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Social Security Under Threat-- A Guest Post By Congressman Ted Lieu

Ted Lieu represents much of the West Side of Los Angeles and has been a stalwart progressive voice, first in the state legislature and since 2015, in Congress. He is a co-chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee and has been one of the most active incumbents working to elect Democrats to Congress. Last week he did an event for Chris Deluzio one day and an event for Summer Lee the next and his office was booking a plane ticket for him to fly down to Miami to do one for Annette Taddeo in a couple of days. You can help these candidates-- all of whom are campaigning on platforms that include protecting Social Security and a strong social safety net, here.

Believe Republicans When They Tell Us They Want To Dismantle Social Security

-by Rep. Ted Lieu

For generations, Americans have paid into what President Biden describes as “a sacred trust,” a government-backed retirement system meant to keep elderly, disabled and widowed Americans out of poverty. Social Security is one of the greatest legislative triumphs in American history, having provided close to 100 years of economic security for American workers and their families.

Here are a few examples of the program's impact: Prior to Social Security, half of all American seniors died in poverty. Before Social Security, most seniors either had to work their entire lives, rely on family or friends, or live in a so-called poorhouse. Life expectancies were shorter and people were literally dying because they were poor. This year, the Social Security Administration reports that nearly 9 out of ten people over the age of 65 are collecting Social Security. For 57 percent of retirees, Social Security is a “major” source of their retirement income. Because of Social Security, poverty rates declined tremendously in the last century and reduced the financial strain of caring for older individuals. Without Social Security, close to 45 percent of elderly Americans would be impoverished today.

Despite this record of success, Republicans want to do away with Social Security. In what remains one of the most perplexing policy positions from a party that is no stranger to counterintuitive (or might I just say, dumb) ideas, Republicans want to gut benefits and ruin Social Security as we know it. They call it their “Commitment to America” agenda, a proposal to put Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block as a way to cut spending. I guess the "commitment" is to bankrupt American families who have sick or elderly relatives. The newest idea from Leader McCarthy is to cause the federal government to default on its debt should Republicans gain control of the House and Democrats refuse to make drastic cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

McCarthy says he would hold the government hostage in the name of "fiscal responsibility." This is laughable coming from the party whose biggest legislative accomplishment in the past decade was the 2017 tax cuts for the rich, which increased the federal deficit under the Trump Administration. To counteract their terrible policy decision, Republicans proposed an even worse one that will hurt everyday Americans the most. And this isn’t just some fringe part of their party making these proposals. There are 158 House GOP Members who have actively called for privatizing and slashing Social Security and raising the retirement age to 70.

GOP Senator Rick Scott went even further and proposed that federal programs like Social Security be eliminated after five years unless the programs are affirmatively reauthorized by a vote of both houses of Congress and the legislation is signed by the President. Republicans want Americans working longer and harder for less money while their mega-rich friends enjoy historic tax cuts. They are proud of this and are actually running on it.

If in power, Republicans want to make good on their decades-long dream of dismantling Social Security as we know it. Like banning abortion, slashing Social Security has been the ambition of conservatives dating back to at least the 1990s. In fact, after winning re-election in 2004, George W. Bush jumped at the opportunity to privatize Social Security. His plans quickly evaporated as he learned the obvious: Americans really like Social Security. Bush failed to destroy a popular entitlement program and delivered us the first female Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, when Democrats won back the majority in 2006. Imagine for a moment the added devastation of the 2008 financial crisis had voters not agreed with our party's view that it was a bad idea to leave the well-being of older Americans up to the whims of a volatile financial market.

As we get closer to 100 years with Social Security, there remains a growing concern about the future of the program. A majority of voters say the nation faces a retirement crisis. Democrats are on the side of the 74 percent of Americans who believe that Social Security benefits should not be reduced. And that’s why we have a plan called “the Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust” that would strengthen, not weaken, this essential program and ensure that generations to come will benefit from it. The bill, authored by Congressman John Larson, which I'm co-sponsoring, works to protect the program’s solvency, especially in light of inflation and growing inequality. It awaits advancement in Congress because we need bigger majorities to get it done. In the meantime, the Biden Administration just announced retired Americans will see an historic 8.7 percent increase in their benefits this year to offset the cost of food and other necessities.

The future of Social Security is one of the major issues at stake in this year’s midterms. November's election will help shape the direction of our country and will either keep us on a path of progress or send us down a dark detour.

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