Social Security could be a “front burner” in November’s election
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As the midterms of November’s elections near, leaders on both sides of the aisle are exchanging barbs over a key program affecting millions of Americans — Social Security.
Over the weekend, President Joe Biden took to Twitter to call out certain lawmakers about their plans for the program, including Republican Senators Rick Scott of Florida and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.
Scott “wants to require Congress to vote on the future of Social Security every five years,” Biden said tweeted. Meanwhile, Johnson wants “Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block every year,” the president said in one separate tweet.
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“Unless Congress is forced to fix the problem, Social Security will go bust by 2035. You’re damn right I have a plan in place to make sure that doesn’t happen.” Scott tweeted In response.
Meanwhile, Johnson’s team dismissed the president’s claims that he was trying to weaken the program.
“President Biden’s tweet is wrong,” said Alexa Henning, a spokeswoman for Senator Johnson. “The senator is trying to save these programs, not put them on the chopping block.”
Social Security can pay full benefits for 13 years, after which 80% of benefits will be payable, according to the latest projections from the program trustees.
More than 65 million Americans currently rely on monthly Social Security checks, including retirees, spouses, widows and widowers, children and disabled workers.
However, it remains to be seen how much influence the program will have among voters in November.
According to a January poll by the Pew Research Center, securing social security ranked fifth on the public’s top policy priorities for 2022, behind strengthening the economy, cutting health care costs, managing the coronavirus outbreak and improving education.
“I don’t see Social Security playing a huge role in people’s midterm election choices,” said Jason Fichtner, chief economist for the Bipartisan Policy Center.
Why Social Security could be a “frontburner issue.”
Still, Democrats and supporters of the program are scrambling to get their message across.
Jon Bauman, president of the Social Security Union’s political action committee, said he expects to travel coast-to-coast to more than 40 candidate events to ensure those who promise to protect and expand Social Security are elected.
Bauman, who has been running for the program since 2004, calls Social Security a “front burner issue for this election.”
“During this cycle, there was an offensive by the Republican Party against Social Security,” Bauman said.
This is especially true since proposals from leaders like Scott and Johnson would force more frequent assessments of the program’s status, which proponents fear would result in either benefit cuts or the program’s privatization.
Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., and other lawmakers discuss the Social Security 2100 Act, which would include increased minimum benefits, on Capitol Hill on Oct. 26, 2021.
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For Bauman, also known as “Bowzer” from the 1970s music group and television series “Sha Na Na,” the mission is personal.
“I saw firsthand that it was my mother’s Social Security and her Medicare that allowed my mother to live a life of dignity and independence that my grandparents never lived when my father died,” Bauman said.
Meanwhile, Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., has been promoting his bill, Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust calls for generous power expansions.
The proposal currently has more than 200 Democratic co-sponsors. Washington leaders who support the bill hope to put it to a vote this fall.
Key developments to watch ahead of the election
As Election Day approaches, a key Social Security development will be the October announcement Adjusting the cost of living for 2023, Fichtner noted.
Based on the latest inflation data, this could be the highest increase in about 40 years.
For the Democrats, this is a “double-edged sword,” said Fichtner. On the one hand, having inflation that high does not look good for the Biden administration. On the other hand, it shows that the program offers beneficiaries some protection against rising costs.
Then the results of the November 8 election could mean a shift in the social security agenda.
“When the House of Representatives transitions to Republican control in the medium term … the Democrats’ ability to push an agenda basically stops,” Fichtner said.
While that could hamper Democrat-led Social Security proposals, it could also force the bipartisan cooperation needed to actually move bipartisan reform toward the finish line, Fichtner said.
“That creates a potential with President Biden for negotiations on social security reform where he can help move it forward,” Fichtner said.
“What better way to leave a legacy for a Democrat than to say you’ve secured Social Security for the next 75 years?” he said.
Whether that happens may depend on another key factor: whether Biden is a one- or two-term president.
If Biden decides to run for re-election, his bargaining power could be severely curtailed ahead of the 2024 election, Fichtner predicts.
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