Several senators rallied Monday with more than 300 supporters against Republican plans to reform Social Security.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) appeared at the event alongside Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), telling Republicans to “Back Off Social Security.”
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the powerful chairman of the House Budget Committee, has introduced a Social Security plan which would begin to privatize the safety-net program upon which millions of American senior citizens rely.
An independent expert warned Congress earlier this month that “privatization — in whole or in part — is likely to increase costs, not reduce them.”
“Seventy-five years ago, our nation made the promise that if you work hard and contribute, America will make sure you can retire in dignity. That promise is called Social Security, and it’s a promise that must never be broken,” Reid says. “But Republicans have shown they couldn’t care less about those who have the least. Their plan on Social Security is simple, and it’s this: end it. They use words like ‘privatize’ and ‘personalize.’ But they’re all code words for the same thing: ending Social Security as we know it.”
Sanders earlier this month introduced legislation that he says would safeguard the existing Social Security program.
Sanders’ bill would require extraordinary majorities in Congress to approve any reduction in benefits. Congress should not be able to cut the hard-earned Social Security benefits of current or future eligible recipients without a two-thirds vote by the Senate and the House, he says. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) has introduced the same measure in the House.
“Social Security is the most successful federal program in our nation’s history and we cannot allow it to be dismantled by Wall Street and those in the Republican Party who want to take us back to the 1920s when half of our nation’s seniors were living in abject poverty,” Sanders says.
Although conservatives assert that Social Security must be reformed to deal with the mounting federal budget deficit, Franken says that that is not true.
“Social Security provides a safety net for Minnesota families torn apart by unspeakable tragedy and allows America’s retirees to age with dignity,” Franken says. “Social Security has nothing to do with reducing the deficit. Social Security benefits should not be cut at all, for anyone, as part of efforts to reduce the deficit.”
The federal debt and deficit should not be tamed by making the nation’s most vulnerable suffer, says Blumenthal, who is a co-sponsor of the Sanders bill.
“We’ve heard all the scare tactics before, but people in Connecticut and across the country just aren’t buying it – for decades, Social Security benefits have kept millions of senior and disabled Americans out of poverty,” he says. “Cutting Social Security benefits won’t reduce our deficit or debt, and the American people expect us to make smart, strategic choices about cutting spending – not to do it on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens.”
Scott Nance is the publisher of the news site The Washington Current, formerly known as On The Hill. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.