which is the programs prescription drug coverage, and require insurers to kick in more money, saving seniors an estimated $72 billion in out-of-pocket costs and Medicare more than $94 billion over 10 years. The bill would also cap annual increases of prescription drug prices to the rate of inflation.
Having the government negotiate the best price for prescription drugs would provide some big savings to the program that could be applied toward Medicare or improving other benefits, says Richtman.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that Medicare would save $456 billion over 10 years if the government negotiated drug prices.
Expanded Medicare benefits could include vision, hearing and dental coverage under traditional Medicare, all of which was included in a bill passed by House Democrats in 2019.
And Biden has proposed lowering the age of eligibility for Medicare from 65 to 60.
How Urgent Is The Problem
The public already is pessimistic about Social Securitys future. A Pew Research Center study released last March found widespread worry among todays workers about the programs future 83 percent expected benefit cuts by the time they retire, and 42 percent did not expect to receive any benefits in retirement.
The public worry is understandable, but out of proportion, says Paul Van de Water, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank. The odds that benefits are going to disappear are as close to zero as possible, he said. But the continual talk about the financial problems leads people to worry excessively about it.
Despite public sentiment and trust fund projections, the next president and Congress may not feel pressure to act during the next four years. Much will depend on the balance of control in Congress and the White House.
The more power Democrats have, the more likely it is that there will be action, said Ms. Altman of Social Security Works. If Republicans stay in power, they will try for a bipartisan solution, but Democrats wont go for benefit cuts.
If the problem is not solved before the 2035 depletion date gets near, experts note that odds will favor restoring solvency to the trust funds with new revenue rather than benefit cuts.
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A Social Security Payroll Tax Increase
To pay for these changes, Biden wants to increase Social Security payroll taxes on those earning more than $400,000 a year, a short-term fix that would also shore up the program for only an additional five years, predicts Melissa M. Favreault in a written analysis for the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. She is a senior fellow in the Income and Benefits Policy Center at the Urban Institute.
Proposed legislation from Rep. John Larson, a Democrat, would secure the programs funding for 75 years. In addition to the increase on those earning more than $400,000 that Biden has proposed, Larsons bill calls for raising the payroll tax for everyone, with employees and employers each contributing an additional 1.2%, or roughly 50 cents more per week. The increase would be phased in gradually between now and 2043.
The Claim: Biden Voted In Favor Of Taxing Social Security
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s tax plan remains a sticking point for some voters. A meme posted to Facebook on Sept. 15 says Biden is no friend of working folks because of his voting history on taxes, such as his vote for a 1983 bill authorizing a 50% tax on Social Security.
The former senator from Delaware was also the deciding vote in raising the Social Security tax rate to up to 85% in 1993, according to the meme.
“His voting record on Social Security records over the years is one slap in the face to retirees after another,” says the claim. “Now he wants to tax our 401k’s and IRA’s … and he also wants to introduce a 3% annual tax on our homes.”
USA TODAY reached out to the user for comment.
Another Facebook post calls into question Biden played in drafting the 1983 changes. The post’s author, who did not respond to a request for comment, claimed Biden was behind the tax increase, writing: “Social Security wasnt Taxable until Joe Biden wrote a bill and passed it to Tax Social Security Choose Wisely Nov. 3rd”
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Joe Biden Tried To Cut Social Security Medicaid And Medicare For 40 Years
Joe Biden was once a New Deal Democrat. Then he evolved and starting backing decades of Republican plans to cut Medicare and Social Security.
Democratic presidential candidate former US vice president Joe Biden speaks during the AARP and the Des Moines Register Iowa Presidential Candidate Forum at Drake University on July 15, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa.Justin Sullivan / Getty
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Looking back in 1981, Biden said he had been persuaded to evolve by his fellow lawmakers.
I have been made a believer over the last nine years in the Senate, he said. The teachings of economists, he continued, had made him reluctant to listen to his Republican colleagues about the dangers of deficit spending, particularly when he was just an impressionable 29-year-old not too long out of college. But eventually, he was worn down. As I listened over the years in this body, I became more and more a believer in balanced budgets, he said.
To the relief of progressives and hundreds of economists, the amendment never passed under Clinton. But with the help of a wavering Biden, it came perilously close.