The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare was founded in 1982 by James Roosevelt, the son of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who created the Social Security system. This committee’s goal has remained unchanged: to ensure that Social Security and Medicare remain a sound social insurance program for workers, and a health care and retirement income program for older Americans.

These are “earned benefit” programs. They are not “welfare” in that generic sense. To be able to access the benefits of Social Security, employees must have earned the benefits by paying into the Social Security trust fund during their working years. President Roosevelt was quoted as saying after the establishment of Social Security that it was structured in such a way that “no damn politician in the future could do away with this program.”

Well, Roosevelt never met nor anticipated a president quite like Donald Trump.

We are appalled at President Trump’s attempt to play political football with the bedrock of senior’s retirement by defunding Social Security. He has been obsessed with removing the program’s work-related payroll taxes and has even proposed permanently eliminating them. Under Trump’s plan, by 2023 Social Security would have zero ability to pay earned benefits. A retired Iowan who receives an average of $16,800 a year in Social Security benefits would see those benefits cut off completely. Because the president cannot unilaterally eliminate Social Security payroll taxes, Trump has directed his Treasury Department to delay part of the tax until next year. Trump is even lobbying Congress to forgive those taxes after the election, thereby defunding Social Security after the fact.

This confused mess is just an elaborate way of playing politics with older Iowans’ Medicare and Social Security retirement income. Older Iowans already have enough to worry about. COVID-19 has taken over 200,000 American lives, and three-quarters of these Americans were over the age of 65. More than 1,000 Iowans over the age of 60 have died from COVID-19, accounting for almost 90% of statewide COVID-19 deaths.

And COVID-19 still rears its ugly head throughout our state. Older Iowans have to be very careful and concerned about their health. They should not have to worry about President Trump defunding Social Security.

For younger working Iowans, the impact of the coronavirus, unemployment, increased cost of child care, carryover student debt, and rampant income inequality has made it harder for them to save for retirement, making the lifelines of Social Security and Medicare all the more important.

Since its inception in 1982, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare has never endorsed in a presidential race.

Until now.

For the first time, we are endorsing in this presidential race, and we are endorsing Joe Biden for president. Unlike Trump, who proposed cutting Social Security in his latest budget despite promising to “always protect” it, Biden will defend Social Security and strengthen it. He has proposed increasing Social Security checks by $200 per month through 2021 to help seniors get through the pandemic. He has a plan to achieve long-run solvency for Social Security by asking the very wealthy to pay the same Social Security taxes as nurses and janitors.

The nonpartisan Social Security Administration has projected that a single provision of the Biden plan — increasing the minimum benefit for low-income, lifetime workers — would lift more than one-half million seniors out of poverty by 2030.

Linda Wormley, a 69-year-old retired civil servant in Newton, says that “the current occupant of the White House has no empathy for what seniors face today. Mr. Biden has had his share of hardships. He understands what it takes to survive.” She’s right. Biden says that “working Americans built this country and deserve to retire with dignity.” He describes Social Security and Medicare as “sacred obligations,“ and vows to protect both programs.

As president, Joe Biden will expand Social Security for older and lower-income retirees. He will work with Congress to put Social Security on a sound financial footing by having the wealthy contribute their fair share. And Biden will do what Trump would not: reduce soaring prescription drug costs by allowing Medicare to negotiate directly with big drug companies.

To preserve our Social Security and Medicare for present and future generations, we must elect Joe Biden our next president.

Tom Harkin is a former U.S. senator from Iowa and chair of the advisory board of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. Max Richtman is president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

View article on the Des Moines Register website.