WASHINGTON — The Democrat who finished third in the 2016 Iowa Caucuses is now being considered for the post of commissioner of Social Security. Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley will go before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee this week for his nomination hearing, and Republican Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley will be among the lawmakers asking him questions.
“I did meet with him in my office a month ago and I thought it was a very worthwhile meeting,” Grassley says. “I think his heart is in the right place, but I’m going to wait until the hearing’s over to decide whether to vote for him.”
The long-term viability of Social Security is the subject of much concern, but Grassley says they likely won’t be talking with O’Malley about that topic during the hearing on Thursday.
“I think we’re going to be more concerned about how he runs the Social Security Administration,” Grassley says, “and is he going to get people from remote work back into the offices around the country so they can serve the people better?”
Under rules that were set down in 1935, Social Security isn’t allowed to pay out more money than it takes in, and Grassley says the system will be facing a critical challenge in about a decade without key reforms.
“Social Security will be around,” Grassley says, “but if you retire after 2033, based upon trustees’ predictions right now, you’ll get a Social Security check, but it’ll be about 77% of what you’d get if you were drawing Social Security today.”
Some 40 years ago, Social Security was in danger of failure, until House Speaker Tip O’Neill met with President Ronald Reagan to create a compromise that saved the system. Grassley says a new agreement is needed to keep things afloat for another 40 years.
“We should be fixing Social Security yesterday not tomorrow, because it’ll be more difficult tomorrow,” Grassley says, “and we’re going to have to do this with bipartisan efforts because you’re not going to get a Republican plan or a Democrat plan. You’re going to have to do like Tip O’Neill and Reagan did.”
Social Security is the largest federal government program. This fiscal year, the agency expects to pay out $1.2-trillion dollars in benefits to 66-million people.