Workers Soundly Reject Social Security Benefit Cuts

The “chained” CPI is a Social Security benefit cut (not an innocuous “adjustment”), and the majority of voters understand this, with 55 percent opposing this policy proposal.

A new poll, Strengthening Social Security: What Do Americans Want? from the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI), highlights working people’s opposition to benefit cuts, including the “chained” CPI, which reduces the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).  

A large majority, 64 percent, think the COLA should be increased to better protect seniors and other beneficiaries from inflation and rising prices of food, utilities and other necessities.

There is no “cover” for elected officials, conservative or liberal, who want to cut Social Security benefits. Voters across the political spectrum hold intense beliefs, as evidenced by numerous polls, that lifelines like Social Security and Medicare are promises that should not be broken.

Politico’s David Nather recently wrote a piece that some liberal think tanks open to a “chained” CPI would provide cover for elected officials to cut benefits in the upcoming budget battle. But NASI’s new poll, along with others conducted in the past few months, shows that this benefit cut, along with others, are extremely unpalatable.

Social Security Works Co-Directors Nancy J. Altman and Eric Kingson write in a response to Nather’s article:

First, the majority of liberal groups oppose including Social Security changes in any budget negotiations since the program is legally off budget and does not contribute to the deficit. This is the official stance of the Strengthen Social Security coalition. With over 320 member-organizations representing 50 million members, including the AFL-CIO, NOW [National Organization for Women], MoveOn, NAACP and LULAC [League of United Latin American Citizens], the coalition is the largest liberal umbrella group for Social Security advocacy. The coalition’s position has strong support in Congress. Twenty-seven members of the current Senate Democratic Caucus, including Majority Leader Harry Reid and Deputy Whip Chuck Schumer, have signed a letter insisting that Social Security be kept out of a deficit reduction package.

In light of a retirement income crisis that is expected to worsen in the coming decades, these liberal groups see our Social Security system as a bulwark of financial security that is more critical than ever. While Social Security benefits for the average retired worker are just $14,900 a year, they provide the majority of income for two-thirds of seniors and over 90 percent of the income for one-third of seniors.

In the poll conducted by NASI, 71 percent favored lifting the Social Security FICA tax cap over a period of 10 years. As it stands now, high-income earners only pay Social Security taxes up to $113,700 of their income.

Working families are asking elected officials to stand up to Republican hostage-taking by doing the following:

  1. Oppose benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.
  2. Close loopholes for Wall Street and the richest 2 percent of Americans.

Any further deficit reduction should come from closing loopholes for Wall Street, drug companies and the richest 2 percent of Americans, not from budget cuts that threaten the 98 percent (such as cuts to education and vital services for low-income people).

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