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New Report Shows Social Security Is Strong, But Advocates Warn GOP Must Be Stopped From Using Covid-19 to Launch 'Stealth Attack'

"Republicans, led by Donald Trump, are trying to use the pandemic as an excuse to slash payroll contributions, Social Security's dedicated funding."

Protestors rally against Social Security cuts on December 10, 2012 in Doral, Florida. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The 2020 Social Security Trustees report out Wednesday found that the New Deal-era program is currently in strong financial health and well-positioned to remain so in the future.

But advocacy groups are warning that Social Security's long-term finances could be in trouble if President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans are not stopped from exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to make deep cuts to the program's dedicated funding.

In a statement, progressive advocacy group Social Security Works said the annual Trustees report "projects that, even if Congress took no action whatsoever, Social Security not only can pay all benefits and associated administrative costs until 2035, it is 91% funded for the next quarter century, 85% for the next half century, and 82% for the next three quarters of a century."

"Those who would like to dismantle Social Security are using the pandemic to launch a stealth attack."
—Max Richtman, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare

"Though the exact impact of today's pandemic and economic conditions will not be clear until next year's report, Social Security's strength will shine through next year, as well," said Social Security Works president Nancy Altman. "Social Security is built to withstand today's events."

The Trustees report came after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)—a proponent of Social Security cuts—claimed Tuesday night he was concerned about the rising national debt following the Senate's passage of a $480 billion coronavirus stimulus package.

"Let's weigh this very carefully, because the future of our country in terms of the amount of debt that we're adding up is a matter of genuine concern," said McConnell.

McConnell's rediscovered deficit hawkery—absent when the senator was pushing legislation through the Senate aimed at helping the superrich and large corporations—combined with the Trump administration's continued push for a payroll tax cut fueled fears that Republicans could be gearing up for another concerted effort to slash Social Security.

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"Republicans, led by Donald Trump, are trying to use the pandemic as an excuse to slash payroll contributions, Social Security's dedicated funding," said Altman. As Common Dreams reported, Republicans already succeeded in slipping into the CARES Act a provision that allows employers to delay payment of the payroll tax.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Tuesday proposed reducing the employee payroll tax—one of Social Security's primary funding mechanisms—as part of the next Covid-19 stimulus package. Earlier this month, Trump expressed his support for permanently slashing the employee payroll tax.

"Social Security is strong," Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, said in a statement. "But its long-term fiscal health cannot be guaranteed if the White House and Congress continue to use the program's financing structure for economic stimulus during the Covid-19 crisis." 

"Those who would like to dismantle Social Security are using the pandemic to launch a stealth attack," said Richtman. "During this time of crisis, Americans are turning to Social Security and Medicare now more than ever. Let's work to strengthen these programs that have been the bedrock of America's middle and working classes, and resist proposals by those determined to tear them down."

In an op-ed for Forbes on Wednesday, Altman urged Congress "do its job and enact one of the many Democratic proposals to expand Social Security's modest benefits while ensuring that the wealthy pay their fair share," pointing to Rep. John Larson's (D-Conn.) Social Security 2100 Act as one possible solution.

"Think how much better our national response to today's crisis would be if those benefits were already there for all of us," wrote Altman. "Fortunately, the just-released Social Security Trustees Report shows that the nation can afford to create those benefits. The pandemic shows we can't afford not to do so."

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