Ron Paul's Texas Straight Talk - A weekly Column

February 21, 2000

Repeal Earnings Limitation
Stop Penalizing Seniors for Working

During a time when an increasing number of senior citizens are able to enjoy productive lives well past retirement age and businesses are in desperate need of experienced workers, it makes no sense to punish seniors for working. Yet the federal government does just that through Social Security "earnings limitations." Earnings limitations deduct a portion of seniors' monthly Social Security check should they continue to work and earn income above an arbitrary government-set limit. By providing a disincentive for seniors to remain in the workplace, this restriction damages the economy and punishes individuals for seeking gainful employment. It is simply un-American that the federal government would punish someone for continuing to contribute to the economy by reducing benefits that person has already paid for and been promised by Congress.
Eliminating the earnings penalty is one of my top priorities for this year. That is why I was an original cosponsor of Rep. Sam Johnson's legislation to repeal the earnings limitation for Social Security beneficiaries (HR 5). Fortunately, the Congressional leadership has promised to schedule a vote on repealing the earnings limitation and President Clinton has promised to sign it, so I am hopeful we may get rid of this penalty on hard-working seniors.
When the government takes money every month from people's paychecks for the Social Security Trust Fund, it promises retirees that the money will be there for them when they retire. The government should keep that promise and not reduce benefits simply because a senior chooses to work.
Furthermore, by providing a disincentive to remaining in the workforce, the earnings limitation deprives the American economy of the benefits of senior citizens who wish to continue working but are discouraged from doing so by fear of losing part of their Social Security benefits. The federal government should not discourage any citizen from seeking or holding productive employment.
The underlying issue of the earning limitation goes back to the fact that money from the trust fund is being spent for things other than paying pensions to beneficiaries. This is why the first bill I introduced in the 106th Congress was the Social Security Preservation Act (HR 219), which forbids Congress from spending Social Security funds on anything other than paying Social Security pensions.
Stopping the raid on the Social Security trust fund would also make it easier for me to realize one of my other priorities, ending the absurd tax placed on Social Security beneficiaries. Since Social Security benefits are paid for from tax dollars, taxing these benefits is yet another means of "double taxation." This is why I am cosponsoring legislation to end the tax on Social Security benefits. Tax reduction for seniors is also a major plank in my Pharmaceutical Freedom Act (HR 3636) which provides senior citizens with a tax credit to help them cover the costs of prescription medicines. It is long past time that Congress chooses between raiding the Social Security trust fund and helping seniors afford prescription medicines.
I will continue to promote legislation designed to protect the Social Security trust fund from big-spending politicians and eliminate taxes on Social Security benefits. Of course, I will also continue to fight to repeal the earnings limitation and ensure that senior citizens will have the option of continuing to work after retirement age without being penalized by an overly burdensome federal government.