Franken: Everyone should pay the same Social Security tax rate
Daily Nonpareil, The (Council Bluffs, IA)
CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa Democratic U.S.Senate candidate Mike Franken says he wants to keep Social Security solvent for future generations and lower the Medicare eligibility age to 50.
Franken, who is running against Iowa Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley in the Nov. 8 election, told an audience in Cedar Rapids on Monday that he supports making all earnings subject to Social Security payroll taxes.
Currently, workers and their employers — as well as the self-employed — are required to contributed 6.2 percent of wages to Social Security, up to $147,000 in wages. The income threshold is adjusted annually.
Removing the earnings cap will increase revenue and bring greater fairness to the system, Franken said.
Franken, a retired Navy admiral from northwest Iowa who turns 65 on Election Day, said Social Security became his parents' principal retirement plan after they invested their life savings in a savings and loan in Sioux Center that went "kaput" during the savings and loan crisis in the 1980s.
They received 9 cents on the dollar in the 1990s as remittance from the liquidated assets of the savings and loan, Franken said.
"Without Social Security, life would have been entirely different for them," he said. "They would have undoubtedly struggled. … God bless Social Security and the wisdom of President Roosevelt to put something like this" in place.
Franken appeared alongside Jon "Bowzer" Bauman, 75, from the Sha Na Na rock group, and the Social Security PAC for the Social Security Works town hall.
Franken also called for expanding Medicare by making it available to everyone over time, starting with those age 50 and older who want it, and adding coverage for basic vision, hearing and dental services.
He said Iowans deserve a health care system similar to the one he received in the military — one that provides high-quality and affordable health care and lowers prescription drug costs by using its national purchasing power to negotiate prices with drug companies.
Franken and Bauman noted Grassley voted against the Democrats' Inflation Reduction Act signed into law by President Joe Biden that includes several provisions to lower prescription drug costs for seniors and others on Medicare.
Grassley has argued spending included in the bill will worsen inflation, raise taxes during a possible recession and hamper pharmaceutical innovation.
Franken also has called for improving long-term care services and establishing new public programs and expanding private insurance options, paid for by eliminating 2017 federal tax cuts and adopting a tax system where all Americans and big corporations pay their fair share.
Franken said the 2017 tax cuts benefit the wealthiest Americans at the expense of middle-class families.
"Vote for Democrats that see the long view — the next generation of how we can make what we have available to our children and our grandchildren," Franken told the crowd of roughly 30 people, mostly those of retirement age, who gathered at the Olympic South Side Theater for the meeting.
Grassley on Social Security
Grassley, in a video posted by AARP Iowa, said he supports taking actions to update Social Security to ensure it's financially sound and provides adequate income for current and future generations.
"But, let me make very clear upfront. We cannot make any changes to the income of people on Social Security that are there already or people that are close to getting to Social Security," Grassley said in the video. "If there's going to be any changes in the program, it must be done over a period of time of giving people an opportunity to make those accommodations for their future retirement."
As ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, Grassley said he would be "in the middle of any changes that are made to" Social Security.
"I think the patterns that must be used to make those changes is what Ronald Reagan and (former House Speaker) Tip O'Neill did" years ago, Grassley said. "They worked together in a bipartisan way, and nothing is going to be done for Social Security (unless) Republicans and Democrats are sitting down at the same table and making those changes."
Grassley called Social Security a "social contract" that "is part of the fabric of our nation."
"It must be maintained and will be maintained," he said. "We owe it to our children and grandchildren to have the same amount of retirement that we promised my generation, and we need to move to do that quickly because it's easier to make changes in Social Security yesterday than it is tomorrow."