John Delaney: 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 John Delaney, the former Congressman from Maryland.

2020 Democratic presidential candidate former Rep. John Delaney. REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger

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?

Social Security is one of the government’s most successful programs, and I am committed to protecting it. In Congress, I introduced legislation to create a commission tasked with protecting Social Security benefits and ensuring that Social Security remains solvent for the long term. I will support a reform proposal that ends the cap on Social Security payroll taxes so the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share, increases the minimum benefit to support people with modest incomes, and enhances benefits for the very old, who require the most assistance.

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?

I believe that Social Security’s greatest strength is that it’s a nearly universal program. Everyone who pays into Social Security for 10 years, regardless of their income level, should receive retirement benefits, and I support increasing the minimum benefit to provide additional assistance to low income earners.

• Will your plan include raising the retirement age or other benefit reductions?

I oppose raising the retirement age and my Social Security plan protects benefits.

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?

Social Security should continue to be funded through payroll taxes, but the current payroll tax structure needs to change. My plan would remove the cap on taxable earnings so wealthier Americans pay a little more into the system.

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?

My plan would increase benefits for low income earners and the very old, which is paid for by removing the taxable earnings cap and implementing a higher tax rate for very high income earners. I will also provide Social Security credits to unpaid family caregivers, who currently have their Social Security benefits threatened when they leave the workforce to provide care to loved ones. Additionally, I am proposing using CPI-E to determine Social Security’s cost-of-living adjustments, which will ensure seniors receive benefit increases that more accurately reflect the rising costs of health care and other expenses that have a disproportionate impact on older Americans.

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?

I support this legislation because it increases access to retirement benefits and provides more flexibility to savers with 401(k) plans, but my first priority in retirement policy would be to enact my own plan based on guaranteed retirement accounts.

Should every worker have access to a workplace retirement savings account?

Yes, I believe every American should have a retirement account to supplement their Social Security benefit.

a) If so, how would you make that happen?

I am proposing a retirement policy that would provide every American with a Guaranteed Retirement Account (GRA). The federal government will open each GRA with an initial contribution (going forward, GRAs will be opened at the time of a person’s birth), and during a person’s working life employers and the individual would be required to make annual contributions equal to a certain percentage of pre-tax income. GRA funds will be invested in the market, and the government will guarantee an annual 2% rate of return to ensure sure that a market downturn at the time of retirement doesn't wipe out people’s retirement savings. For low income earners, the federal government will cover the employee-side contribution. When a person decides to retire, their account’s balance will be converted into an annuity that will make regular payments for the rest of their life.

b) If not, why not?

n/a

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?

My plan would leave states free to create their own retirement policies as a supplement to the federal GRA.

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?

My retirement plan will provide a GRA for every American, including gig workers. Self-employed workers will make a pre-tax contribution to their GRA equal to the combined employer- and employee-side contributions for conventional employees. I will also support legislation that makes it harder for companies to misclassify as independent contractors workers who should qualify as employees, which will provide workers with increased benefits, such as the employer contribution to their GRA, and greater professional stability.

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?

GRAs will belong to individuals, not be tied to employers, and will follow individuals seamlessly from job to job.

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

Every American will have a GRA, and the federal government will be responsible for the employee-side contribution for low income earners. This means that people with low incomes will have no contributions deducted from their paychecks. Additionally, my retirement plan includes increasing Social Security benefits for low income earners and providing Social Security credits to unpaid family caregivers.

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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