During a town hall meeting last week, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) told listeners that coaxing retired Americans back to work with tax incentives could be an “innovative” way to deal with so-called “labor shortages.”
Johnson is currently seeking a third Senate term in this year’s midterm races despite promising to retire after two terms. According to The Wisconsin State JournalHe has repeatedly suggested the idea that seniors should reenter work over the past few weeks and he reiterated the call at a recent Neenah, Wisconsin event. He claimed it could be a solution to businesses that are having difficulty hiring and retaining workers.
“We could encourage seniors to get back in the workforce, those who are able to, by just saying, ‘We’re not going to charge you payroll tax. You’re not paying it now. Come back into the workforce, and we’ll waive the payroll tax,’” Johnson said during the town hall.
Economists are generally in agreement that providing better working conditions and higher incomes to workers is the best way to address the issue — not coaxing seniors back to the workforce by telling them they can return to work without paying income taxes.
Untaxed wages in payroll would reduce Social Security and Medicare payments, programs that millions upon millions of Americans rely on to stay afloat.
“I can see Sen. Johnson’s plan as having a small, positive benefit toward the goal of encouraging older adults to reenter the workforce,” Cal Halvorsen, an assistant professor at the Boston College School of Social Work, said to The State Journal. “Yet, I also worry about the effect on the federal budget overall and, in particular, the Social Security retirement program, which would lose money at a point when Congress still hasn’t fixed the projected budget shortfall in 2035.”
Democrats condemned the idea, pointing that the policy would be harmful and exploitative for seniors. Lauren Chou, a spokesperson for Democratic Senate nominee Mandela Barnes, who is running against Johnson this fall, said the proposal by the GOP lawmaker would be tantamount to “hanging seniors out to dry.”
Barnes also criticised Johnson’s anti-senior stances.
“Why is Ron Johnson waging a war on our seniors and the benefits they’ve worked towards their entire lives?” Barnes asked in a recent tweet.
Johnson’s proposal comes weeks after he suggested that Medicare and Social Security budgets should Get yearly votes in CongressInstead of being an automatic move, it could cause disruption to benefits for retirees. This is due to the high probability of partisan fights over the amount that should be allocated to these programs.
The White House condemned Johnson’s idea in August, saying that it would put programs that help millions of Americans “on the chopping block.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) also blasted Johnson’s proposal, noting that he and other Republicans were “saying the quiet part out loud” when it comes to their plans to dismantle social spending programs that many retirees depend on.