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Republicans Are Working on Making 70 the New Social Security Retirement Age

Republicans claim they don’t want to cut Social Security — but they’re working behind the scenes to do just that.

Sen. Bill Cassidy speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill on June 14, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

A group of Republican senators, plus one independent who caucuses with Democrats, is working on a plan to slash Social Security benefits by potentially raising the age at which people receive full benefits by several years — which would essentially force millions of workers to work even longer than into typical retirement age.

As first reported by Semafor, the group is led by Senators Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) and Angus King (Maine), an independent who aligns himself with Senate Democrats. The group is formulating a bill to slash Social Security, and raising the Social Security retirement age to 70 is a serious consideration.

Other options reportedly include tweaking a benefits formula that allows people with low incomes to collect a minimum threshold of benefits to instead take into account the amount of years worked, or expand the agency’s ability to invest wealth into private stocks, rather than the current trust fund model. If the investment fund didn’t generate a certain amount of return, the plan would increase the tax cap for Social Security and the tax rate itself.

The lawmakers claim that they’re looking at benefit cuts and reforms due to concern over the solvency of Social Security — though Republicans have been clear that their intentions are to slash benefits and force people to depend on work to survive for even longer into old age.

Republican lawmakers have been pretending in public that they are opposed to cutting programs like Social Security and Medicare, perhaps because they know that doing so would be extremely unpopular. When President Joe Biden mentioned GOP plans to cut Social Security and Medicare in his State of the Union address, Republicans responded with jeers and outrage. But, in reality, many Republican politicians and members of Congress have been pushing for cuts.

Some Republicans have expressed this view explicitly in recent months. Former Vice President Mike Pence, for instance, has said that cuts to Social Security and Medicare should be “on the table.” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Arizona) has referred to such social programs as “fat and garbage … that we can cut.”

Other Republicans tacitly support the cuts. Last year, the Republican Study Committee — the largest Republican group in the House, with over 150 members and significant sway over the party’s agenda — released a plan that would increase the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare.

Raising the eligibility age is not an insignificant proposal with mere incidental effects. Research has found that raising the retirement age to 70 would cut monthly Social Security payments for early retirees by about 15 percent. And people in low-income or blue collar jobs would see their retirements cut the most, as those populations have a lower life expectancy, meaning that they would enjoy even fewer years of retirement.

Perhaps the most salient point illustrating Republicans’ and conservatives’ disinterest in “saving” Social Security, however, is the fact that the other solution to Social Security solvency — increasing the amount of money going in to the program, rather than decreasing the amount going out — seems to be off the table for much of the party.

By contrast, Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) recently introduced a bill that would not only vastly extend the program’s solvency but also increase benefits paid out to retirees by simply “scrapping the cap” on Social Security taxes, ensuring that the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share into the program.

Currently, income over about $160,000 a year isn’t subject to the Social Security tax. This means that those with an income of $1 million a year stop paying into the program by the end of February — the day of this story’s publication — unlike the vast majority of Americans, who pay into the program with every paycheck all year.