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Sen. Cassidy says his ‘big idea’ could fix most of the Social Security crisis

Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, has a plan to fix the bulk of Social Security’s problems and he’s open to negotiation on the remaining details — some of the options floated include raising the full retirement age or raising the payroll tax cap — but he says what’s needed most is “political will.”

Under Cassidy’s “big idea,” he proposes placing $1.5 trillion over five years in an investment fund separate from the Social Security trust fund. The investment would be held in escrow for 70 years. 

Cassidy has said this fund would aim to have an average growth rate of 8.5% over 75 years, and would cover up to 75% of the projected shortfall. If the fund failed to generate a sufficient return, both the maximum taxable income and the payroll-tax rate would be increased to ensure Social Security stays solvent for another 75 years.

Cassidy said his idea fixes 75% of the Social Security problem, but not 100%. 

“All of our tiny details we’re open to negotiate,” Cassidy said in an interview with MarketWatch.

Options frequently raised as solutions to closing the gap include raising the retirement age, raising taxes to fund the shortfall or cutting benefits. Currently the trust funds that back Social Security will become depleted in 2034, one year earlier than expected, with 80% of benefits payable at that time.

Read: Social Security’s expected shortfall sparks debate over tax increases

“There’s just different dials to address the shortcomings. What dial do we turn to close the gap? We need political will. We don’t have to raise the retirement age — just turn another dial more,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy said he wants to protect the early retirement age of 62, when someone first becomes eligible to get some Social Security benefits. To get full retirement benefits, a person would need to wait until age 67.

“You want to keep the early retirement age available because some people in some careers can’t work longer,” Cassidy said. 

Meanwhile, there are people who will live to 90 or 100 years old and spend one-third of their lifetime in retirement, Cassidy said.

“Society has to adjust to that with political consensus,” Cassidy said.

Read: Opinion: Yes, Republicans want changes to Social Security and Medicare entitlements—because some changes are needed

Seniors already getting Social Security and those close to retirement should not pay higher taxes or see benefits decrease, Cassidy said.

Cassidy said he doesn’t know how close to the brink—the trust fund insolvency date of 2034—the Social Security program has to get before people start taking it seriously.

“We know the final deal has to have presidential input,” Cassidy said.

“Right now, both presidential front-runners still pretend it’s not a problem,” Cassidy said. “If past is prologue, they will be whistling past the graveyard.”

“The president (Biden) is lying to the American people—that’s the biggest threat,” Cassidy said, who contends that Biden talks about wanting to protect Social Security but hasn’t made any plan to save it. “Trump thinks we can fix the system by attacking waste, fraud and abuse and that’s just 1% of the issue. It should disqualify any one of the presidential candidates for not tackling the problem.”

“Trump never did anything on Social Security while in office,” Cassidy said. Meanwhile, Biden raised the issue in his State of the Union speech but has “done nothing to address the problem. Talk is cheap,” Cassidy said.

In a campaign video on his re-election website, Trump said “under no circumstances should Republicans vote to cut a single penny from Social Security or Medicare.”

Trump added in the video: “Do not cut the benefits our seniors worked for and paid for their entire lives.”

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

If the U.S. enters a recession later this year, it puts the Social Security system more in peril as fewer revenues will likely be coming in, he said.

“It makes it much worse off,” Cassidy said.

He said the debt ceiling crisis is unrelated to efforts to fix Social Security.

Regardless of the lack of current political will to tackle Social Security and the risks to the system, Cassidy said he thinks Social Security will continue to exist in the future even for people as young as 20-something today.

“I think it will exist. I know it will exist if we pass our big idea. Social Security—if we fix it now, what a remarkable accomplishment,” Cassidy said. “We’re trying to make it an issue. I want voters to attack [the presidential candidates] on it. If it’s an issue in the presidential campaign, it will gain some momentum.”  

“We need to look past the crisis du jour and look at the crisis of the millennium,” Cassidy said.

This story originally appeared on Marketwatch

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