LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Expanding Social Security is responsible and necessary

For over 80 years, Social Security has helped lift millions of seniors out of poverty. Social Security is one of the most successful, popular, and cost-effective government programs in U.S. history. I believe it is time to strengthen this pillar of middle-class economic security by expanding benefits to America’s seniors.

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Sean Barney

In July, I outlined a plan to protect and expand Social Security by giving seniors a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), eliminating the payroll tax cap, instituting a caregiver credit, and creating “Social Security B” to provide retirees with an additional $11,669 per year benefit. My plan is based on a detailed economic analysis by the New America Foundation and is paid for by ensuring that the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share.

My opponents running for Congress do not support this plan.

Lisa Blunt Rochester said in July that the plan “caused me some concern.” Rochester consistently says she will not eliminate the payroll tax cap, thus ensuring that the income of millionaires and billionaires will remain shielded from Social Security taxation.

Bryan Townsend mocked the plan. In this paper, Rep. Paul Baumbach, a Townsend supporter, called it “dangerous” and “absurd.” [“Why is the public so skeptical of politicians?” Opinion page, Sept. 5]

Expanding benefits for seniors is not “dangerous.” Over one in three seniors depend on Social Security for almost all their income, yet, current Social Security benefits are barely above the federal poverty line. That must change. As President Obama has said, “It’s time we finally made Social Security more generous” by asking the wealthy to pay their fair share.

As a senior adviser to Sen. Carper in Washington, I worked across the aisle to help pass the largest expansion of Medicare in its history to cover prescription drugs for seniors. When the idea was first proposed, Republicans and even some Democrats opposed it. They said it was unrealistic. They said it would cost too much. But we worked hard. We negotiated. We fought for what was right. And today, Medicare Part D is a reality.

Tackling our nation’s retirement security crisis will require a financial commitment, to be sure, but Social Security B’s price tag pales in comparison to the cost of the Bush tax cuts or the disastrous war in Iraq. America, the wealthiest country in the world, has the means to do right by its seniors. It is a matter of getting our priorities straight.

I will not apologize for putting seniors first. We need bold ideas in Congress, and we need a representative who will fight to expand Social Security.

Sean Barney

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sean Barney is one of six candidates in the Sept. 13 state primary for the Democratic nomination for representative in Congress, as are Lisa Blunt Rochester and Bryan Townsend.

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