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The GOP Debate...Slim Pickin’s If You Care About Social Security or Medicare or Virtually Any Other Issue Impacting Average Families

Now that America’s Presidential Debates are designed as entertainment television (as described here by CNN Moderator Jake Tapper) and not an actual debate of the issues voters need to hear about before choosing our next’s probably no surprise that Social Security & Medicare just aren’t considered sexy enough for any serious attention. 

In response to the only question asked last night about the nation’s most successful government programs, Donald Trump told the audience he’ll give up his benefits because he doesn’t need them (Ben Carson made the same suggestion earlier in the week).  So, you have to wonder -- is asking rich people to voluntarily give up their Social Security and Medicare now considered a serious GOP policy plan? Maybe every American millionaire will be asked to email 10 of their country club friends to pledge to give up their benefits, too?  No one is forced to apply for their Social Security now, so how is this even vaguely a solution? 

Meanwhile, since Governor Chris Christie staked his campaign on the idea of being tough on “entitlements” he continued to push his plan to slash benefits by ignoring actuarial reports from every legitimate government entity including the Congressional Budget Office and the Social Security actuary. Christie claimed last night that Social Security will be insolvent in just “7 to 8 years.”

The truth is the Social Security Trust fund will be depleted in two decades and only pay 79% at that point, if Congress does absolutely nothing.  But that’s not the same as Social Security is “broke” and Social Security is “insolvent.”  At the bare minimum, a President of the United States needs to understand the difference. 

Finally, while this didn’t happen in last night’s debate, Carly Fiorina recently offered a truly unique approach to her plans for Social Security and Medicare as’s a secret until I’m in the White House. 

"I am not prepared to go to the American people and talk to them about how we're going to reform Social Security and Medicare,’ Fiorina told CNBC's John Harwood in an interview published Wednesday, ‘until I can demonstrate to them that the government can execute with excellence, perform its responsibilities with excellence, serve the people who pay for it with excellence.’

Harwood was impressed. ‘That is a dodge worthy of a very good politician,’ he told the former Hewlett-Packard CEO. 

Fiorina denied that she had just dodged. ‘I am deadly serious,’ she said.” 

No doubt she’s deadly serious about not addressing the issue now or talking about her already expressed plans to cut Social Security offered during the California Senate campaign in 2010:

"I'm prepared to look at any and all ideas without stating at this point which I would favor and which I would not. We have to have a comprehensive look at entitlement reform, including Social Security reform."  Carly Fiorina, 2010

“... I believe that to deal with entitlement reform, which we must deal with, we ought to put every possible solution up on the table...”  Carly Fiorina, Fox News 2010

So basically, once President Fiorina is confident she’s an excellent President then she’ll tell you about her plans to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits. 

But only then...

In Case You Missed It -- FDR's Visit to Capitol Hill

We know that many of our members and supporters don't live close enough to Washington, D.C. to join us for the National Committee's Social Security celebration with President Roosevelt.  So, we've put together this quick video highlighting the 80th celebration.  {All you Benny Goodman fans will especially enjoy it!}


Remembering Katrina

“We are public servants first.  No one hesitated to volunteer.  Everyone just started doing what they could to help those in need.  That’s what Social Security is about.  

It’s who we are.”...Social Security Administration Katrina volunteer

When Hurricane Katrina hit landfall the early morning of August 29, 2005, Americans watched in terror as levees breached, thousands of people died in floods and hundreds of thousands of people in in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama lost their homes.  Katrina was yet another reminder just how quickly life’s circumstances can take a turn. One of the great untold stories during these times of national crisis is the Social Security success story. 

“SSA transported 171 volunteer employees from across the nation to join those employees who were still serving the public despite many having lost everything in the storm themselves. SSA quickly established six portable offices in southern Louisiana, in addition to mobile support units charged with providing direct service to those housed in shelters. 

Many New Orleans residents were bussed out of the most affected areas of the city to Houston’s Astrodome, where they had access to a variety of government services, including an onsite Social Security office.

Offices from Dallas to Houston, across Louisiana, and Arkansas opened early, closed late, and remained open over the weekend. Social Security employees worked extended hours in the first few weeks after Katrina, as they ensured those who needed service received it.  SSA employees sent hundreds of care packages to those in shelters and brought toys, coloring books, and clothing to distribute to those visiting Social Security’s offices.”  ...Social Security Matters, SSA Blog

Nearly 200 thousand Americans in Gulf Coast states hit by Katrina receive Social Security. Just as it did after September 11th, Social Security once again provided vital support needed by Americans in a time of crisis.  It’s the insurance workers support throughout their working lives to protect their families in good times and bad...fulfilling its legacy described by President Roosevelt 80 years ago. 

