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Larson Heckled During Social Security Pitch to Hometown Seniors

by Christine Stuart | Jun 17, 2014 5:30am
(16) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Congress, East Hartford

Christine Stuart

U.S. Rep. John B. Larson at the East Hartford Senior Center

(UPDATED 1:15 p.m. Tuesday) It took years for U.S. Rep. John B. Larson to formulate his proposal to strengthen Social Security, but the rollout of the legislation at a senior center in his hometown of East Hartford on Monday didn’t necessarily go as planned.

Larson spent more than 30 minutes trying to explain his plan. He told the silver-haired crowd that his plan, which is still being finalized as legislation, would make sure the Social Security Trust Fund is solvent past 2033.

But there were continued interruption and the conversation strayed several times off topic to things such as Obamacare.

Larson passed out fact sheets and explained that his plan would include a two percent average increase in payments for beneficiaries and then the cost-of-living increase would be based on the actual expenses elderly citizens incur. It would also cap the amount someone is taxed on their Social Security benefits.

Currently, Social Security benefits are taxed if a beneficiary’s income exceeds $25,000 a year, or $32,000 for a married couple. Larson’s plan would raise those income thresholds to $50,000 for individuals and $100,000 for married couples, thus providing a tax break.

Larson would pay for his plan by gradually increasing the contribution employers and workers pay by one percent, which averages out to about 50 cents per week. That would start in 2037.  He also would starting levying payroll taxes on incomes above $400,000 for the first time in order to shore up the Social Security fund. At the moment, people with incomes above $117,000 don’t pay the payroll tax. This cap has exempted wealthier individuals from contributing to the trust fund. People earning $117,000 or less would continue to pay payroll taxes.

The plan would leave a carve-out with no payroll tax liability for people earning $117,000 to $400,000.

Lastly, Larson would help improve the rate of return to the Social Security Trust Fund by borrowing an idea from former Social Security Commissioner Robert Ball and Social Security Works Co-Director Nancy Altman. The plan would gradually invest up to 25 percent of the trust fund assets into a broad-based, diversified index fund. The investments will be based on the full faith and trust of the American government, Larson said.

A man interrupted to dispute the credibility of the federal government.

“Why? Have you ever not gotten your Social Security?” Larson asked the man.

“Don’t answer my question with a question,” the man replied.

“Oh boy, here we go,” Larson said.

Another man got up to ask “why don’t they just pay back the money they borrowed out of Social Security?”

The question received some cheers.

“Well, that’s always a great question,” Larson said. “Why don’t they pay back the money that they took out of Social Security?”

Larson said the Social Security fund in terms of what you paid into it is solvent through the year 2033, but over the course of the history of Social Security it has taken on a lot of responsibility, including disability and survivors insurance.

“The trust fund is nothing more than the full faith and trust of the United States government and it has never defaulted or never not paid back the fund,” Larson said.

The man disagreed.

Larson tried to move on, but the discussion continued to deteriorate.

“Where are you going to get the money for welfare people coming to this state,” one woman asked. “They get paid better than seniors.”

Another woman stepped into say that in order for the system to work you have to have people working, and there are millions of Americans without jobs at the moment. Those people are not paying in, and that adds to the problem.

“If we could only get our counterparts in Congress to act,” Larson said, referring to the Republicans.

One man shouted out “that’s bologna” while the other half of the crowd shouted that it was true.

“It is absolutely the truth,” Larson said.

The man went on to rant that “you’re waiting for us all here to die.”

Another man got up to ask exactly how Larson planned to get this through a Republican-controlled House.

“They say the longest journey begins with the first step,” Larson said. “I think you have to talk about the responsibility and lay it out. Otherwise, not to discuss it, not to put it into the form of a bill, not to have people be able to talk about it, means it gets swept under the rug.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been edited to clarify that Rep. Larson’s plan would shore up Social Security by charging payroll taxes on incomes above $400,000 for the first time while continuing to levy payroll taxes on incomes $117,000 or below.

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(16) Comments

posted by: Not that Michael Brown | June 17, 2014  8:31am

Social Security expansion is a great idea and a winner issue for Democrats.  But the audience for this idea isn’t old people.  It’s young people.

Also, it can be paid for if we raise the wage cap to $500k per year.

posted by: Chien DeBerger | June 17, 2014  9:00am

Good for the seniors, they are finally seeing that the emperor has no clothes.

posted by: CTS | June 17, 2014  9:49am

Christine, your bias is showing.  Asking tough questions of your elected representative is not heckling. Nor is calling out a politician for answering your question with a question. Raising issues the Representative might not want to talk about is not a deterioration of the conversation. Representatives at all levels of government need to be more responsive to their constituents.

posted by: Noteworthy | June 17, 2014  10:42am

Social Security Notes:

1. Larson should not waste his time writing this legislation.

2. It is too complicated.

3. Wages are taxed for social security up to $117K. Over that are exempt. He would move that cap higher to $400K would mean the middle class is taxed more, not less.

