Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

There are only a few days left in our critical Mid-Year Campaign and we truly might not make it without your help.
Please join us. If you rely on independent media, support Common Dreams today. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

This narrative holds that neither party is willing to address Social Security’s long-term future. Nothing could be farther from the truth. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

This narrative holds that neither party is willing to address Social Security’s long-term future. Nothing could be farther from the truth. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Upcoming Democratic Debate Must Include Social Security

Older Americans are the country’s largest voting bloc, but during the first four Democratic presidential debates, the moderators didn’t ask even one question about Social Security. This makes no sense.

Max Richtman

How long do seniors have to wait until they hear the Democratic presidential candidates’ positions on Social Security during a primary debate?  Older Americans are the country’s largest voting bloc, but during the first four Democratic presidential debates, the moderators didn’t ask even one question about Social Security.  This makes no sense.

The father of Social Security is one of the most revered Democratic presidents.  And yet not a single mention of the program during debates by the party of Franklin Roosevelt? The 63 million citizens who currently rely on their earned benefits to remain financially healthy want to hear the candidates answer at least one debate question – and provide some real answers.  The next Democratic debate on October 15th provides yet another opportunity to raise this crucial topic.

Unfortunately, some in the news media have bought into the narrative that “no one in Washington wants to talk about Social Security” because it is a politically sensitive issue. Maybe that’s one reason why they don’t ask the question during debates. This narrative holds that neither party is willing to address Social Security’s long-term future. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Democratic candidates talk quite frequently about Social Security on the campaign trail.  Joe Biden told a seniors’ forum in Iowa that “we should be increasing, not decreasing, Social Security.” Bernie Sanders introduced the Social Security Expansion Act in the U.S. Senate.  Beto O’Rourke, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg and Corey Booker have all emphasized the need to boost and strengthen the program.  Senator Elizabeth Warren recently unveiled her own plan to increase Social Security benefits and revenues.

Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress, including Representative John Larson (D-Conn.), have introduced legislation that maintains the program’s financial health for as long as most of us are likely to be alive. His Social Security 2100 Act achieves this goal mainly by insisting that the wealthy pay their fair share of Social Security payroll taxes.  The bill, which has 210 cosponsors in the House, also expands benefits – and provides for a more accurate and generous cost of living adjustment formula.

On the other side of the aisle, Republicans continue to push “entitlement reform,” which is code for cutting benefits. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) made headlines last month by proposing that the two parties get together “behind closed doors” to fix Social Security.  We all know what that means. Some fiscal hawks have even claimed that Social Security, a self-funded program, needs to be cut to pay for the deficit-swelling Trump/GOP tax package.

Surprised and disappointed not to hear any questions about Social Security during the first round of debates on MSNBC, I sent letters to the moderators of the July debates on CNN – to no avail. Subsequent letters to the panel for the ABC News debates in August were ignored.

Voters shouldn’t have to do a Google search to see where the candidates stand on an issue that can make the difference between financial stability and outright poverty in old age. After all, the eventual nominee will face a president in the general election who won in 2016 partly by promising to “protect your Social Security,” only to propose cutting billions from Social Security Disability Insurance in his first two budgets.

Seniors want Social Security to be discussed in the sunlight - especially on the debate stage - so that the voters can assess the candidates’ proposals, and gauge their commitment to the cause.  Are they just paying lip service to it, or are they serious about standing up to the “entitlement reformers” and boosting the program for current and future retirees?  I have just sent a letter to the moderators of the October 15th debate, urging them to ask at least one question about Social Security.  Let’s hope the fifth time will be the charm.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Max Richtman

Max Richtman

Max Richtman is president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. He is former staff director at the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

'Lunacy': Democrats Risk Running Out of Time to Confirm Federal Judges

"Democrats aren't filling open seats right now in federal district courts because, for unfathomable reasons, they are letting red state senators block nominees," said one critic.

Julia Conley ·


Citing Death of Roe, Alabama Urges Judge to Reinstate Trans Care Ban

GOP officials are already weaponizing the Supreme Court's abortion ruling to attack other rights they argue are not "deeply rooted in our nation's history and tradition."

Kenny Stancil ·


Flint Residents 'Disgusted' After Court Throws Out Indictments of Top Officials

"It has become increasingly clear that the judicial system is not a viable option for a poor majority Black community facing injustice," said Flint Rising.

Jessica Corbett ·


Sanders, Fetterman Urge Buttigieg to Fine Airlines Over Flight Cancellations

"The American people are sick of airlines ripping them off, canceling flights at the last minute, and delaying flights for hours on end," said the Vermont senator.

Jake Johnson ·


In Blow to Voting Rights, SCOTUS Saves Louisiana's Racially Rigged Electoral Map

"Black Louisianans deserve fair representation. The fight for racial justice and equality is far from over," vowed one civil rights group.

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo