Leah knows that retirement security is a vital issue for many people in our Congressional District, where we have a larger than average proportion of elders in many of our communities. With fewer and fewer workplaces giving access to private pensions, the stability of Social Security becomes more and more important to our region.
Social Security benefits have been the backbone of American retirement since 1935. Unfortunately, the agenda of the economic elites in this country for the last 40 years has been to undermine confidence in Social Security so that young people will come to believe it won’t be there for them when they retire. Then, in reaction to a manufactured “crisis,” radical changes—such as privatization of Social Security—appear to be necessary reforms. This doomsday rhetoric only serves the monied interests who would benefit from those changes.
Social Security is not in crisis. Even with no changes at all, Social Security will be able to fund 80% of benefits after 2040. Over the years Congress has made changes to prepare for the future, adding survivors’ benefits and protections for workers who are disabled, covering more categories of workers, gradually raising the retirement age, and gradually adding small increases to the tax rate. Leah has no doubt that with political will and courage, we will do so again.
Leah believes the preserving and strengthening Social Security—not cutting it—is part of the bedrock of our commitment to workers in the United States. She will work other members of Congress to achieve multi-faceted changes in Social Security funding mechanisms to assure that commitment. Key components may include:
• Raising or eliminating the cap on earnings subject to payroll taxes. This is the single change that would contribute the most to increasing revenue. It’s not right that the super rich in the U.S. pay the same amount of taxes as someone earning $127,500 a year. This is especially important as incomes continue to skew toward high and higher income earners, at the expense of the 99% of ordinary working people. Changes should be carefully planned to assure the basic social insurance principles and widespread support for Social Security.
• Increasing the payroll tax to increase revenue. This has been done several times in the past and can be done at small increments over perhaps a 20-year period to increase revenue. Spread over time and over the entire American workforce, it doesn’t take much to generate a large increase in income for the program.
Leah believes that raising the retirement age at this time is not necessary and is not a good idea, especially for our district where many people are engaged in hard physical labor that takes a toll on workers health. The recent recession led to a disproportionate share of older workers losing their jobs and they often find themselves in a difficult position to obtain employment. Further, part of the bargain in setting a retirement age is to make room for younger workers. Forcing people to stay employed suppresses the opportunities for younger people just entering the workforce.
Leah strongly believes that privatization or partial privatization of Social Security or Medicare is extremely harmful. The damage to private investments in the last recession should have taught us that. Removing any proportion of Social Security workers’ contributions and putting them into the insecurity of the marketplace is unwise and cruel. We also need to resist efforts to cut needed Cost of Living Adjustments.
Further, Leah will work to resist efforts to undermine Social Security’s historical efficiency and effectiveness as the administration closes, reduces the hours of Social Security offices, reduces the availability of phone support, or fails to fill positions that serve the public. Leah knows that shared responsibility is the only way to ensure that robust Social Security benefits are available to future generations. Leah will help build the political consensus that will assure that Social Security remains the backbone of American retirement security.
Leah knows that Medicare and Medicaid represent health and economic security for our seniors in the 8th Congressional District. In our district, 21% of residents rely on Medicare and 19.5% rely on Medicaid for their healthcare access. This story is no different throughout our country, with over 58 million seniors relying on Medicare for their healthcare needs. Medicare is healthcare equity, giving seniors of all socioeconomic backgrounds the right to healthcare services. This is why Leah, when elected to Congress, will fight against the moneyed interests that want to cut access to, and benefits of, this vital program. Our seniors paid into this program during their working years and Leah will ensure that they receive the benefits they were promised. Leah will fight to keep the age of eligibility for Medicare at 65 and maintain the program as a “defined benefit program,” two pillars of Medicare that are under assault in Washington. Our seniors paid into this program, and Leah will ensure they have healthcare security in retirement.