Rubio’s paid leave plan exposed by new study as a sham to gut Social Security

One in 5 Floridians receive Social Security. Their senator wants to let more "borrow" from their future payments.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (L) and Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO)
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (L) and Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO) held a an August 2, 2018 press conference about their Social Security for paid leave plan. CREDIT: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

More than 4.5 million Floridians received Social Security benefits in 2017 — over 21 percent of its population. Had they taken part in their senator’s proposed “paid parental leave” scheme, they would be receiving quite a bit less.

For a while, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has been touting his idea to cut Social Security and use those funds to pay for new parents to receive two months of partially paid leave to care for their kids. He and Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO) announced the specifics earlier this month. Unlike a proposal by Congressional Democrats, the Rubio plan does not raise new revenue to pay for the program, but instead lets parents make “an early withdrawal” from their future benefits.

But a new study by the nonpartisan Urban Institute lays waste to Rubio’s claims that this approach will be “budget neutral” and would be easily offset by a small delay in retirement. Its authors ran computer simulations and found that the scheme would “recoup costs by raising Social Security’s full retirement age for participants by six months for each paid leave lasting two or more months, reducing average lifetime retirement benefits 3.2 percent per leave.”


Even worse, the researchers predicted, people who take three two-month paid leaves over their lifetime “would forfeit one-tenth of their lifetime Social Security retirement benefits.” Because Rubio’s plan would pay the money out to new parents many decades before they would receive it otherwise (if they live that long), “it would run an annual deficit for many years.”

“There’s already a concern about retirement security and income. And people are increasingly entering retirement with mortgages and other kinds of debt,” one of the study’s authors told HuffPost. “The idea we would reduce those retirement incomes further is scary.”

Rubio’s desire to undermine Social Security, however, is not totally new. Last November, he admitted that in order to address the budget deficit exacerbated by the tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy that he backed, it would be necessary to make reductions to Social Security and Medicare.

“The driver of our debt is the structure of Social Security and Medicare for future beneficiaries,” Rubio falsely claimed at the time. “We still have time to responsibly structure those programs in a way that doesn’t impact current retirees or people about to retire, but in a way that would probably impact it for me and people younger than me.”