WASHINGTON — Younger workers would face higher retirement ages and wealthier Americans would see their Social Security paychecks trail those of their less affluent neighbors under a plan proposed Tuesday by Sen. Marco Rubio.
Rubio, a first-term Republican senator from Florida who is outlining a policy agenda as he weighs a presidential bid, also proposed allowing all Americans to join federal retirement accounts. He vowed to protect benefits for older Americans but added that changes are needed if the system is to survive.
“The Social Security trust fund is drying up,” Rubio said, referring to money collected to pay certain benefits.
He said the safety net for retirees will run into debt in 2033 if changes are not made. “This is not a scare tactic. ... It is a mathematical certainty if things remain unchanged.”
Democrats said the Rubio proposal is one similar to what Republican Mitt Romney proposed when he unsuccessfully ran for president in 2012.
“Sen. Rubio’s plan is just the latest example of the Republican Party’s out-of-touch policies that benefit a few instead of extending opportunity for all,” Democratic National Committee spokesman Michael Czin said.
“The answer is to gradually increase the retirement age for future retirees to account for the rise in life expectancy,” Rubio said.
Rubio did not specify a new retirement age.
He also said wealthier Americans rely less on Social Security than poorer Americans and could deal with their payments growing less quickly. “This isn’t a cut. It is simply a reduction in how fast the benefit will increase,” Rubio said.
“Social Security was never designed to be the sole source of retirement income,” he said.
Rubio’s proposal would make the federal retirement program that Congress uses available to non-government employees. His proposal would make it easier for workers whose employers don’t offer retirement plans such as 401(k)s and other investment programs. Rubio says his proposals would make it easier for lower-income and middle-class voters to plan for retirement.
Specifically, Rubio called for opening the federal Thrift Savings Plan to all Americans. The program, which covers more than 4 million civilian and uniformed government workers, has more than $350 billion in its accounts.
But unlike private accounts, the Thrift Savings Plan has lower costs for fund management and is exempt from many regulations commercial programs must follow.