On the Issues: Social Security

By Urban Media News Staff

On July 6 of this year, the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans and Wisconsin Coalition for Retirement Security issued a challenge to both major party candidates for the US Senate. The groups are committed to retirement security and gravely concerned about the future of the social security system.

For more than 70 years, generations of American seniors have relied on the guaranteed benefit of social security in their golden years to make ends meet. Workers pay in during their career to support retirees, and when those workers retire the next generation of workers supports their retirement through contributions to the social security trust. That has always been the “deal.”

But the last decade has seen multiple attempts by some to put that deal, and the social security system itself, in jeopardy by privatizing social security and putting benefits at risk through the stock market. Communities who still have not recovered from the Great Recession are rightly concerned that linking social security to the up and downs of the stock market is risky at best.

During President Bush’s second term, efforts to privatize social security were defeated, but those opposed to this proven program have not given up the fight. That’s why organizations like the Alliance for Retired Americans and Coalition for Retirement Security are pushing candidates to spell out their position on the program. Without knowing where the candidates stand, there can be no accountability for elected officials who have the power to protect, or undermine, essential programs like Social Security.

The pledge issued to Senator Ron Johnson and his opponent, Russ Feingold, reads:

“Social Security is an open, transparent and widely popular system that 96% of Wisconsin residents over the age of 65 rely on. This generation of retirees and seniors paid into the Social Security trust fund throughout their working years and deserve the financial security and peace of mind that Social Security provides.

If honored by the people of Wisconsin with election to the United States Senate, I hereby pledge to protect the guaranteed benefit of Social Security and will oppose any attempts to privatize Social Security.”

Less than one week after the challenge was issued, Russ Feingold signed his name to the pledge in front of a room full of voters and the media at an event in western Wisconsin. According to his web site, Feingold believes that social security benefits should never be cut, but should be expanded.

More than two months after receiving the challenge to lay out his position on Social Security, Senator Johnson has declined to sign the pledge.

Senator Johnson’s silence is disappointing, but not entirely surprising. After all, Johnson has referred to the program multiple times as a ‘ponzi scheme,’ and the Huffington Post reports that when speaking to a group of conservative activists Johnson voiced support for privatizing Social Security.

If Senator Johnson truly believes that the retirement of millions of Americans would be more secure subject to the whims of the stock market, he should explain his rationale to Wisconsin residents.

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