The Social Security deception game that Republican candidates have resorted to playing in recent election cycles is back. But, at a rally on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) showed how candidates and activists can defeat the gamesmanship and be true champions of strengthening Social Security.
The deception game is showing up in ads such as one now being aired in New York's 21st congressional district, in which Republican Elise M. Stefanik is running against Democrat Aaron G. Woolf for a seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Bill Owens. The ad claims that Wolff supports policies that would dramatically cut Social Security benefits, while Stefanik says that she is committed to policies that "protect and preserve Social Security."
The ad is blatantly false. (For starters, just read the article that Stefanik uses to base one of her claims against Woolf.) Woolf's campaign website, while lacking details, explicitly says, "No cuts to Medicare, no cuts to Social Security." Stefanik, on the other hand, supports raising the retirement age for Social Security and reducing the inflation adjustment seniors would receive each year. In other words, it's Stefanik that will cut benefits, not Woolf. And that "$3,287 cut in Social Security" that Woolf allegedly would inflict on seniors if he is elected? That's the Social Security Board of Trustees estimate of what would happen if Congress did nothing to shore up the Social Security system – by 2033.
The only way to deal with candidates who won't let the facts get in the way of a smarmy campaign ad is to speak the truth with boldness.
At Thursday's "Hands Off Social Security" rally, which the Campaign for America's Future co-sponsored, Warren pointed out that according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, American households are $6.6 trillion short of what they would need to have in their savings for an adequate retirement.
"Families are squeezed," Warren said. "The last thing we need to be talking about is cutting Social Security."
Since the 1980s, however, Republicans have been working to do just that, Warren said, enacting policies such as tax cuts for the wealthy that increased deficits and created the pretext of a crisis that would justify cutting or privatizing Social Security. "We're here to take the initiative to say that will not happen on our watch. Social Security benefits need to be expanded, and so does Medicare."
As Warren said Thursday, the polling is on the side of candidates who campaign on strengthening Social Security. Conservative candidates know that; that's why they couch their plans to defer and degrade benefits as "protecting" Social Security, even as they reject measures – ensuring wealthy individuals pay the same percentage of their salary in payroll taxes as the rest of us, as well as pushing for higher wages and full employment, which would increase Social Security reserves – that would actually protect Social Security for the next 75 years and beyond.
More important, she added, is the moral imperative, "that Social Security is about the dignity of human beings. You work hard for a lifetime and you are entitled to retire in dignity and that means a strong Social Security system and strong Medicare."