Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Activists participate in a rally urging the expansion of Social Security benefits in front of the White House July 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. Social Security Works, the AFL-CIO and additional organizations held the event to deliver 'more than 2 million petition signatures' in support of expanding Social Security benefits. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Activists participate in a rally urging the expansion of Social Security benefits in front of the White House July 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. Social Security Works, the AFL-CIO and additional organizations held the event to deliver 'more than 2 million petition signatures' in support of expanding Social Security benefits. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Social Security 2100—A Path to Protecting America’s Elderly Communities

Social Security’s one shortcoming is that its benefits are extremely modest by virtually any measure. We can do so much better.

Diane Archer

For millions of workers, Social Security is all they have to keep them from destitution in old age. Even with Social Security’s guaranteed benefits, they struggle to make ends meet. Fortunately, Congress can easily strengthen retirement security by expanding Social Security. Congressman John Larson (D-CT) has a bill to do just that: The Social Security 2100 Act, which is supported by 90 percent of Democrats in the House of Representatives.

Nearly four in five Americans live paycheck to paycheck. In 2018, the Federal Reserve Board found that four in ten Americans could not afford $400 for an emergency expense. Low wages combined with the high cost of health care, housing and education prevent people from putting aside funds for retirement. The Government Accountability Office reported earlier this year that almost half of households headed by Americans aged 55 and older have no retirement savings.

Equally concerning, most companies no longer offer pensions to their workers—a guaranteed monthly income. Instead, if they are lucky, workers get small financial contributions toward their retirement that do not amount to a whole lot. 401k plans and other so-called “defined contribution” plans do little good if workers are forced to spend their income on basic needs and have no money to save.

After retirement, people often struggle to afford high health care costs. Medicare only covers about half of these costs. (If enacted, Medicare for All would cover all of these costs.) According to the Government Accountability Office, there is a high likelihood that many Americans with retirement savings will outlive those savings.

Americans depend heavily on Social Security. Almost one out of three retirees rely on Social Security for virtually all of their income. Nearly two out of three retirees depend on Social Security for the majority of their income. It’s no surprise that more than seven in ten Americans support expanding Social Security.

Social Security’s one shortcoming is that its benefits are extremely modest by virtually any measure. Workers earning around $50,000, who retired at age 62 last year, received only 32 percent of their pay—much too little for them to maintain their standards of living.

Social Security today is in strong financial shape. It can pay all benefits in full and on time for the next 16 years, and 93 percent of promised benefits for the nest quarter of a century. The 2019 annual report of the Social Security Board of Trustees shows that Social Security now has an accumulated surplus of about $2.9 trillion. By the year 2100, it will represent just 6.07 of GDP. Social Security’s retirement, disability, and survivor benefits represent a far lower percent of GDP than counterpart programs in other wealthy countries.

The Social Security 2100 Act would strengthen Social Security so it can pay all benefits in full and on time through the year 2100 and beyond. Additionally, it would increase Social Security’s modest benefits for the first time in more than four decades. It would help make retirement security a reality for millions more Americans.

For people with low incomes, the Social Security 2100 Act raises the minimum monthly Social Security benefit to 25 percent above the federal poverty level. And it protects people with low incomes, allowing them to remain eligible for Medicaid and to retain their Supplemental Security Income benefits while increasing their Social Security benefits.

In order to cover its costs, the Social Security 2100 Act lifts the cap on Social Security contributions so that wealthy Americans pay in throughout the year just as virtually every other American does. Rather than take away anyone’s benefits, which would weaken Social Security, it looks to wealthy Americans to pay their fair share and asks every worker to contribute a small amount more as well.

Democrats are fully behind the Social Security 2100 Act. It has 210 co-sponsors, and the plan is to pass it in the House of Representatives this fall. But Republicans have been unwilling to stand behind it. The Republican “plan” is to cut Social Security benefits by 20 percent in 2035 and jeopardize the economic security of millions of Americans.

Retirement security should not be a pipedream. Strengthening Social Security, a cost-effective earned benefit, is the smartest way to protect the financial well-being of older Americans.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Diane Archer

Diane Archer is president of Just Care USA, an independent digital hub covering health and financial issues facing boomers and their families and promoting policy solutions. She is the past board chair of Consumer Reports and serves on the Brown University School of Public Health Advisory Board. Ms. Archer began her career in health advocacy in 1989 as founder and president of the Medicare Rights Center, a national organization dedicated to ensuring that older and disabled Americans get the health care they need. She served as director, Health Care for All Project, Institute for America’s Future, between 2005 and 2010.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Senate Dems Help Torpedo Resolution That Would Have Blocked $650 Million Arms Sale to Saudi Arabia

"My simple question is, why in the world would the United States reward a regime that has caused such pain in Yemen with more weapons," Sanders asked after the vote. "The answer is we should not."

Brett Wilkins ·


Amnesty Scorecard Finds Twitter Failing to Protect Women From Online Abuse

"As our world has become increasingly dependent on digital spaces during the Covid-19 pandemic, it's critical that Twitter meet this moment with demonstrated commitment to improving the online experiences of all users, regardless of their identity."

Jessica Corbett ·


Filibuster Reform for Debt Ceiling Fight But Not Voting Rights or Reproductive Freedom?

"If our senators are willing to suspend the filibuster to protect our economy, they should be willing to suspend it to protect our democracy and our freedom to vote."

Jessica Corbett ·


As Senate Holds Guantánamo Hearing, Biden Urged to 'Finally End This Chapter of Injustice'

"Guantánamo is a centerpiece of the forever wars. It is a shameful symbol of racial injustice, torture, and violations of the Constitution and international law."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Unbreakable Solidarity': Kellogg's Workers Reject Contract That Would Leave New Employees Out of Benefits

"We're not willing to sell our souls for our future employees that are going to work side by side with us but not get the same pay or benefits."

Julia Conley ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo