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Reps. Brady and Reed: The Democratic plan for smaller paychecks

July 25, 2019

The Hill

The Democratic plan for smaller paychecks

Rep. Kevin Brady & Rep. Tom Reed

July 25, 2019


Social Security is the most successful program in our nation’s history. This is not just a talking point – it is a fact. For over 83 years, seniors, individuals with disabilities and their families have counted on this program to provide important benefits.

Yet, for how successful this program has been, its problems have been just as evident. Social Security is not solvent. This is a problem that Congress after Congress has ignored, placing some of our most vulnerable populations at risk.

Fortunately, thanks to a pro-growth agenda of tax cuts and balanced deregulation, our economy has changed for the better. With payrolls increasing and millions more people – including those with disabilities – joining our workforce, Social Security’s solvency has improved, according to Social Security’s Trustees, who are responsible for the Social Security Trust Funds and reporting to Congress each year on the financial status of the program.

Because of this historic growth, now is the right time to work together to ensure this program will still be around for generations. But instead of offering a real solution that will further strengthen our economy and improve Social Security, over 200 House Democrats are calling for what could be one of the largest tax hikes in our nation’s history – with a price tag of nearly $19 trillion, according to the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration.

This week, the Ways and Means and Committee will hold a congressional hearing on the Democrats’ plan for Social Security reform. Unfortunately, we anticipate this to be a dangerous and partisan exercise, where many on the left will propose paying for Social Security, without serious reforms to save the program, with a massive paycheck grab on the backs of those who can least afford it – our children and grandchildren.

Those graduating from college are already strapped with an astronomical amount of student loan debt that is increasing every year. That debt limits career choices, alters dreams, and forces people to rethink key life-shaping decisions, such as: when to start a family, where to live and what path to pursue professionally.

Asking the next generation to cough up even more of their money out of their paychecks is cruel. For many young people, the payroll tax is the biggest tax burden they face. Raising the payroll tax burden, as House Democrats are proposing, means a smaller paycheck throughout your entire career and will force some young people into poverty. How many missed car payments or unpaid bills will these small paychecks account for? While so many already struggle making ends meet, we cannot in good conscience agree to this proposal.

However, that scenario is only possible if our young people are working. Think of the implications this tax hike will have for Main Street businesses. For these local job creators who want to expand or hire new workers, this plan from congressional Democrats will greatly hinder their short- and long-term planning. Higher payroll taxes means it will be harder for these mom-and-pop shops to give well deserved raises or hire new workers. Let alone starting that new business in the first place. During a time where we have more job openings than workers available, this plan would absolutely destroy this historic job growth our country is experiencing.

We need a Social Security plan that addresses both the needs of Americans today and the needs of Americans down the road. Not once in Social Security’s history have reforms been made to the program that wasn’t bipartisan. Since this is a program that millions of Americans rely on, it should be expected in Congress to work toward solutions together that ensures its success.

Republicans are eager to work together with the House Democrat majority and Senate Republicans to find a long-term solution for Social Security without the huge tax increases mentioned in the Democrat’s proposal. This is why Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee have released our principles for Social Security Reform:

The first is that we need is long-term economic growth by encouraging work, not penalizing it. Every taxpayer is familiar with how much comes out of each paycheck for Social Security. This is a program workers and their employers pay into – and the best way to keep it on solid footing is by having more people in the workforce with policies that allow businesses to increase hard earned wages of their workers.

The second is that we need equal treatment for public servants. Currently, there is a provision in Social Security that results in unequal treatment for our firefighters, police officers, and teachers – known as the Windfall Elimination Provision. Any Social Security fix must ensure that those who serve our communities and earn a pension as well as Social Security benefits are not treated unfairly.

Additionally, we must act now to protect future generations’ benefits. Republicans will not jeopardize those who are currently receiving Social Security benefits – seniors who have paid into this program will continue to receive their benefits.

And finally, we must protect the most vulnerable people through focused reforms. Today more women are workingpeople start their families later, and, in some cases, they are living longer. Across-the-board increases won’t fix this – in fact, it will only make those issues worse. Let’s find targeted approaches to help widows, working women and long-career low earners.

When it comes to Social Security, as it is with so many other important issues, we cannot do this alone – we need to come together to find a fair solution that works best for the people. Democrats’ proposed tax hike on future generations will only slow our economy and do nothing to address Social Security’s shortcomings. 

Kevin Brady is the representative from the 8th District of Texas and serves as the ranking member on the House Ways and Means Committee. Tom Reed is the representative from the 23rd District of New York and serves as the ranking member on the House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee.