The Blog of the Frances Perkins Center

Building a firewall for Social Security in Congress

In Legislation Today on September 3, 2010 at 9:05 am

Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus are asking their colleagues to join them in signing a letter telling President Obama that they will not approve any report coming out of the Deficit Commission that advocates cuts to Social Security.

More than 50 million Americans are represented by advocacy groups that belong to the Strengthen Social Security Coalition. Many of these groups will be encouraging their members to contact their congressional representatives to sign on.

Here is the letter:

Dear Mr. President,

We write today to express our strong support for Social Security and our view that it should be strengthened. We oppose any cuts to Social Security benefits, including raising the retirement age. We also oppose any effort to privatize Social Security, in whole or in part.

You have charged the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform with proposing recommendations that improve the long-term fiscal outlook and address the growth of entitlement spending. It is our view that Social Security–which is prohibited by law from adding to the national budget deficit–does not belong as part of those recommendations.

By 2023, Social Security will have built up a $4.3 trillion surplus, and, without any action, can pay at least 75 percent of all benefits thereafter. Because Social Security is funded separately from the general treasury and has no borrowing authority, it has not contributed to the federal deficit. Despite these facts, some Commission members have repeatedly alleged the need to cut Social Security for budgetary reasons.

For 75 years, Social Security has been a promise to the American people that if they work hard and pay their fair share, they will have a financially secure retirement. In communities across this country, Social Security benefits are often the only source of income helping families maintain a decent standard of living. Social Security’s benefits are modest, averaging less than $13,000 a year, but they are vital to the vast majority of Americans who receive them.

Cutting Social Security benefits further than they are already being cut by raising the retirement age from 65 to 67 would create needless hardship for millions of vulnerable Americans. This is especially true in the face of an economic downturn that has wiped out trillions of dollars that Americans were relying on for their retirement security and the increased dismantlement of the private and public pension systems.

If any of the Commission’s recommendations cut or diminish Social Security in any way, we will stand firmly against them. We urge you to join us in protecting and strengthening Social Security rather than letting it fall victim to a misguided attempt to reduce budget deficits on the backs of working families.

Sincerely,

The letter’s original cosigners are caucus co-chairs Juan Grijalva (AZ) and Lynn Woolsey (CA), John Conyers (MI), Dan Maffei (NY), Mary Jo Kilroy (OH), and Chellie Pingree (ME).

[Department of full disclosure: Congresswoman Pingree is on the Frances Perkins Center’s Advisory Council.]

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