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AARP Advocate speaks out on Social Security plan

Proposed Social Security plan will cut into Seniors’ benefits

Delaware’s seniors count on Social Security benefits earned through a lifetime of work.  A total of 123,940 Delawareans 65+, or 93 percent, received Social Security in 2011.  For many of us, it is an economic lifeline.  While the average annual benefit of $15,000 is less than many people think, the fact is Social Security accounts for about 60 percent of the typical older Delawareans income.

Social Security is also critically important for younger people who receive survivors or disability benefits from this program. The program plays an important role in Delaware’s economy, providing 2.5 billion in benefits to all Delawareans.

I know first-hand the value of Social Security. Family members who retired watched their savings disappear during the “Great Recession” now depend on Social Security alone to survive while their expenses continue to rise.

Social Security has become even more important for so many of us at a time when seniors are living longer and trying to cope with rising costs for health care, medication, and utilities. Combine that with lower home equity and microscopic interest rates on our savings and you’ve got a difficult mix for people on a fixed income.

That’s why we need to be vigilant and well-informed about attempts to cut our hard-earned Social Security.  Right now a plan is circulating in Washington that would reduce our benefits substantially. 

It’s called “chained CPI” and it is described by proponents as simply a technical adjustment to better calculate the cost of living. 

In fact, a chained CPI represents a significant benefit cut.  Over the course of a lifetime, it would cost the average senior thousands of dollars.  The cut would get deeper each year as we grow older.

This proposal would take a disproportionate toll on women, who typically live longer than men, are more likely to rely on income from Social Security, and more likely to be poor.

A 92-year-old woman or man receiving Social Security would lose a full month’s worth of benefits.  Is there anyone who thinks the typical 92-year-old has that kind of money to spare?  Is this really the kind of priority we’re proud to set for our country?

It wasn’t so long ago—just last year in fact—that we heard and read so many politicians promising never to cut Social Security for today’s seniors.  The chained CPI shreds that promise, cutting benefits that current seniors have earned through a lifetime of hard work. 

Supporters of the chained CPI portray it as a more accurate reading of the cost-of-living.  That assessment reflects a profound misunderstanding of the real-life choices most seniors confront to make ends meet. 

First of all, the current CPI does not even recognize that seniors spend more on health care, which grows faster than overall inflation.  And second, the chained CPI assumes that when the cost of something you normally buy rises, you can simply switch to a lower-cost substitute.  If only life for most seniors were that easy. For most of us, it is not simply a matter of comparative shopping at the supermarket.  We already choose lower cost options, and we also spend much of our money on basic goods such as health care and utilities that don’t have lower-cost substitutes. 

Social Security is a self-financed program that provides earned benefits.  It didn’t cause the deficit and it shouldn’t be cut to fix Washington’s budget problem.  This is the place where the soothing sounds of support for seniors meet the real-life record of those who represent us.  Make no mistake, we will be watching closely.


John G. Walsh

AARP Advocate

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