Tales from the Trail

A Social Security reality check for deficit hawks

October 13, 2010

President Barack Obama’s fiscal commission is expected to recommend changes to Social Security to help reduce the deficit when it issues its report in early December.FRANCE-PENSIONS/ But protests in France over pension reforms there could serve as a reality check to U. S. deficit hawks who want to raise the U.S. retirement age  and make other benefit changes to the popular  retirement plan.

While they may not go on strike or take to the streets in protest — like is happening in France over a plan to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62  –  older Americans are more likely to show up at the voting booth in November than other groups.

A new survey by the influential AARP, which advocates for older Americans and has 35 million readers for its magazine, shows that lawmakers who embrace deficit reduction  proposals that include cuts for Social Security may do so at their own peril.

The survey of  AARP members who are likely to vote in the November 2, congressional elections showed that 60 percent would be less likely to vote for a candidate who would support cutting Social Security benefits to reduce the deficit.

AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond said the survey shows that older Americans see Social Security as “their investment and their money.”

Deficit hawks have discussed raising the Social Security retirement age, which already is gradually rising to 67 from 65 under current law, to as high as 70 years. The proposal worries many older Americans, LeaMond said.

“One of the things we’ve noticed is the tremendous concern of people over the age of 50 about finding jobs and keeping jobs, LeaMond said.

With Democrats fighting to maintain their majorities in the House of Representatives and Senate, many are affirming their commitment to protecting the 75-year old retirement program and bashing Republicans who have supported private Social Security investment accounts. Dozens of House Democrats signed a letter to Obama saying they will oppose any effort by the president or his fiscal commission to cut Social Security.

While many older Americans oppose using Social Security to cut the deficit, the vast majority are worried about the economy and the gap between federal revenues and government spending — 91 percent said they were worried about the deficit and 82 percent are unhappy about the current economy.

The survey involved telephone interviews conducted in September with 1,000 AARP members who are likely voters in November.

For more political news, click on:  http://www.reuters.com/news/politics

Photo Credit:  REUTERS/Benoit Tessier (Demonstrators in Paris protest against pension reforms)

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