The Republican presidential candidates are counting on senior voters in 2016. They seem to be trying to outdo one another in alienating Hispanic-American voters, and they know they won’t do well among African-Americans either. If Republicans are going to win the White House, it’s going to have to be with solid support from seniors.
That’s why it’s so surprising to see nearly all the Republican candidates attacking Social Security. Almost as a chorus, as Paul Krugman pointed out on Monday, they are calling for raising the Social Security retirement age (which amounts to a benefit cut), reducing benefits in other ways, and privatizing the system. This usually means turning Social Security from a government-guaranteed stream of income into a system of private investment accounts — much to the joy of Wall Street, which would cash in on fees and commissions. Seniors would suffer, since few of us have the time or the skills needed to manage an investment account so that it would yield benefits comparable to those of Social Security.
Of course, Republicans have been talking like this for years, and a majority of seniors have remained oblivious, causing frustration among Democrats, who have fought tirelessly to defend Social Security. But seniors need to pay attention to the threat they face. If the White House and Congress are controlled by Republicans after 2016, Social Security and Medicare will be in grave danger. Seniors could be seriously affected, and all those soon-to-be seniors who have inadequate retirement savings are going to have a big problem.
That’s why our local Democratic committee has launched a yard-sign campaign aimed at protecting Social Security. We put one of these signs out at the end of our driveway last week, in honor of the 80th anniversary of the signing of the Social Security Act. We’ll put it out again on Labor Day weekend. As election day draws closer, it will become a permanent fixture on our lawn.
Common sense dictates that we seniors vote to protect our interests — and that includes not just our own immediate interests, but also the interests of the coming generations, our children, and our grandchildren. We should be considering a candidate like Bernie Sanders, who would raise the cap on the amount of income subject to the Social Security tax in order to fund the program far past 2033. Or Hillary Clinton, who wants to enhance Social Security benefits for women, who generally earn less than men during their working lives, and for the poor.
What are seniors doing in your community to protect Social Security? If the answer is “nothing,” maybe it’s time for you to think of getting some folks mobilized.