PI Original Ellyn Fortino Friday April 29th, 2016, 6:57pm

Duckworth, Warren Talk Retirement Security Policy At Chicago Campaign Event

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren joined U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth at a Chicago campaign event Friday to talk retirement security with seniors and other supporters. Progress Illinois provides highlights from the discussion. 

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) joined U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL,8) at a Chicago campaign event Friday focused on retirement security issues.

Speaking to seniors, retirees and supporters, Duckworth and Warren stressed the importance of protecting the Social Security and Medicare programs. 

"People like to call them entitlements. These are not handouts," Duckworth told the crowd at the Grace Street Towers, 635 W. Grace St. "This is your money. That money should be there for you. And so it's why we're working so hard, and I plan on doing this in the Senate, to make sure we safeguard Social Security and Medicare."

Duckworth, who is running against U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) in the general election, used the campaign event to take jabs at her GOP opponent. She slammed Kirk for backing proposals that would turn Medicare into a voucher program via the Ryan Budget and opposing a pending Department of Labor (DOL) fiduciary rule for financial advisers

Essentially, the pending DOL rule is aimed at requiring "more retirement investment advisers to put their client's best interest first, by expanding the types of retirement investment advice covered by fiduciary protections," according to the labor department. 

Kirk, who argues that the proposed fiduciary rule would "severely restrict consumer choice in retirement planning," has supported efforts in the Senate to block the proposal. In the House, Republicans approved a resolution Thursday to thwart the proposed fiduciary rule.

"I've never seen them act so fast," Duckworth said of the House Republican's actions against the rule, which was finalized earlier this month. "They did it in weeks. And this is something, by the way, that Mark Kirk is leading. ... He is leading the fight against requiring fiduciary responsibilities for investment advisers."

Duckworth and Warren also drew attention to a pending proposal they are spearheading in their respective chambers, the Seniors and Veterans Emergency (SAVE) Benefits Act. The legislation would provide a one-time Social Security cost-of-living increase that would work out to be an emergency payment of about $580 for seniors, veterans and other beneficiaries. The lawmakers are pushing the legislation because Social Security recipients will see no COLA adjustments to their 2016 benefits due to consumer prices being down over the past year.

To offset the proposal's cost, the SAVE Benefits Act would close a tax "loophole" that allows corporate tax write-offs on executive bonuses.

"Businesses right now can give their top executives unlimited amounts of end-of-year bonuses and write it off as a business expense," Duckworth said. "If you close that tax loophole, you give every single person in the United States on Social Security and Social Security Disability $580 for the year, which is equivalent to the COLA that you're not getting."

Warren noted that the corporate executives who receive such bonuses that can be written off as business expenses earn an average of $16 million a year.

"Their company gets a tax break for their additional bonus, and who's paying that tax break? Every taxpayer in America," Warren said. "And so what Congresswoman [Duckworth] and I propose is to say, heck, let the companies pay 'em $16 million. That's fine. ... Just don't ask the taxpayers to subsidize that."

Warren said the SAVE Benefits Act boils down to a matter of values.

"Our first obligation is not to people making $16 million a year. Our first obligation as Americans is to those who have worked hard and are trying to retire with dignity, and that's what this is all about," she said. 

Republicans, who control both the U.S. House and Senate, are preventing the proposal from being considered, the lawmakers said.

"If it came up for a vote, it would pass," Duckworth asserted. "These are the common-sense things we should be doing for our seniors."

The SAVE Benefits Act, the congresswoman added, "will never see the light of day. Not until we change who is in control in the Senate."

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