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Senate Dems urge vote to strengthen Social Security


In a letter Thursday to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a group of senators led by Sens. Jeff Merkley (OR) and Mary Landrieu (LA) pushed for an alternative tax cut agreement that strengthens Social Security rather than providing bonus tax cuts on income above $1 million.

Other senators signing the letter include Sens. Mark Begich (AK), Daniel Akaka (HI), Sherrod Brown (OH), Al Franken (MN), Mark Udall (CO), and Barbara Boxer (CA).

In the letter, the Senators highlight the tradeoff between providing bonus tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans on the one hand, and shoring up the Social Security safety net for seniors, on the other hand.

The senators’ letter in full:

Dear Leader Reid:

The tax package announced by President Obama and Congressional Republicans includes some important provisions that we strongly support, but also a deeply misguided allocation of resources at a time that the United States does not have resources to waste.

The Senate, however, can make it better. We ask that you ensure an opportunity for the Senate to vote on an amendment that will give the American people a clear choice whether they would prefer to give bonus tax cuts to the very wealthiest among us, as the package currently proposes, or to use these resources to strengthen Social Security.

Success in America should rightly be celebrated, but the very wealthy do not need bonus tax cuts and America cannot afford to give them. As you know, the agreement would require American taxpayers to borrow over $50 billion in order to give, on average, $100,000 in additional annual tax cuts to people earning over $1 million per year. These bonus tax cuts are on top of the $43,000 per year that millionaires will receive in tax cuts on their first million dollars of income.

The Congressional Budget Office ranked these tax cuts dead last in terms of effectiveness in boosting economic growth and job creation. In a time of urgent national needs and long-term deficits, we believe the country has higher priorities than these huge tax cuts for the very wealthy.

Specifically, we propose to amend the package to restore tax rates on income over $1 million per year to the Clinton-era rates, and to dedicate the resulting revenues to shoring up the Social Security trust fund. The President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform noted that in 2037, Social Security will exhaust its trust fund and be unable to pay full benefits, and consequently proposed a number of benefit cuts for seniors.

Improving Social Security’s finances is, in our opinion, a more important national priority than directing tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer money to a relative handful of families.

We have grave misgivings about the recent tax agreement. We hope that the Senate can improve on it. We look forward to working with you to ensure a vote on our amendment to strengthen Social Security in lieu of bonus tax cuts for people who are doing quite well.

Thank you.

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