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Why vote? Social Security, that’s why

Guest Column
Sunday, August 12, 2018

The next Congress may determine the long-term fate of Social Security.

Social Security is a compact between generations that has worked remarkably well for 83 years. Current workers contribute payroll taxes into the system, and retirees, who paid in throughout their working lives, collect benefits.

Unfortunately, today too many younger workers believe that Social Security won’t be there for them. Why do they think that? Because when some members of Congress talk about the budget deficit, they talk about Social Security even though Social Security has never contributed one cent to the federal deficit. Social Security pays for itself, and it has enough money to pay full benefits until 2034. After that, with no changes, Social Security will pay 77 percent of benefits.

How important is Social Security? It’s so important that today without it, 41 percent of Texans who are 65 and older would have incomes below the poverty level. Social Security may become even more important to younger people, few of whom have workplace pensions or significant savings.

The sooner Congress addresses Social Security’s long-term solvency, the easier it will be to do. Finding the political will is hard though, and including Social Security in deficit discussions is a political smokescreen.

So, the Congress elected in November could decide to improve the program, keep the status quo, or worse, degrade the system.

If you think Social Security is as important as AARP thinks it is, find out if your candidates are truly committed to preserving the promise of Social Security. All candidates say they are for Social Security, but don’t let them off the hook. Instead, find out if they will support cost-of-living increases that keep up with inflation. Find out if they would raise the retirement age. Find out if they would raise the cap on Social Security payroll taxes above the current $128,400. Find out if they would work to reduce waits on the phone or at Social Security office so people can get the assistance they need.

Once you have the answers to these questions, you can decide whether a candidate has earned your vote. Then, show up in November and elect a Congress that has the will and commitment to honor the 83-year-old promise of Social Security.

Rob Schneider is the director of advocacy at AARP Texas