Nearly 800,000 seniors today lose some or all of their Social Security benefits due to the current Social Security earnings limit. Seniors ages 65-69 have $1 of their benefits offset for every $3 they earn over the $17,000 limit. The earnings limit discriminates against seniors who keep working after age 65.
I strongly support eliminating the earnings limit for every working senior receiving Social Security. That is why I co-sponsored the Senior Citizens’ Freedom to Work Act (H.R. 5) which recently passed the House of Representatives. This legislation would eliminate the earnings limit for working seniors over age 65. I spoke out in strong support of this bill when it came to the House floor for a vote.
When Social Security was created during the Great Depression, the earnings test was included to encourage older people to leave the work force so jobs would become available for younger workers. Now it is apparent that our economy benefits from the hard work, work ethic, experience and expertise of older workers. While the earnings test has been adjusted to reflect a changing workforce, the earnings limit has never been eliminated.
Eliminating the earnings limit is not only the fair thing to do for working seniors, it would improve the quality and efficiency of the whole Social Security program as well. Repealing the earnings test will make Social Security easier and less expensive to administer. The Social Security Administration estimates that the cost of administering the earnings limit in 1999 ranged from $100-$150 million.
Furthermore, repealing the earnings limit will not affect Social Security’s finances over the long run. The earnings limit doesn’t increase Social Security revenue, it only imposes hardship on seniors who want to work. In fact, seniors who decide to remain in the workforce pay income taxes and social security taxes, eventually adding to the solvency of the Social Security trust fund.
Repealing the earnings limit on working seniors is an area where there is a bipartisan consensus for action. President Clinton has called for the elimination of the earnings limit and the bill was brought to the House floor with bipartisan support. The Senior Citizens’ Freedom to Work Act passed in the Senate with unanimous support as well and the president has indicated he will sign the legislation.
We must do more to strengthen Social Security — for our children as well as for today’s seniors. I will continue working to forge the same bipartisan consensus on more comprehensive action to strengthen Social Security. I will continue to combat policies that jeopardize Social Security by spending the surplus on tax breaks for special interests. Instead, I will work to take advantage of the historic opportunity to use the budget surplus to pay down our debt and extend the solvency of Social Security through at least 2050. Strengthening Social Security and Medicare for our seniors remains one of my highest priorities.
Congressman Brad Sherman