Will Democrats Promise No Cuts to Social Security?

If you had a few minutes to talk to leaders of the Democratic Party, as they prepare for the 2012 election, what would you tell them?  The National Committee was presented with that unique opportunity this weekend and our message was simple — Washington should not support middle-class benefit cuts as part of a “Grand Bargain” to cut deficits. 

NCPSSM’s Board Chair, Dr. Maya Rockeymoore, and Florida NCPSSM member Carol Berman testified to members of the Democratic National Committee platform drafting committee in Minneapolis this weekend.  Here’s an excerpt of their comments:

Maya Rockeymoore, Ph.D., Chair of the Board of Directors

National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare

Democrats can be proud of their long list of landmark accomplishments which enable seniors to live independent and dignified lives.  It is Democrats who pulled seniors out of poverty through the creation of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the Older Americans Act. During the 2012 campaign and beyond, the Democratic Party can honor the legacies of Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson by standing up for seniors.  Standing up for Social Security. And, standing up for Medicare and Medicaid. Unfortunately, too many Washington politicians are uncompromising in their belief that middle class benefits should be cut to pay for tax loopholes for the richest two percent and large profitable corporations who move American jobs overseas.  However, rather than fight this intransigence, some of the traditional allies of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid have said that “everything should be on the table.”

Everything, including benefit cuts that would harm seniors, people with disabilities and children and have a disproportionately negative affect on women and communities of color. Responding to the party of NO by being the party of MAYBE is not a winning formula and it won’t be persuasive for a majority of seniors. The polling is clear on that. Voters of all ages and political persuasions don’t support cutting benefits to middle-class Americans who depend on Social Security and Medicare (now or in the future) to repair our ailing economy.

There is no other issue that draws this level of nonpartisan support: 94 percent of Democrats, 82 percent of Independents and 64 percent of Republicans prefer raising taxes on the richest two percent of income earners rather than cutting benefits. Democrats have a historic opportunity in this year’s election to win over middle class seniors by drawing a clear line in the sand in defense of the core American values of hard work, fairness and compassion embodied in our nation’s most successful programs. 

Towards that goal, the committee can reassure seniors that Democrats are fighting to protect their earned Social Security and Medicare benefits by using this testimony to draft the 2012 Democratic National Committee platform.  In addition, we urge you to include language in the platform to defend and expand Medicaid for vulnerable seniors, people with disabilities and children who need health care and/or long-term services and supports.

By applying taxes more fairly to all workers, benefits do not have to be cut. Among the proposals we’ve recommended for inclusion in the Democratic platform:

–           Eliminate the cap on Social Security payroll tax contributions. 

–           Gradual Increase in the Contribution Rate. 

–           Reform the Treatment of Salary Reduction Plans. 

–           Improving Survivor Benefits.

–           Provide Social Security Credits for Caregivers. 

–           Enhance the Special Minimum Benefits. 

–           Equalize Rules for Disabled Widows. 

–           Benefit Equality for Working Widows. 

–           Strengthening the COLA. 

–           Restoring Student Benefits. 

Carol Berman is a National Committee member and Social Security and Medicare beneficiary.  She described to the platform committee the critical role Social Security and Medicare played after her husband became incapacitated due to Alzheimer’s and their long-term care costs drained their savings:

Carol Berman, NCPSSM Member and Social Security & Medicare Beneficiary

West Palm Beach, FL

 “When it became clear that our funds would not last much longer and that my financial future was in serious jeopardy, I hired an elder care attorney who advised me to contact a state welfare worker.  This person told me that when my funds ran out I would be eligible for Section 8 housing, food stamps, and other welfare programs.  I could not believe that after working my whole life, this was my only option.  It was not what I dreamed of in my retirement years.

Ultimately, the only way I could avoid impoverishment and taking welfare was to preserve my only remaining source of money — my 40lK.  To do that, I had to divorce my husband.  Thankfully, since my daily visits to the nursing home never wavered, my husband never knew the change in our marital status. He greeted me the same way every day during this terrible period with “here comes the pretty lady.I lived on the edge of financial disaster for a long time just because my husband needed long-term care. 

Social Security and Medicare were the lifelines I needed to come through that very difficult time. They are lifelines future generations will also need and they should be protected and strengthened – not cut or privatized.”

You can see our full testimony to the Democratic Platform Committee here.