The next few years are not going to be fun for us or for the White House, but what we do know is that there will be a major assault on Social Security by the TeaGOP crowd, and the President must stand tall and with his base on this upcoming challenge.
President Obama has said that he:
- Won’t cut benefits
- Won’t raise the retirement age
- Won’t cut the cost of living adjustment (COLA)
In effect, the President has said: Keep Social Security’s Promise! We agree.
Social Security belongs to the people who have worked hard all their lives and contributed to the program. Let’s help President Obama keep Social Security’s promise. Let’s stop politicians in Washington from taking that promise away from us.
Here's what the President told bloggers like myself at our meeting in the White House right before the midterm election.
Q Mine is an easy question. Will you rule out raising the retirement age to 70?
THE PRESIDENT: We are awaiting a report from the deficit commission, or deficit reduction commission, so I have been adamant about not prejudging their work until we get it. But I think you can look at the statements that I’ve made in the past, including when I was campaigning for the presidency, that Social Security is something that can be fixed with some modest modifications that don’t impose hardships on beneficiaries who are counting on it. And so the example that I used during the campaign was an increase in the payroll tax, not an increase -- let me scratch that. Not an increase in the payroll tax but an increase in the income level at which it is excluded.
And so what I’ve been clear about is, is that I’ve got a set of preferences, but I want the commission to go ahead and do its work. When it issues its report, I’m not automatically going to assume that it’s the right way to do things. I’ll study it and examine it and see what makes sense. But I’ve said in the past, I’ll say here now, it doesn’t strike me that a steep hike in the retirement age is in fact the best way to fix Social Security.
At the time, the President was hedging a bit, because he was still waiting for the cat food commission to come out with their report, but he did say he's in total favor of raising the salary cap on payroll and won't impose hardships on the people who are counting on it. Raising the retirement age would seriously be a hardship.
CAF has some great information about where Social Security stands: Speaking Truth About Saving Social Security
What we really need is an increase in our benefits:
In fact, if anything, Social Security benefits need to be strengthened.
The average Social Security benefit—$1,155 per month, or about $13,860 per year for a retired worker in 2009—is only slightly higher than the U.S. poverty thresholds. And it’s less than what a retired person actually needs to meet all of their basic needs when you take into the account the rising cost of medical care and housing. The average retiree still paying a mortgage on their home would need almost twice what they’re receiving in Social Security in order to make ends meet, according to one recent report.
A popular argument is that since people are living longer, we should raise the retirement age. Under current law, the age at which people are eligible for full Social Security benefits is set to increase to age 67 for people born in 1960 or later. That means Social Security’s full retirement age is already much older than eligibility ages in private (or public) pension plans, which remain 65 or earlier. Moreover, it is older than the ages for penalty-free withdrawals from 401(k)s or IRAs (59½). Also, consider that, according to a Center for Economic and Policy research study, 45 percent of workers 58 and older work in jobs that are physically demanding or have difficult working conditions; it is neither fair nor humane to ask these workers to put their health and perhaps their lives at additional risk. Finally, at a time when some economists argue that the country is going into a long-term period of historically high unemployment, it makes no sense to force older workers to stay in the workforce longer than they want.
It's been leaked that the SOTU will focus at least partially on the deficit so we need to make our feelings known about Social Security made very clear. I think we have been doing so, but we have to keep it up.
Mr. President, please do not be held hostage by the GOP over the debt ceiling and the appropriations bill. If the GOP or Third Way Dems tries to touch Social Security in any way that is harmful to Americans that are dependent upon it then that should be a non-starter. Be true to your words and promises -- the ones you uttered in the above video.