Will Oregon’s congressional delegation stand up for Social Security?

By Alex Lawson of Washington, DC. Alex is the communications director for the Strengthen Social Security Coalition.

Debate rages in Washington about how to reduce our nation’s growing federal deficit, and pundits and politicians alike propose cutting Social Security. Even Congressman Earl Blumenauer was recently featured in a major New York Times article about the effort to reconsider Social Security.

And while Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader, and Ron Wyden have all come out strongly against privatization of Social Security, they have not drawn a line in the sand against any cuts to Social Security. And of course, Greg Walden is nowhere to be seen.

Paul Krugman and others wonder why.

It doesn’t seem to matter that Social Security has not caused the federal deficit, and the program has a $2.5 trillion surplus today, which is projected to grow to $4.2 trillion by 2025. Nor does it seem to matter that the housing equity and retirement savings of many Americans collapsed during the nation’s Great Recession. Cutting Social Security’s protections – especially for middle-aged and young workers – will undermine Social Security as a financial foundation, and often a financial lifeline.

Social Security is paid for through dedicated taxes contributed by workers and their employers. That is why Social Security is a promise, a bond between generations that belongs to the people who have worked hard all their lives and to their families.

Social Security is family insurance protection against lost wages due to old age, disability, or death.

The importance of Social Security’s earned protections cannot be overstated:

That’s why a coalition of organizations from across the country have come together to fight any efforts to cut Social Security. The Strengthen Social Security coalition is made up of over 100 national and state organizations representing over 50 million Americans including the AFL-CIO, the Alliance for Retired Americans, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, American Federation of Teachers, the Gray Panthers, NAACP, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, USAction, and United Cerebral Palsy.

The coalition is united behind seven commonsense principles:

  1. Social Security did not cause the federal deficit; its benefits should not be cut to reduce the deficit.
  2. Social Security should not be privatized in whole or in part.
  3. Social Security should not be means-tested.
  4. Congress should act in the coming few years to close Social Security’s funding gap by requiring those who are most able to afford it to pay somewhat more.
  5. Social Security’s retirement age, already scheduled to increase from 65 to 67, should not be raised further.
  6. Social Security’s benefits should not be reduced, including by changes to the COLA or the benefit formula.
  7. Social Security’s benefits should be increased for those who are most disadvantaged.

Over the coming months, the coalition will be working to ensure that Social Security continues to be an important part of America’s social contract.

There is overwhelming public support for Social Security.

The only question is if Oregon’s congressional delegation is going to be on the public’s side.

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    Great article! My short answer is "Yes, but they won't carry the day".

    As to why...what else is there to plunder?

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    Aha, Paul Krugman himself says that rumors abound that Obama's deficit commission will call for benefit cuts and a sharp rise in the retirement age. I had earlier posted my concern about a rise in the retirement age, and Mr. Kari Chisolm responded that the cuts that the commission envisions would affect only those who are 35 and under.

    We'll see. I hope Kari Chisolm is correct, but I'd bet against it.

    Anyway, the $2.5 trillion current SS surplus and out into the $4.2 trillion surplus has all and, most likely, will all be lent to the general fund. Wage-earners such as you and I loaning our hard-earned money to pay for World Empire, while at the same time likely facing benefit cuts!

    My fear is that cuts/raising retirement age will be characterized as the middle ground, and that the Dem leadership will, once again, proclaim a grand, historic victory in that they fended off the privatization that the GOP wanted.

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      The SS 'surplus' has been used by evry administration since LBJ. There is no surplus, only bonds sold to China, Saudi Arabia and Japan back when they were buying.

      It would shock me if Obama came out and advocated SS cuts in the name of deficit reduction. Basic, fundamental changes need to occur for SS ability to remain viable. The most current date of insolvency is 2037, down from 2043 and that estimate was based on the income/outlay break even not happening until 2016; it happened this year.

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        Kurt Chapman,

        The T-Notes the SS surplus holds were sold to the SS surplus. What happened was that the SS fund loaned the money to the general fund and, in return, was issued the T-bills. The transactions with other creditors, such as China, are entirely separate.

        The first thing that needs to happen is that the U.S. Treasury needs to prioritize repaying the SS fund in a timely fashion such as is needed to repay the promised benefits.

        The dates you quote, 2037 and 2043, are dates at which the SS fund would be able to cover approximately 75% of promised benefits (that is, provided the Treasury repays as is needed).

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          I believe the current working figure is 78% beginning in 2037. A shortfall that can easily be corrected with a raising or eliminating the income limit on FICA contributions.

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    I appeared in a video campaign Ad for Kurt Schrader where Soc. Sec. was the key issue. I hope that means he isn't going to waffle. But we have to let the Dem. office holders they have no future in office if they plan to cut any deals to sell out Soc. Sec. We have to organize

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    Two additional thoughts. Once again we have to beat back the GOP's agenda to privatize and therefore eliminate Soc. Sec. Privatize is a bad word, so they are using different words now, but the aim is the same as Bush's, to divert FICA deductions into Wall St. and bankrupt Soc. Sec. while providing their Wall St. patrons with new money. Every one of their new candidates in AK, WI, NV, KY, and CO all have stated their enmity toward Soc. Sec. and Medicare.

    Second thought and a prediction. There will be no proposals from the Deficit Commission to cut military spending. Despite the fact we have a military preparing to do battle with a Soviet Union that no longer exists. We maintain nuclear arsenals to blow the world up several times over. And we maintain bases and troops and equipment throughout the world presumably to fight a few hundred terrorists. The new "third rail" of politics is military spending. No one wants to touch it, despite the fact that any real attempt to control spending and get a handle on debt. must of necessity do that.

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      Bill, I had to laugh although I know it is not funny. No, the cat food commission will not propose to cut military spending. Why that would cut military spending, and cut contractor-to-military spending, and cut supplies-to-contractor-to-military spending, etc... And maybe we really would move away from an oil base since the military is largest consumer of oil, in the USA, the world, intergalactic space, whatever. I see serious progressives very ready for their leaders to touch this issue.

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    Remove the cap on income which has FICA withholding and Social Security not only is solvent in perpetuity, but actually makes a profit.

    But since it is over 25 years until the trust fund built up since the 80s to cover the baby boomers is depleted, we can easily and painlessly make the minor adjustments (i.e. remove the FICA cap) and not only would we not have to make any cuts, increase the retirement age a single minute, but could actually raise benefits and keep Social Security solvent indefinitely.

    Anyone claiming this is a crisis is flat out lying.

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      Based on what we've seen of the Democratic leadership since they've been in power, since 2006, do you honestly believe they will get behind something as progressive as removing the FICA cap?

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        The House would, but it would likely die in the Senate.

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          Maybe so, Mitchell, but at this point the only thing we have on record from the House Dem leadership is Steny Hoyer saying he wants to raise the retirement age.

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        Well Stephen, they will all be campaigning in all areas this fall, so why don't we ask them? I'll ask David Wu, you ask your Congressman, and lets all report back, OK? Maybe just call their offices to avoid the waiting for a public appearance.

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