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Happy Birthday Social Security!
In this economy, with high gas and energy prices and increasing food and health care costs, with West Virginia seniors and working families -- many on fixed incomes -- struggling to make ends meet, the importance of protecting and strengthening Social Security, now in its 77th year, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, should be self-evident.
According to a new report issued by the Strengthen Social Security and Social Security Works coalitions, one in four West Virginians -- including retirees, widows, and children -- collect Social Security benefits, receiving an average $13,000 in annual payments. It’s a small figure compared to the massive bonuses you hear about on Wall Street, but it helps to keep working families out of poverty, and it’s vital to ensuring our seniors live and retire in dignity after a lifetime of labor.
Not surprisingly, there are some Members in Congress who are fanatical about slashing spending, without regard to its effects on working, middle-class families and the economy. You might have heard of one them, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, because he was just picked to be the Republican Vice Presidential Candidate. He is a leader of the Republican pack that has set its sights on privatizing Social Security, as well as Medicare, ending the traditional programs that working West Virginians have spent a lifetime paying into.
These are the same people crying crocodile tears about deficits, while pushing to extend tax cuts for millionaires and protecting tax breaks and giveaways for multinational conglomerates, including Big Oil companies making record profits by squeezing seniors and working West Virginians at the gas pump.
I believe strongly that seniors deserve the benefits they are owed after a lifetime of paying into Social Security and Medicare; those obligations must be honored. And that includes providing the funds necessary to administer the programs and ensure that beneficiaries have access to the services they have earned.
I am and always have been an ardent opponent of Social Security privatization, fighting those who would subject the health and retirement benefits of seniors to the whims of the financial markets. Some newspaper editorials would have us believe that Social Security is a “bum deal” for workers. But the report by the Social Security Works and Strengthen Social Security coalitions got it exactly right when it described Social Security as a “fortress of security and reliability.” Social Security has never missed a payment; every dollar of earned benefits has been paid on time, in full. That is hardly a bum deal. What 401(k) could ever promise a deal like that?
And as long as we are on the subject, I also believe that seniors should be able to count on their annual COLA. In two of the last three years, seniors had to do without a cost-of-living increase, even while the price of food and medicine was going up. That must not happen again, and I have cosponsored legislation that would fix the flawed COLA formula to help ensure that it does not happen again.
As long as the fanatics are out there decrying Social Security and Medicare, using deficits as an excuse to reduce health coverage and shift more costs to seniors, I am going to be out there decrying their extreme budget proposals, making sure it’s clear that Social Security and Medicare are not the cause of our current budgetary woes, and they ought not be used as a piggy bank for unrelated spending, especially in paying for more tax cuts for millionaires.
Throughout my years serving the people of southern West Virginia, I have consistently voted to protect Social Security and Medicare, and I will continue to do so.
U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) represents West Virginia’s 3rd District
For more information contact: Diane Luensmann (202) 225-3452