U.S. Rep. Barney Frank told seniors Tuesday afternoon that he's working hard to get them an increase in Social Security payments that so many say they need as their bills continue to rise.
"There has to be a Social Security increase - at least 2 percent," Frank said to the overflow crowd in the Village at Willow Crossings' pub.
Frank, a 15-term Democrat, made the visit to the retirement community as he campaigns for re-election Nov. 2 against Republican Sean Bielat, a Brookline businessman.
This year marked the first time recipients have gone without a benefit increase since 1975, and officials are expected to announce on Friday that there will again be no increase in 2011.
Frank told the crowd that he understands seniors need the increase, even though inflation figures across the economic picture say otherwise. He said the figures did not adequately take into account soaring health care costs, which are rising faster than inflation and which hit the elderly particularly hard. "The more you rely on medical care, the more your cost of living will go up," he said.
Frank said he did not support privatizing Social Security because it could leave retirees prone to scams and other unnecessary risks.
To help finance Social Security and other domestic projects, Frank said the United States should cut its military spending by eliminating protective patrols of Europe in place since World War II.
"Let Europe protect itself," he said.
Frank said the country must remain vigilant against terrorism, but that spending on conventional war machinery does not help. "You don't fight terrorism with nuclear submarines," he said.
During the question-and-answer portion of the event, Frank again reiterated his support of a Social Security increase. "I am in favor of making sure Social Security gets every penny (it needs)," he said.
Bielat, Frank's opponent, has outlined his own positions on Social Security, including a higher retirement age for young people, partial privatization of investments and lifting the tax cap on wealthier workers.