With Congress in recess until after the midterms, many members are heading home to face tough reelection bids. If Democrats really want to rally their base and win over voters who are either on the fence or thinking of sitting this one out, they’d be smart to start talking Social Security.
You won’t find any lack of enthusiasm at the grassroots when it comes to protecting this centerpiece of FDR’s New Deal reforms. Over the past 75 years, it’s proven to be our nation’s most effective anti-poverty program while also providing Americans a measure of dignity and hope and lasting security against the vicissitudes of the market and life.
Currently, Social Security provides the majority of income for two-thirds of the elderly population, and one-third receive nearly all of their income from it. According to the Congressional Budget Office, if no changes were made to Social Security it would still be able to provide full benefits to every recipient through 2039, and approximately 80 percent of benefits thereafter. (By simply ending the cap of taxing only up to $106,000 of earned income, that problem is solved.)
So it’s stunningly bad politics and policy that at this moment—with record poverty and economic inequality, and a shrinking middle-class—Republicans and ConservaDems are looking to slash benefits under the guise of deficit reduction. It’s quite possible they will vote on a plan—via the White House National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform—to do just that in a lame duck session of Congress come December.
But the Strengthen Social Security Campaign (SSSC)—a coalition of over 125 national and state organizations, representing over 50 million Americans—and their Congressional allies are pursuing an effective inside-outside strategy to stop that plan in its tracks and protect Social Security for American workers, seniors, children and people with disabilities.
At the grassroots, activists are focused on petitioning to protect benefits and pressing congressional members and candidates to declare their positions on ideas like raising the retirement age, privatization, means-testing and changing the cost of living adjustment (COLA) formula—all of which are (not so) stealth ways to cut benefits.
Inside Congress, 105 Members have signed onto Congressmen Raúl Grijalva, John Conyers and Dan Maffei’s letter to President Obama stating their opposition to these and any other efforts to cut Social Security.