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Tuesday, 15 March 2011 15:45

Defend Social Security Bill Proposed by Sanders and Weiner

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WASHINGTON, March 15 - Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today introduced legislation that would safeguard Social Security by requiring extraordinary majorities in Congress to approve any reduction in benefits. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) introduced the same measure in the House.

Senators who joined Sanders and Weiner at a press conference today in support of the legislation were Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

Their legislation would give Social Security the same parliamentary protection that others in Congress want to put in place in order to make it harder for Congress to increase spending, raise taxes or add earmarks to legislation.

Sanders said, "Congress should not be able to cut the hard-earned Social Security benefits of current or future eligible recipients without a two-thirds vote by the Senate and the House.  Our legislation does not prohibit Congress from cutting Social Security benefits, raising the retirement age or privatizing this important program.  It simply ensures that a supermajority would be needed before Congress could take any of these actions."

Weiner said, "Social Security is an intergenerational contract that has never been broken. The GOP has pledged to attack its very foundation. This bill would arm us for the coming battle."

Mikulski said, "Social Security must be a guaranteed benefit, not a guaranteed gamble.  More than 50 million seniors and millions of disabled Americans rely on Social Security checks to pay their bills, buy their food and get their prescription drugs. I'm proud to be a co-sponsor of the Social Security Protection Act and I will fight to make sure the integrity of Social Security will always be preserved."

Brown said, "For tens of millions of seniors, Social Security means food and heat; it means paying the mortgage; it means purchasing health care; it means remaining independent. Seniors aren't getting rich off of Social Security: the average beneficiary in Ohio collects just $14,400 per year.  Efforts to undercut Social Security pose a threat to an American promise that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can retire with dignity."

Sanders called Social Security the most successful and reliable social insurance program in our nation's history. For 75 years, through good times and bad, Social Security has kept millions of senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and children out of poverty.  Before President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law in 1935, about half of all senior citizens lived in poverty.  Today, less than 10 percent of seniors live in poverty.

Conservatives who do not like government programs have used the current deficit problems to mount an attack on Social Security and the benefits it provides.  Yet the reality, as Sanders said today, is that Social Security will be able to pay 100 percent of promised benefits to every eligible recipient for the next 26 years.  Without any changes in the law, there would still be enough funding to pay 78 percent of promised benefits for many decades after that.

Sanders stressed that Social Security has never contributed a dime to the federal budget deficit or the national debt.  Social Security currently has a $2.6 trillion surplus, projected to grow to $4.2 trillion by 2023.