Proposals to freeze or limit Social Security benefits used to be common from fiscally conservative think tanks pushing for balanced budgets. But this idea has never gained much traction with politicians, even green-eyeshade Republicans, for a very good reason: They know that seniors are often highly dependent on Social Security checks — and are more likely to vote than most age groups.
Yet until this spring, this appreciation hadn’t translated into concrete efforts by Congress to help older people live comfortably in retirement. Thankfully, last month, the House approved the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act on a 417-3 vote. The lopsided approval reflected recognition of the fact that nearly half of U.S. households in which the primary wage earner is 55 or older had no retirement savings, according to a 2016 Government Accountability Office report. Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, expects quick approval by the Senate, and the White House appears supportive as well.
While the bill is highly constructive, it should only be a start to a broader, long-term federal effort to promote retirement security. There needs to be a concerted push to create incentives for — and make it easier for — lower-income Americans to invest in retirement plans — especially less affluent minorities and those with jobs in the “gig” economy. The large majority of tax incentives to promote retirement saving go to wealthy families — those who least need the help. That doesn’t make sense.
With America on track for one-fifth of its population to be 65 or older by 2030 — an all-time high — retirement security needs to be recognized as a crucial national issue. Congress and the Trump administration must rise to the occasion.
— The San Diego Union-Tribune