Coalition Update – March 24, 2021

Center for Retirement Research Director Continues Push for Mandatory Coverage

Whenever CPRS members are inclined to become complacent regarding the threat of mandatory Social Security, Alicia Munnell reminds us the threat is never really off the table. Longtime CPRS members know Professor Munnell as a powerful voice on national retirement policy and as a steadfast proponent of mandatory coverage for all state and local public employees.

Munnell, a Professor of Management Sciences at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management and is the founder and director of BC’s Center for Retirement Research (CRR), is a highly regarded retirement policy expert. She spent 20 years as an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, where she focused on wealth, savings, and retirement issues. She served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and as a member of the Council of Economic Advisers during the Clinton Administration.

Over the years, Munnell has advanced her argument for mandatory coverage in a number of notable reports, including papers for AARP (2000) and CRR (2014). Her most recent argument was advanced in an opinion piece for MarketWatch published in January.

Not knowing how Social Security Reform might be considered in the current Congress, we should remember that with one notable exception, all major commissions and a wide variety of major reform proposals over the last 25 years have consistently supported mandatory coverage.

Munnell reminds us the proposal is never off the table.

‘Candidate’ Biden on Social Security

Calling Social Security the bedrock of American retirement, candidate Joe Biden promised to protect Social Security for the millions of Americans who depend on the program.

“With Social Security’s Trust Fund already in deficit and expected to be exhausted in 2035, we urgently need action to make the program solvent and prevent cuts to American retirees,” Biden said.

He pledged to strengthen benefits for the most vulnerable older Americans – including widows and widowers, lifelong workers with low monthly benefits, and old-age beneficiaries who may have exhausted their other savings

The Biden Plan will:

  • Put Social Security on a path to long-run solvency.
  • Preserve the nature of Social Security. Social Security as one of our nation’s great public policy successes.
  • Provide a higher benefit for the oldest Americans.
  • Implement a true minimum benefit for lifelong workers.
  • Protect widows and widowers from steep cuts in benefits.
  • Eliminate penalties for teachers and other public-sector workers.

Given the long list of priorities that President Biden has announced, it’s not at all clear when and how President Biden will choose to advance these proposals. It’s also unknown how his support for full repeal of GPO and WEP will impact that debate in Congress.

Click here for a summary of the Biden Social Security Plan.

Congressional Research Service Publishes Update Reports on GPO and WEP

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) provides Congress with policy and legal analysis. As a legislative branch agency within the Library of Congress, CRS has been a valued and respected resource on Capitol Hill for nearly a century.

Earlier this year, CRS updated reports on the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP).

Their findings are summarized in a CRS Report published on February 4, 2021.

Ways & Means Chairman Prepares to Reintroduce WEP Reform Proposal

Congressman Richard Neal (D-MA), chairman of the powerful House Ways & Means Committee is preparing to introduce his “Public Servants Protection and Fairness Act of 2021.”

In a recent meeting with members of the Massachusetts Retirees Association, Chairman Neal said, “I’m pleased to report that this bill now has more support in Congress than any previous WEP reform bill, and we are actively looking for ways to be able to advance it this year. The bottom line is that we cannot let public employees continue to miss out on the Social Security benefits they’ve earned over decades of hard work, and I remain committed to advancing a permanent solution to this WEP problem.”

In prior sessions of Congress, Mr. Neal has partnered with Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX), the Ranking Member on the Ways & Means Committee on a bipartisan WEP reform proposal. Last year, they took slightly different approaches with Neal offering a more generous approach. As of now, Mr. Brady hasn’t indicated whether he will reintroduce his proposal.

The following are links to Chairman Neal’s legislation:

Bill Summary

Section-by-Section Summary

Congressman Davis Re-Introduces Bipartisan Social Security Fairness Act

Legislation would repeal GPO and WEP

Earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) re-introduced H.R. 82, the bipartisan Social Security Fairness Act (SSFA), which eliminates the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO). Co-leading the legislation with Rep. Davis is Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA). The legislation – H.R. 82 – currently has 111 bipartisan co-sponsors. In the last session of Congress, Davis organized a bipartisan group of 264 co-sponsors of the legislation.

In his press release announcing the legislation, Mr. Davis said, “This bipartisan bill ensures that a teacher who spends his or her summers working a second job or a police officer who changes careers after years of service will not face a possible 40 percent reduction in their Social Security benefits. “By repealing these outdated provisions that unfairly penalize public servants in Illinois, we can provide some certainty to retirees while helping to recruit future teachers, firefighters, and police officers.

Text of H.R. 82