(Update: Here’s Obama on Social Security in his speech: “To put us on solid ground, we should also find a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations. And we must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market.”)
If, as expected, President Barack Obama does not call for specific cuts in Social Security in his State of the Union address tonight, he will be reflecting the views of a clear majority of Americans.
Obama’s deficit commission had recommended raising the retirement age for Social Security and some other reductions, but, according to Lori Montgomery of The Washington Post, the president will not endorse those proposals in tonight’s speech.
This is a victory not just for liberals but also for just about everyone. Recent polls show Americans want to keep Social Security intact.
A recent Daily Kos Weekly State of the Nation Poll showed that 77 percent of Americans favor raising the $106,800 salary cap on Social Security taxes rather than raising the retirement age. It’s hard to find such a large consensus on any issue today in this country.
The poll also found that 67 percent of people who identify as Tea Partiers also would prefer to raise the salary cap.
A recent New York Times/CBS poll found “nearly two-thirds of Americans choose higher payroll taxes for Medicare and Social Security over reduced benefits in either program.”
If Americans are clearly behind raising the salary cap, which would solve any solvency issues with Social Security, one has to wonder if even the GOP will move, as they have done in the past, to gut one of the country’s most popular social programs.
It’s important to remember Social Security is not facing an immediate funding crisis and small, practical steps, such as raising the salary cap on its taxes, can keep it solvent for decades to come. Right now, experts claim the program is solvent until 2037, and even then it could still pay three-fourths of benefits. The country will need to do something before 2037, but there are still 26 years to find a solution. To call it a crisis is disingenuous.
Virtually all of us know relatives and friends who have relied on Social Security for basic survival in their retirement years or because of medical disability. Without the program, many Americans would live in abject poverty and need to rely on other forms of government assistance.
As Obama moves more to the right-he was clearly a centrist when elected to office no matter what the Tea Partiers or GOP claims-he needs to assure those people who supported him that there are some issues that are simply sacrosanct to him. One of those issues should be protecting Social Security benefits. Let’s hope he makes that clear tonight.