CATONSVILLE, Md. - Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) today hosted a town hall forum at Charles Town Retirement Community to discuss his record on Social Security and his vision for protecting and strengthening the program for the future. Rep. Cardin had proposed using the occasion to debate Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele (R-MD) on Social Security, but Mr. Steele chose not to attend. Based on past statements, it is apparent that the Lt. Gov. supports Bush's privatization plan. He and Rep. Cardin have clear differences this critical issue.
"I believe every American deserves to retire with dignity," said Rep. Cardin. "Social Security provides millions of Americans with a guaranteed source of income each month so they can make ends meet. President Bush's privatization plan could cut the benefit that average Marylanders receive by thousands of dollars a year. That's why I led the fight in Congress to oppose privatizing Social Security. We must protect this critical program for future generations."
While Ben Cardin has consistently and strongly opposed the President's privatization plan, Lt. Gov. Steele has toed the president's line on privatizing Social Security. On his campaign website, Lt. Gov. Steele says he would "allow the next generation of beneficiaries to have some ownership over their retirement choices."
Rep. Cardin is strongly opposed to the President's privatization plan because taking money out of the program would weaken its solvency. Instead, Rep. Cardin has sponsored legislation to encourage retirement savings opportunities that will supplement Social Security. Rep. Cardin is a leader in Congress on issues relating to pensions and retirement savings and in 2001, his legislation to increase the amount Americans can put into their 401(k) plans and IRAs was passed into law.
"Michael Steele and I have fundamentally different positions on the future of Social Security," Rep. Cardin said. "That's why it's so important that we debate these issues, so the people of Maryland can contrast our positions and make an informed decision."
As of December 2004, the latest date for which data is available, a total of 761,160 Marylanders received Social Security benefits. This number included 499,620 retired workers, 75,210 widows and widowers, 86,860 disabled workers, 35,200 wives and husbands, and 64,270 children. Social Security beneficiaries represented 13.7 percent of the total Maryland population and 87.4 percent of the population aged 65 or older. [Social Security Administration, Maryland State Statistics, December 2004]
In 2005, Rep. Cardin released an analysis of the effects of privatization that showed that the majority of wage earners in Maryland could face steep benefit cuts if Bush's plan were enacted into law. Specifically, the report found that Bush's plan for Social Security would: cut benefits by more than $150 billion for 1.8 million wage earners in Maryland, 76% of whom earn between $30,000 and $90,000 annually; result in an average benefit cut of $2,555 a year for wage earners between ages 35 and 55, and $5,565 a year for younger wage earners; and could result in benefit cuts for more than 200,000 surviving spouses and children in Maryland. ["The Impact of President Bush's Social Security Proposal in Maryland," U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform - Minority Staff, July 2005]
"The Social Security program faces a financing problem, but the American people understand that private accounts divert money away from the program--ultimately weakening it," said Rep. Cardin