Democrats Discovering Social Security Is Still A ‘Third Rail’

Dave Johnson

Democrats have (finally, belatedly) rediscovered that support for Social Security is a winning issue in elections. Social Security has been called the “third rail” of American politics and it turns out that talking about cutting Social Security is still like touching a “third rail.”

Democrats may even save their senatorial bacon by realizing that supporting something that has 69 percent, 87 percent, 94 percent, 76 percent support, depending on the question asked, is a good idea. Who could have known that campaigning on something that is popular might actually bring them votes? Imagine that.

Louisiana Senate: Senator Mary Landrieu is making Social Security a major issue in her campaign. She is running ads against raising the retirement age, saying, “No one should suffer to pay for a millionaire’s tax cut.”

Landrieu has also launched a website, 70WillHurt.com going after opponent Republican Bill Cassidy for wanting to increase the Social Security age to 70.

Iowa Senate: Democratic candidate Bruce Braley is using Social Security against Republican Joni Ernst. It has become a big issue because Ernst had said she supported privatizing Social Security but now denies supporting this. Local TV stations then found video of her saying she supports privatization.

From Braley seeks clear contrast with Ernst on Social Security,

“I will never vote to privatize Social Security, which Sen. Ernst has said she would,” Braley said. “It’s not good for Iowans to turn their hard-earned dollars over to Wall Street investment firms” which, he said, lost $1.2 trillion in one day in September 2008.

Braley’s plan for Social Security is to eliminate the cap on Social Security payroll taxes. Now, workers pay on the first $117,000 they earn.

“I think millionaires should be paying the same portion of their earned income into Social Security as hardworking Iowans,” Braley said. “That would strengthen it for years to come. It would also actually increase the benefits that seniors are getting.”

Arkansas Senate: While Democratic Senator Mark Pryor previously supported increasing the retirement age, he now is campaigning against his opponent Tom Cotton for voting to increase it by even more. From “Arkansas Senate Candidates Brawl Over Medicare, Social Security“:

Pryor, 51, a two-term Democrat, said that “out-of-state billionaires” have written checks to finance Cotton’s campaign, adding: “They know they can count on Tom Cotton. They know he was the only one in Arkansas to increase the age of Medicare and Social Security to age 70.” Pryor was referring to Cotton’s 2013 House vote on a broad budget blueprint that would have eventually raised the eligibility age for the programs.

Pryor is also advertising that he stopped President Obama from cutting Social Security cost-of-living increases:

South Dakota Senate: The state’s Argus Leader newspaper reports that Democrat Rick Weiland is campaigning on increasing Social Security payments by $65 a month, offering to pay for that by eliminating the “cap” on the level of income subject to Social Security tax.

Independent candidate and former senator Larry Pressler once said that he wanted to raise the retirement age and cut benefits. When Pressler said he never advocated that, the National Journal came up with a recording of him saying just that. From “Larry Pressler Says He Was ‘Misquoted’ About Social Security. He Wasn’t.“:

An independent Senate candidate in South Dakota said during an interview Wednesday night that National Journal misquoted him when, in a story published last year, it said he supported gradually raising Social Security’s retirement age and reducing benefits to beneficiaries.

But a review of a taped recording of National Journal’s conversation with Larry Pressler, a former three-term Republican senator, shows that he did advocate for both.

Colorado Senate: Democrat Mark Udall says opponent Cory Gardner wants to “gut social security benefits.”

Alaska Senate: Democrat Mark Begich is running on expanding Social Security. The Washington Post Plum Line explained in “Here’s how to draw a sharp contrast with Republicans“:

As the Alaska Senate race hits its final, frenzied stretch, the Begich campaign is set to roll out a new set of policy prescriptions that are focused on older voters — which you can read about right here. Central to this push is Begich’s proposal to shore up Social Security’s finances, but in a way that would permit an expansion of benefits to certain groups of seniors.

… The goal: Sharpen the contrast with GOP opponent Sullivan in the final days of the race. Sullivan has signaled an openness to means testing and raising the eligibility age.


You might be interested in clicking through to this from Social Security Works and Democracy for America: Join me, Social Security Works and Democracy for America in telling all Democratic U.S. Senate candidates that expanding Social Security is THE winning issue this November, and the right thing to do for the American people.

If Democrats are going to maintain control of the U.S. Senate this November, they must take a strong stance in favor of expanding Social Security, which has a huge impact on the lives of tens of millions of Americans.

Recent polling shows that 79 percent of likely voters – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – favor increasing Social Security benefits and paying for it by asking millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share.

Stand with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and tell all U.S. Senate candidates:
Expanding Social Security is THE winning issue this November. Take a strong progressive stance: Expand, don’t cut Social Security!

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