Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

Congressman Ribble Calls for Action on Social Security

Sep 19, 2013 | Social Security

Recently, Congressman Reid Ribble (R-WI) sent a letter to his colleagues in Congress calling for them to use the upcoming fiscal discussions to push for comprehensive Social Security reform to make it solvent  for future generations. Ribble writes the expiration of the government funding bill and the debt ceiling present possible danger for the country, but also a chance to improve the nation's finances - and lawmakers need to take advantage. Writes Ribble:

I believe we should utilize this unique time and begin undertaking entitlement reform. Specifically, I believe we should save and secure Social Security.

We, as sons and daughters of Social Security recipients - and parents of future recipients as well - have an obligation not to simply focus on the next election, but to ensure this vital safety net is in place for the next generation and for generations to come. We espouse fiscal responsibility but we need to be honest with ourselves: do we want to solve this problem or not? And while our conference is conflicted on what paths to pursue in the coming weeks I would present this as an option we could unify behind and actually get enacted into law.

I've heard countless times during my short period in Congress, "Social Security's the easy one to solve." ...and yet we do not step forward to fix it. Instead we kick the can down the road and allow the problem to grow worse. If this is the "easy one," where the problem and the potential solutions are readily clear, then we should not delay. Let's actually fix it for the American people.

As we've written before, the Social Security is trust funds will run out of money by 2033 or earlier, at which point all beneficiaries -- regardless of age or income - will face an across-the-board 23 percent cut. And as we showed in our recently released report, "Social Security Reform and the Cost of Delay," the closer we get to the insolvency date, the harder it will be to solve the problem. For example, a gap that could be closed with a 20 percent cut for new beneficiaries or 2.7 point payroll tax increase would require a 30 percent benefit cut or 3.3 point tax increase in only ten years. Moreover, the longer we wait the less time workers will have to plan and adjust.

As Congressman Ribble explains, delay is unwise. We might go further and call it unacceptable. Congressman Ribble lays out several options that could close the funding gap, all of which have at times received bipartisan support. They include:

  • Continuing and expanding the phase-in of raising the retirement age
  • Adjusting the inflation formula used for calculating future growth
  • Means-testing benefits for high income recipients of Social Security
  • Gradually restoring the cap on wages subject to FICA to its Reagan-era levels

Of course, these aren't the only options to reform Social Security. Indeed, our interactive Social Security Reformer shows the wide range of options that lawmakers have available to them. Ribble notes this, challenging his colleagues to propose alternatives that would achieve the goal of Social Security solvency.

Ribble should be credited for putting options on the table, but his openness to other solutions is particularly helpful.  Lawmakers should follow this example and maintain flexibility as they propose their favored options that would reform Social Security. There might not be complete agreement on every individual policy, but the final result of saving this vital program that will be more than work it.

We can't help but agree with the Congressman when he argues that "Acting now will show the American people once again that we are serious about protecting the most vulnerable in our communities, tackling our nation's problems in a responsible way, and getting our fiscal house in order. We should not delay."

Click here to read about the cost of delay and click here for our Social Security Reformer.