“We can never insure one hundred percent of the population against one hundred percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life, but we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family.”... President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

What If Your Social Security Was Riding the Wall Street Roller Coaster too?

Today might be a good day for a financial exercise...

Chances are if your retirement savings are in a 401K or countless other market-based products, you may have seen what the latest Wall Street downturn has done to your balance. If not, go ahead and bite the bullet and check it.  After you get over the shock, check your Social Securitystatement.  Take some solace in knowing that while your market savings have taken a hit, the good news is your estimated Social Security benefit today is the same it was on Wednesday. 

That’s why Social Security exists.  That’s why it works.  That’s why it’s beyond reason that so many in the GOP still support sending your Social Security to Wall Street and destroying the stable income protection (it’s not an investment) Social Security provides. 

“In June, presidential candidate Jeb Bush said that he thinks the next president will have to try to privatize Social Security. Others have gotten behind the idea as well: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) drafted a plan in 2013 that included partial privatization, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is in favor of using private accounts. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has included privatization in his budget blueprints.

The market drop, and ones before, expose the dangers of such a plan, which usually entails diverting some or all of the money workers contribute to Social Security through their paychecks into private investment accounts.” Think Progress

Governor Mike Huckabee also prefers a privatized Social Security system but says he opposes benefit cuts.  The problem is benefits would have to be cut to create private accountsJohn Kasich has also supported privatizing Social Security.

No doubt, conservatives will remind us that over the long-term the market has been good to us.  Maybe so, but as previous market collapses have shown, retirees don’t have the benefit of the long-term to rebuild savings now lost.  

“Look at successive 45-year periods, as I did for my 2005 book, "The Plot Against Social Security," and you find huge variability. The average worker who invested $1,000 every year in the stock market starting at age 20 in 1954 would have $470,000 when he or she was ready to retire in 1998. But the worker who started just five years later, in 1959, would end up with only $234,000 at age 65--half as much--despite investing exactly the same sum over the same time span. 

Market crashes could destroy a nest egg that took a lifetime to nurture. A near-retiree with, say, a half-million in stock in 2007 had just over $300,000 a year later, following a 37.22% plunge in 2008. Those who held fast managed to recover their losses, but that took five and a half years--and what about those who didn't have the luxury of time?”...Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times

Trading Social Security’s guaranteed benefit for a ride on Wall Street makes no sense for Americans who need to be secure in their retirement.  That’s true whether the market is up or down.  

Social Security Benefits Available Retroactively to Same Sex Couples

The Department of Justice has announced the Social Security Administration will apply the Supreme Court's recent landmark marriage rulingretroactively and process pending spousal benefits claims for same-sex couples who lived in states that did not previously recognize their marriages.  This is terrific news for hundreds of survivors, like NCPSSM member Kathy Murphy, who is a Texas widow denied spousal benefits after the death of her wife.  Lambda Legal represents Kathy and the National Committee in a lawsuit filed last year arguing that denying Social Security benefits to same-sex spouses because they live in states that discriminate against their marriages violates the U.S. Constitution.  Kathy talked to the New York Times about her case:

“She has been unable to collect survivor and death benefits from Social Security since she lost her spouse, Sara Barker, to cancer in 2012. Ms. Murphy retired from her career in publishing in 2011, earlier than she expected, to care for Ms. Barker, who died at 62.

Ms. Murphy finds herself in this predicament largely because her spouse died before the Supreme Court’s monumental ruling in June, Obergefell v. Hodges, which declared that marriage is a fundamental right. That case came after the landmark Windsor decision, in 2013, in which the court ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to federal benefits.

“There is just a feeling of being left at the side of the road,” said Ms. Murphy, 63, who filed her claim for survivor benefits in 2013, shortly after the Windsor ruling. “I get to witness the celebration but I don’t get to experience it.”

Lambda Legal reports:

“SSA has not announced when this policy change will be posted and implemented, but we look forward to reviewing the details and working with the agency to ensure that those who had been wrongly denied in the past will not have to wait longer to have their relationships treated with dignity by the federal government.

With this good news, we are hopeful that widows, widowers and retirees, wherever they lived, who need Social Security spousal benefits earned through years of hard work will soon be able to receive them. We urge the SSA to move quickly to right the injustice to same-sex spouses whose marriages were unconstitutionally disrespected and who await Social Security protections." 

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