A common talking point for Democrats during the midterm elections is that if Republicans gain control of Congress, they will make changes to Social Security that make the program less secure. President Biden has said so himself.
“These programs — these programs are — do something so basic yet so important. Almost half of all seniors in the United States lived in poverty before Social Security,” Biden said this week. “Let me say that again: 50 percent — almost 50 percent of all the seniors in America lived in poverty before — before this law was passed. Almost half the seniors — half of them — lived in poverty, even those who spent a lifetime working. Not enough to put food on the table.”
“Those are more than government programs. They’re a promise — a promise we made as a country to work hard and contribute, and when it comes time to retire, we’re going to be there for you. We’re going to be there for the basic needs.”
Earlier this week, the White House deleted a tweet that claimed credit for an announced COLA increase in Social Security benefits next year. That increase was the result of a formula based on inflation, and not the result of any White House action.
This week, The New York Times looked at what the GOP might actually do on Social Security if they do indeed regain Congress next year.
Republicans, the Times said, “have embraced plans to reduce federal spending on Social Security and Medicare, including cutting benefits for some retirees and raising the retirement age for both safety net programs.”
The argument, per the piece, is that cuts are necessary to reign in spending.
The story specifically referenced Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who has said more than once that he would like to subject Social Security to reauthorization on an annual basis, rather than funded by a formula, as it currently is.
This plan was assailed by former President Barack Obama during a recent campaign visit to Wisconsin.
Obama said that recipients “had long hours and sore backs and bad knees to get that Social Security,” and that “if Ron Johnson does not understand that — if he understands giving tax breaks for private planes more than he understands making sure that seniors who have worked all their lives are able to retire with dignity and respect — he’s not the person who’s thinking about you and knows you and sees you, and he should not be your senator from Wisconsin.”
In addition, per the Times, “several conservative Republicans vying to lead key economic committees in the House have suggested publicly that they would back efforts to change eligibility for the safety net programs.”
During his presidency, former President Donald Trump did not push for cuts to Social Security, and the issue was notably absent from his agenda while he was in office.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.