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Joe Biden

U.S. President Joe Biden participates in a rally for the Democratic National Committee at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Maryland, on August 25, 2022. (Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

GOP Attacks on Social Security Make Popular Program Key Midterm Issue

"Do you want to put your Social Security into the hands of Ted Cruz or Marjorie Taylor Greene?" asked President Joe Biden recently.

Julia Conley

Social Security advocates on Wednesday applauded Democrats including U.S. President Joe Biden for their defense of the popular program as Republicans recycle false claims that the nation will soon be unable to pay for the program's benefits, making the monthly payments that help support more than 65 million Americans a key issue ahead of the midterm elections.

"This November 8, our earned benefits are on the line."

Biden in recent days has taken direct aim at Republican Sens. Rick Scott of Florida and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who have both called for Social Security to regularly be reviewed by Congress—which Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and others warn would inevitably result in "massive cuts" to benefits.

The "only election-year plan the GOP has this year," written by Scott, would "require Congress to vote on the future of Social Security every five years," said Biden. Johnson, the president added in another tweet, would put the program up for a vote annually.

"Do you want to put your Social Security into the hands of Ted Cruz or Marjorie Taylor Greene?" the president asked last week on social media, referring to the Republican senator from Texas and congresswoman from Georgia.

Biden has also addressed the issue at recent rallies, urging Americans to support Democrats in November in order to protect the program.

Jon Bauman, president of Social Security Works Political Action Committee, said Wednesday that Democrats are "doing a pretty good job of pushing the Republican threat to Social Security and Medicare front and center."

The proposal authored by Scott earlier this year described the Republicans' plan for the country, including the sunsetting of "all federal legislation" after five years—a radical change which would exacerbate the wealth inequality crisis, with 55% of Americans age 55 and older already living without retirement savings.

Republicans have consistently spread misinformation about Social Security, claiming the program is rapidly headed for insolvency and must be privatized.

Blake Masters, a Republican Senate candidate in Arizona backed by former President Donald Trump, called Social Security privatization a "fresh and innovative idea" in June before admitting the plan would "pull the rug out from seniors." A representative for Masters, however, told NBC News this week that he plans to "incentivize future generations to save through private accounts."

According to a report released in June by the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds, the program has a surplus of $2.85 trillion, is fully funded until 2035, and is 80% funded for the next 75 years. 

Along with Biden, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has denounced his Republican opponent, Dr. Mehmet Oz, for expressing support for Scott's "radical" plan.

In Wisconsin, Johnson's proposal has drawn the ire of Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who is challenging the Republican for his Senate seat in November.

"We're fighting to protect our hard earned benefits, ones that our parents and grandparents spent their entire lives paying into, ones that allow every Wisconsinite to retire without putting food on the table or having to work beyond retirement age," Barnes told NBC News affiliate WJFW on Monday. "We can do that by making sure the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share into the system. We cannot allow Social Security to be cut."

In sharp contrast with the GOP proposals, more than 200 Democratic lawmakers have co-sponsored a plan put forward by Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) called Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust, which would increase benefits to make up for inadequate cost-of-living-adjustments since 1983, set the new minimum benefit at 25% above the poverty line, and require the wealthiest earners pay the same rate in payroll taxes.

As Bauman pledged to travel across the country and speak at more than 40 events for Democratic candidates this fall, Social Security Works summarized how "Social Security is on the ballot" in the November 8 midterm election.

"This November 8," said the group on Wednesday, "our earned benefits are on the line."

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