It’s time for Candidates to debate Social Security
You wouldn’t know it from most of the news coverage going on, but voters really do want presidential candidates to lay out their plans to keep Social Security financially sound for future generations. That is why AARP’s Take a Stand campaign is calling on the major networks to push the candidates much harder on this important issue.
In our state of Maryland, Social Security helps thousands of people pay their bills, provides a safety net for the needy, and keeps millions in this nation’s middle class above the poverty line. Maryland residents depend on Social Security, and they want it to be there for their children and grandchildren.
In their quest to understand the candidates’ views on Social Security, Marylanders want to know more about proposals affecting Social Security and how each candidate will ensure its future sustainment, stability, and reliability. Candidates should talk about their views in detail, and really help voters understand how they and their families could be affected by possible changes to Social Security. But, so far, these views have not been presented clearly to the citizens of this nation and to this state. Moderators from the major TV networks have not pressed candidates on the subject. And, on those occasions when Social Security has come up, candidates dodge the question or speak in meaningless soundbites. A great many of citizens believe it is time to go past clichés and vague generalities and have a Social Security debate that can help the country move forward.
AARP believes so strongly in Social Security, that in the coming days, Take a Stand Volunteers will begin to deliver petitions to the major networks, urging them to ensure the topic of Social Security and its future gets its fair share of time in the political debates. Our volunteers will also use social media to draw attention to this goal. Social Security is becoming even more important in Maryland and throughout the country as employer pensions are vanishing, and individuals must rely on their own initiatives to protect themselves during their senior years. In a like vein, children, the disabled, and widows may have to fend for themselves when a personal catastrophe occurs, impacting their financial situation which they may never recover. In addition, more people than ever may live into their 80s, 90s, and beyond with limited means to pay their bills. With the current plan, if a retiree has only Social Security in its current state, that person will almost likely be living in poverty based on expected longevity estimates. Kicking the can down the road for Social Security is not the answer. If our leaders do not act with a sensible, feasible plan crafted with deliberate thought and honesty, future retirees could suffer, losing thousands a year, and living in less than desirable circumstances.
So the stakes really matter. Estimates for Social Security insolvency is expected by 2034 with a cut of 25 percent in benefits under current laws and regulations. Proposals that candidates offer for Social Security should be fully debated, and people should understand how these ideas could affect them and their families. All proposals should get careful consideration, with a serious discussion of all aspects affecting that proposal. Currently, some candidates support raising the retirement age, noting that people live longer than when Social Security was created in the 1930s. But, what happens to people with physically demanding jobs who cannot or will not be able to work longer? Some candidates say Social Security benefits should be increased, noting that many retirees now struggle with low benefits that barely sustain them in their retirement. But how will Social Security pay for these benefit increases given all the budget realities and fiscal constraints that this nation faces? Voters should not be left in the dark about the answers. Americans pay into Social Security throughout their working lives, and they deserve to know – in detail – how every presidential candidate would keep the promise of Social Security for future generations. If someone thinks they are ready to be president, he or she should be willing to state what will be done to keep Social Security strong.
While some candidates have been more forthcoming than others, major questions remain about all their proposals, and we urge the networks to press the candidates harder on their views to keep Social Security for the future. Having a real plan to update Social Security is a test of presidential leadership in 2016. The citizens of this nation deserve to hear and understand the views of these candidates.
Clayton K. Hashimoto, Port Tobacco