Sen. Graham and I, with moderator Bret Baier, covered a lot of territory, but one of the most important issues we discussed was the future of Social Security – one of the most popular and successful government programs in American history.
Today, while many people take Social Security for granted, let us remember. Before Social Security was created in 1935 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, about half of our seniors were living in poverty. Today, though still too high ,the senior poverty rate is just 8.9%.
Sen. Graham was very honest about his approach to Social Security and the direction in which Republicans should go. His view is that we should raise the retirement age and adopt a plan similar to what Alan Simpson (a former Republican senator from Wyoming) and Erskine Bowles (a former Democratic Wall Street investment banker) proposed nearly a decade ago.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., holds a similar view. In 2020, he told Bloomberg reporter Steven Dennis that he “hopes to work with the next Democratic President to trim Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”
Let’s be clear about the Simpson-Bowles plan, which I strongly opposed. If it had been adopted by Congress in 2013, the retirement age would have been increased to 69, cutting Social Security benefits by 13%.
Average Social Security benefits for middle-class Americans with average lifetime earnings of just $ 69,000 a year would have been cut by up to 35%. Further, cost of living adjustments (COLAs) for seniors who turned 85 years of age would have been cut by $ 1,000 a year by adopting a less generous formula. Meanwhile, multimillionaires, billionaires and large, profitable corporations would have seen their income tax rates go down.
I don’t often quote Donald Trump, but when he was campaigning in 2015 he was absolutely correct when he said: “Every Republican wants to do a big number on Social Security, they want to do it on Medicare, they want to do it on Medicaid.”
Needless to say, I have a much different perspective than Sen. Graham and my Republican colleagues. At a time when half of older Americans have no retirement savings and are worried about their ability to retire with dignity and millions of seniors are living in poverty, I believe that our job is not to cut Social Security. Our job must be to expand Social Security so that every senior citizen in America can retire with the respect they deserve and every person with a disability can live with the security they need.
According to the most recent data, 12% of seniors are trying to live on an income of less than $ 10,000 a year while 55% are trying to survive on less than $ 25,000 a year.
Think about that. How do you pay the rent, put food on the table and pay for the basic necessities of life on just $ 10,000 or $ 25,000 a year? The answer is many cannot. In the richest country in the world that is a national disgrace.