Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said Tuesday that anyone without an employer-sponsored retirement plan should be allowed to use the one given to members of Congress, which was just one of several ideas he offered in a Washington speech about how to improve retirement savings.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. speaks during a luncheon program at the National Press Club in Washington, Tuesday, May 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
Rubio said an estimated 75 million Americans work for companies that don't sponsor a retirement plan, and said many others don't use plans they are offered. But he said members of Congress have it easy.
"[T]he twisted irony is that members of Congress – who are employees of the citizens of the United States – have access to a superior savings plan, while many of their employers – the American people – are often left with access to no plan at all," he said.
"That is why I propose we give Americans who do not have access to an employer sponsored plan the option of enrolling in the federal Thrift Savings Plan," he said. "Opening Congress's retirement plan to the American people will allow us to bring the prospect of a secure, comfortable and independent retirement into reach of millions of people."
The Thrift Savings Plan is like a company-sponsored 401K plan, as it lets members save pre-tax money for retirement. He said it's an efficient plan that charges less in fees than most private-sector plans, which lets members save more.
Rubio offered several other proposals in his speech at the National Press Club. He said the combination of the Great Recession, inadequate savings, and an uncertain future for Social Security and Medicare are combining to create retirement problems for many.
He started by arguing that cuts to federal spending that set the conditions for economic growth are the best way to ensure retirement security for millions of Americans.
"An agenda that cuts government spending and spurs economic growth is the single most important step toward stabilizing the three legs of the retirement stool," he said, referring to savings, pensions and Social Security.
But Congress also needs to take steps to make it easier for people to work and save for retirement. Today, savings have plummeted as the stale job market and reduced earnings make it harder for people to put aside much money.
"As growth has slowed and millions have been left to languish in a failing job market, saving has started to look like a luxury rather than a standard practice," he said. "In fact, 36 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 saved up for retirement – many of them with nothing saved at all. This problem is especially prevalent among African-Americans and Hispanics."
Aside from giving people access to the congressional retirement plan, Rubio also suggested that the government eliminate the 12.4 percent Social Security payroll tax on working people above retirement age. He said this would create an incentive for seniors to keep working, and would let them contribute more to their retirement.
In light of the expected insolvency of the Social Security trust fund in 2033, Rubio also said Congress needs to increase the retirement age, and reduce the growth rate of Social Security benefits for upper income seniors.
"This isn't a cut, it's simply a reduction in how fast the benefit will increase for wealthier retirees," he said.
And on Medicare, he said Congress needs to give people more healthcare choices, which would help bring costs down.
"In 2012, Medicare spending grew by 4.6 percent – to about $580 billion," he said. "And between now and 2022, this growth rate is expected to accelerate to around 7.4 percent per year. By 2026, the Medicare trust fund will run dry."
He said Obamacare goes in the other direction, and said he supports the idea of using Medicare funding to create a premium support system, similar to one that House Republicans have proposed.