With Social Security cuts once again on the table in closed-door congressional budget negotiations, a growing movement has taken the offensive, demanding that lawmakers strengthen, rather than stranglehold, our social safety net.
A new survey by Public Policy Polling and MoveOn.org published Tuesday found that voters in 10 key swing districts "overwhelmingly" support raising Social Security benefits.
According to the findings, over 70 percent of those polled in each of nine areas said they oppose cuts to Social Security benefits, and an average 65 percent of those polled support an increase to the benefits. Further, almost 70 percent said they would be less likely to support a candidate who supported any cuts.
"Our results confirm that on Social Security, many congressional proposals and much media punditry have been far from aligned with the voting public," said PPP analyst Jim Williams.
Perhaps more aligned with the voting public, on Monday Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) delivered a resounding speech on the Senate floor calling for a strengthening of, rather than cutting, essential safety nets like Social Security.
The absolute last thing we should do in 2013 – at the very moment that Social Security has become the principal lifeline for millions of our seniors — is allow the program to begin to be dismantled inch by inch.
Over the past generation, working families have been hacked at, chipped, and hammered. If we want a real middle class — a middle class that continues to serve as the backbone of our country — then we must take the retirement crisis seriously. Seniors have worked their entire lives and have paid into the system, but right now, more people than ever are on the edge of financial disaster once they retire — and the numbers continue to get worse.
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That is why we should be talking about expanding Social Security benefits — not cutting them.
Warren closed with saying, "Social Security is incredibly effective, it is incredibly popular, and the calls for strengthening it are growing louder every day.”
As the Washington Post's Greg Sargent postured, Warren's articulation of this growing push against austerity cuts may provide a rallying call for "those who want to see the party embrace a more economically populist posture going forward," with Social Security "becom[ing] a key issue in the argument over the Democratic Party of the future."
Taking these demands one step further, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) put forth a new "Progressive Budget Blueprint" last week which proposed, among other things, cuts to defense and changes to the tax code balanced against progressive reforms to both Social Security and Medicare that would strengthen the programs.
As further evidence of a rising populist voice, last week a coalition of groups including National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, AARP, NOW, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Generations United, NARFE and SocialSecurity Works rallied outside of the White House to protest against President Obama's proposed Chained CPI, or Consumer Price Index, which he introduced earlier this year as an "olive branch" to Republicans in the ongoing budget negotiations.
"We came here today because the elephant in the room is a donkey," said Max Richtman, President and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, referencing political party symbols. "The Chained CPI is in the president's budget and we need to tell him that's a bad idea."
"We're here to tell every politician, Republican or Democrat, peel away from your leader if you need to," Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, told the crowd. "Do not go along with the Chained CPI [...] because you will pay a price at the polls."