Rubio outlines Social Security reforms

Senator calls for changes that would encourage retirement-age workers to work longer

May 13, 2014 @ 1:31 pm

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
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Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. (Bloomberg News)

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., on Tuesday called for changes to federal retirement programs that would encourage senior citizens to extend their careers, saying they were a key way to help improve their ability to finance retirement.

The Social Security payroll tax should be eliminated for employees who work past the retirement age of 65, Mr. Rubio said. The move would both decrease their dependence on government programs and increase federal tax revenue.

He also said that workers who take early Social Security at 62 should not have those benefits taxed if they continue to work until retirement age. Under current law, a senior who earners more than $15,000 has his or her Social Security payments reduced by 50%.

“These reforms will help more people save for retirement and allow more seniors to choose to work longer,” Mr. Rubio said in a luncheon speech at the National Press Club in Washington. “This will foster a balanced retirement and leave fewer Americans solely dependent on Social Security.”

Mr. Rubio, who is considering a run for president in 2016, said that steps must be taken now to shore up Social Security and Medicare to save both programs for people in his generation and his children's generation. Mr. Rubio will soon turn 43.

His other retirement reform recommendations included gradually raising the retirement age beyond the current projected 67 for people who are younger than 55, reducing the growth of Social Security benefits for wealthier recipients and changing Medicare into a premium-support program in which the government would provide a payment that people could use to purchase Medicare or private insurance coverage.

Another recommendation was to allow access to the Thrift Savings Plan – the government retirement system – for Americans whose employers don't offer retirement coverage.

“Opening Congress' retirement plan to the American people will allow us to bring the prospect of a secure, comfortable retirement into the reach of millions of people,” Mr. Rubio said.

Mr. Rubio tried to deflect anticipated criticism of his recommendations by asserting that he would do nothing to undermine Social Security and Medicare because each program was crucial in supporting his parents, who were Cuban immigrants and low-wage workers, in their senior years.

But he emphasized that entitlement reform must occur sooner rather than later in order to preserve the programs as the population ages and medical costs increase.

“The longer we wait to address it … the more disruptive and chaotic reforms will be,” Mr. Rubio said.

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