4. Or, is is talking about carving out a doughnut hole for the middle class so that the first $117K in wages is taxed, but from $117 to $400 is not?

5. The practice of raiding the social security trust fund and replacing it with worthless I.O.U.s is disgraceful. It is no different that Malloy and the legislature stealing the gas tax money and using it to pay the light bill. And then complaining they don’t have enough money to fix the roads and bridges.

Real Social Security Plan: All wages are social security tax eligible. Stop taking the freaking money. Problem solved.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Noteworthy - thanks for this note, we made a mistake in the editing process last night. Should be clear now.

posted by: PWS2003 | June 17, 2014  10:43am

Great plan but I would hope that you would include the repeal of WEP. It is unfair to reduce SS benefits that way.

posted by: Christine Stuart | June 17, 2014  1:33pm

Christine Stuart

CTS,
There is no bias. When you talk over someone who is talking and try to shout them down and be louder than they are it’s heckling. Name calling and telling someone they don’t know what they’re talking about is also heckling. Will gladly upload the audio when I get a chance.
Christine

posted by: PWS2003 | June 17, 2014  2:15pm

Noteworth, not sure when US Treasuries became worthless because the Full Faith and Credit of the US Government stand behind them. If they are worthless as you say why do people and institutions from all over the world flock to buy them? If they are worthless than $17 Trillion on Treasuries would be worthless and the world economy would collapse faster than you can count to 3. No they are good but a whole bunch of people like to spread falsehoods.

posted by: Not that Michael Brown | June 17, 2014  4:23pm

@PWS2003 - Something tells me that @Noteworthy would much rather have the SSA invest excess funds in gold rather than in treasuries.

posted by: Coramac | June 17, 2014  4:51pm

When you are in an audience with an invited speaker, let that person present their reason for being there and ideas on the subject. Respectfully listen and when they are finished ask questions, and suggest ideas that may be different than the speaker’s. This is what we seem to have lost in all avenues of government. We have always exchange opinions and that is what our country is all about. Unfortunately lately we have to many of us going right or left and not enough of us listening to each other. On the other hand the media is quick to pounce on negative remarks and make mountains out of molehills.

posted by: Jesterr72 | June 17, 2014  4:59pm

People are starting to realize the nonsense they are being fed by politicians while tens of thousands pour over the border and are being transported all over the US by the Fed government and dropped off on street corners - all while millions still out of work, and the labor participation rate is falling.  Those that finally get work find it’s part-time.  So who’s going to pay for all this?  The numbers don’t - and never have - added up for Liberals.  Prosperity is always just around the corner.  People are waking up and now realize it’s all BS, including Larson’s “plan.”  More constituent meetings like this are coming.

posted by: cwhig | June 17, 2014  8:37pm

As Carl DeSuze used to say on his call-in program on Boston’s WBZ, “They’re out there tonight!”

posted by: Bulldog1 | June 18, 2014  11:33am

@Noteworthy:
Actually I tihnk the middle class is already pretty much covered by the the current SS tax level of 117K. With the median income in the US around 50k I suspect that the vast majority of wage earners are already paying on their entire income.  So it’s the people who are actually pretty much ahead of the pack who aren’t paying full freight.  And the reason that someone making 50K or a family making 80K should pay on the full amount and the individual making 250K not?
Hmm?

posted by: QuestionMark | June 18, 2014  8:47pm

@Noteworthy: If John B. Larson, along with the balance of our Democratic Connecticut Democratic congressional delegation do not waste their time, they have nothing to do.  They don’t get paid for productivity as generally, there is none. They are experts, however,in growing our huge national debt.

posted by: CitizenCT | June 18, 2014  10:21pm

Bulldog, the answer to your question is quite simple.  With Social security, the more you put in, the more you get in retirement, “freight” is pretty evenly distributed.  It was never meant to be a wealth redistribution program.  Unfortunately, Larson wants to turn it into one.  People shouldn’t be asked to fund the other guy’s retirement.

posted by: Joebigjoe | June 18, 2014  11:02pm

I may shock some people here but I applaud Larson. Why? Because people like Murphy and Blumenthal would never allow people to ask questions that werent screened by their handlers. Larson at least allowed it.

I would never vote for the man but he did something that I think should actually be required by law. Allow voters to ask questions without screening. You can lie all you want and thats for voters to decide but when you cant even ask a tough question because it doesnt fit their agenda then that’s soft tyranny.

posted by: bgenerous | June 19, 2014  9:58am

Bulldog1, the main reason why one does not pay a Social Security Tax above a certain wage level is that Social Security benefits are capped.  At the inception of Social Security it was thought unfair to tax above a certain level if benefits were capped. It has nothing to due with not paying their full freight.  Obamacare comparisons for this type of Social Security proposal are fair game because Obamacare increased the Medicare Tax for those above a certain income level and introduced a Net Investment Income Tax, all to assist in the funding for Obamacare.