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Beto O'Rourke: The Retirement Survey

Yahoo Finance and the Funding our Future campaign (an alliance of organizations dedicated to making a secure retirement possible for all Americans) teamed up to get more details on where the 2020 candidates for president stand on retirement. According to a recent Gallup poll, “Not having enough money for retirement” is a top financial worry among Americans yet the issue has received minimal attention thus far on the campaign trail. During the September debate, the words “Social Security” or “Retirement” weren’t uttered, according to ABC’s transcript.

The following are the responses from Beto O’Rourke, the former Congressman from Texas.

Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and former U.S. Representative Beto O'Rourke on the campaign trail in New Hampshire. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

Will you address the coming insolvency of Social Security’s Old-Age and Survivors Insurance trust fund in your first term as president? If so, what specific policies will you advance?

Beto believes Social Security is a sacred trust—a promise from our government that if you work hard, you’ll have what you need when you retire. We need to strengthen both its benefits and financing. That is why Beto will champion passage of the Social Security 2100 Act while in Congress and why he will sign it into law as president. This legislation includes a 2 percent across-the-board increase in Social Security benefits in addition to cutting taxes on most seniors’ benefits and increasing the minimum Social Security benefit. This bill also guarantees the viability of Social Security well into the next century by, for example, ensuring that, millionaires and billionaires no longer pay proportionately less in Social Security taxes than truck drivers and nurses.

Should every person who pays into Social Security be eligible for full benefits, regardless of their socioeconomic status? In other words, will your plan include means testing? Will your plan include raising the retirement age or other benefit reductions?

Beto will fight to ensure every American receives their full Social Security benefits. He will oppose any effort to cut Social Security benefits. He will continue to combat efforts to privatize the program. And he will continue his opposition to raising the retirement age.

Should Social Security be funded primarily through payroll taxes, as it is currently, or should other revenue be used to shore up the program’s funding? If so, what revenue source(s) do you propose using?

Beto will champion the Social Security 2100 Act, which will ensure Social Security’s viability into the next century purely through payroll taxes. The legislation does so by, for example, ensuring that millionaires and billionaires no longer pay proportionately less in Social Security taxes than truck drivers and nurses.

Should Social Security benefits be increased for any beneficiaries? If so, how do you propose increasing them, and how will your plan pay for any increase in benefits?

Beto’s plan includes a 2 percent across-the-board increase in Social Security benefits, tax cuts on Social Security benefits, and an increase in the minimum benefit so no senior relying on Social Security will live In poverty. Each of these changes is included in the Social Security 2100 Act, which ensures the viability of Social Security well into the next century with changes to payroll taxes.

Beto will also work to ensure that Social Security works for today’s families. This means tackling the penalty for caregiving in Social Security benefits, which disproportionately undermines the retirement security of women—and people of color—by reducing their benefit levels. He will champion a new “Caregiver Credit,” where someone who takes time out of the workforce to take care of a child or loved one will be credited half the earnings of a full-time, year-round worker in the calculation of their Social Security benefits. Beto also will work to modernize Social Security survivor benefits to protect same-sex couples and families with multiple breadwinners and allow college students to collect a deceased parent’s Social Security benefits. He will pay for these changes by closing a tax loophole that allows wealthy business owners to avoid Social Security and other payroll taxes.

Current legislation in Congress, the SECURE Act, has bipartisan support. Its primary pillars are expanding access to workplace retirement savings plans, increasing retirement income options, and enabling people to contribute to and retain their funds in IRAs and 401(k)s at later ages. Do you support the legislation? Why? Are there certain aspects you oppose? Why?

Beto believes that the SECURE Act represents an important first step towards fixing our retirement system. He hopes to build on it as president.

Should every worker have access to a workplace retirement savings account?
a) If so, how would you make that happen?
b) If not, why?
c) Many states are establishing plans of their own. Do you support these plans and what role do you envision them playing in the broader system?

Every worker—including bona fide independent contractors—should have access to a workplace retirement account. This starts with protecting defined benefit pensions, which provide a secure and dignified retirement to millions of workers. For the millions of workers for whom a pension is not viable option, Beto supports creating a portable retirement account that is accessible to all Americans. Employers would be able to provide matches directly to these accounts.

States have played a critical role in stepping up where the federal government has not, especially after the Trump Administration ended the Obama Administration’s innovative myRA program. Beto will work with states while creating portable retirement accounts so that they can continue offering their own accounts or transition to the federal program.

The Beto campaign, moreover, is living by its values and is contributing 3 percent of each staff member’s salary to a 401(k), regardless of whether the employee contributes.

The gig economy has upended traditional retirement models, and those workers face some of the greatest barriers when it comes to saving for retirement. How would you improve the ability of gig workers to save for retirement?

Beto believes millions of so-called gig workers are employees who have been misclassified as independent contractors. He would apply the ABC Test, which presumes a worker is an employee unless proven otherwise, to ensure that these employees receive the rights and benefits that come with employee status. In the case of bona fide independent contractors or employees whose employers do not offer workplace retirement accounts, creating federal portable retirement accounts will ensure that all workers can save for retirement.

Do you support making it easier for workers to move their retirement benefits from one employer to another, such as a portable benefits model? How would you achieve that?

Beto supports creating federal portable retirement accounts as an alternative to retirement accounts that are housed with a single employer. The retirement account would belong to the employee and employers would have no role in administering it with the exception of providing retirement contributions.

How would you propose improving retirement security for low-income Americans, many of whom cannot afford to put away savings?

The first step to increasing low-income Americans savings is boosting their incomes. Beto has laid out a 21st Century Labor Contract, which will ensure all Americans can join a union, get paid a $15 minimum wage regardless of the industry they are working in, be able to work just one job to take care of their family, and have access to a fair labor market. The contract also creates 5 million paid apprenticeships and ensures all workers have access to the training they need. On top of that, Beto supports increasing the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits while reducing the cost of child care, higher education, and housing. By increasing incomes and reducing costs, working families will be able to save more.

On the retirement side, strengthening Social Security by passing the Social Security 2100 Act is critical. It would provide a 2 percent across-the-board increase in Social Security benefits, reduce taxes on Social Security benefits, and increase the minimum Social Security benefit so no retiree living on Social Security will live in poverty. He also supports further improvements to Social Security benefits that meet the demands of today’s families such as crediting unpaid caregivers for their work when calculating Social Security benefits and modernizing Social Security survivors’ benefits to better protect same-sex and multiple breadwinner couples. Finally, providing portable retirement accounts will close the gap in access to workplace retirement accounts between low and high earners.

More Responses

Every active campaign was invited to participate. Several declined or did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Some campaigns opted to respond only to select questions and are not included here.

Michael Bennet

Steve Bullock

John Delaney

Amy Klobuchar

Beto O'Rourke

Joe Sestak

Marianne Williamson

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