WASHINGTON – NPR’s All Things Considered highlighted efforts by U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy M.D. (R-LA) to save Social Security and his “Big Idea” to address 75% of the program’s shortfall. Under current law, Social Security beneficiaries will receive a 24% benefit cut when the Social Security Trust Fund goes insolvent. The Trustees of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds and the Congressional Budget Office estimate the trust fund will go insolvent between 2032 – 2034.
“To the power of persuasion on Capitol Hill – if Washington does nothing, Social Security will start to run out of money in about a decade. That means benefits would be cut, and poverty rates would skyrocket among the elderly. Louisiana Republican Senator Bill Cassidy is trying to stop that from happening. NPR political correspondent Susan Davis recently sat down with Cassidy to talk about his big idea to fix it.
“SUSAN DAVIS: Senator Bill Cassidy is a gastroenterologist by trade, so he’s comfortable doing uncomfortable things. In Congress, few things are more uncomfortable than trying to change Social Security – the so-called third rail of American politics – because any politician who tries to touch it risks getting burned.
“SENATOR BILL CASSIDY: The third rail should be that you’re going to sit passively while the program goes insolvent. I’m trying to stop those cuts. Allowing the cuts should be the third rail.
“CASSIDY: If I sound aggravated as heck, we’ve got a program that’s going insolvent in 8 to 9 years, at which point, by the way, poverty among the elderly doubles. And we have the leading presidential candidates acting like there’s not a problem.
“DAVIS: Social Security is funded by workers’ payroll taxes and is barred by law from borrowing money. Once it starts to run out of money, the only recourse is automatic benefit cuts for recipients. On its current course, that will start to happen around 2034 and could result in a 24% decrease in benefits. Nearly everyone over the age of 65 in America receives some form of Social Security benefit. So about two years ago, Cassidy had the spark of what he dubs the big idea.
“CASSIDY: It suddenly occurred to me that we could address this by creating an investment fund.
“DAVIS: He linked up with independent Maine Senator Angus King, who caucuses with Democrats, and they started putting together the pieces of how it would work. The pitch goes like this – the government invests $1.5 trillion over five years in an independent investment fund separate from Social Security.
“CASSIDY: You would let it sit there for 70 years, and you would allow it to grow.
“DAVIS: The risk is on the fund and not on the taxpayer. It models investment funds for other existing federal pension programs.
“CASSIDY: It blossoms and eventually becomes adequate to pay for 75% of the liabilities of the Social Security trust fund.
“DAVIS: The fund would be managed independently of Congress to prevent future political interference.
“CASSIDY: I just tell people, you may not like our plan. Come up with a better option.
“CASSIDY: I’m here to do something, not to be something. And if we can do something, wow – on my epitaph, it’ll be several things listed, but one of them will be, worked with others to fix Social Security.”
Listen to the full NPR interview here.
Cassidy is leading a bipartisan working group with U.S. Senator Angus King (I-ME) to preserve and protect Social Security.
This week, he released the inaugural, Bill on the Hill video, where he asked Capitol Hill visitors from across the country their thoughts on the looming 24% benefit cut to Social Security and presented his “Big Idea” to save, strengthen, and secure America’s retirement system.
At a Senate Finance Hearing in March, he questioned U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on the Biden administration’s lack of a plan to address Social Security at a Senate Finance hearing. He also delivered a speech on the Senate floor calling on President Biden to honor his pledge to protect Social Security and meet with a bipartisan group of senators currently discussing options to save the program.
In March, the Trustees of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds moved up the Social Security insolvency deadline a full year. One month prior, the Congressional Budget Office updated its estimates saying Social Security is heading toward a financial cliff in 2032. They found Medicare and Social Security spending rapidly outpacing federal tax revenues further hastening the insolvency deadlines.