As part of a day spent meeting with constituents in South County, Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) visited Wakefield's Brightview Commons retirement community to discuss ways to ensure all Americans can have a secure retirement. Langevin addressed residents in the wake of increased attention on Republican proposals to end the Medicare guarantee and privatize Social Security, both advocated by Congressman Paul Ryan, who is the party's Vice Presidential nominee. Outlining alternative proposals to sustain the programs, Langevin emphasized that it is unacceptable to simply shift the burden of increased costs of retirement to seniors who most rely on them.
"Social Security and Medicare have been highly successful, keeping seniors out of poverty and providing access to quality health care," said Langevin. "We can and must take steps to control these programs' costs to maintain the promise of a secure retirement for our current seniors as well as for future generations.
"I disagree with my Republican colleagues, led by Congressman Ryan, who believe the solution is to cut health benefits to seniors who can't afford it and privatize Social Security, weakening the trust fund and allowing Wall Street to gamble away people's hard earned savings. Seniors are still recovering from the economic recession that decimated private retirement accounts and erased trillions in wealth, while Social Security didn't lose a dime during the financial crisis. By phasing out the Social Security payroll tax cap that benefits wealthier individuals and building on the future health care savings passed in the Affordable Care Act, we can continue to ensure Social Security and Medicare work for everyone."
On Medicare, Langevin backed the approach used by the Affordable Care Act, which reduced future costs by more than $700 billion through increased efficiencies. Responding to claims that these savings would "gut" Medicare, Langevin has pointed to independent fact checkers who found the claim to be clearly false, while also noting additional benefits in the health care reform law. For instance, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a finding on Monday that 4,886 Rhode Islanders saved an average of $526 on prescription drug costs in just the first seven months of this year because of the law's provisions to close the Medicare Part D donut hole. Since the Act's passage, seniors in the state have saved a total of more than $15 million in drug costs. Across the nation, savings have reached more than $4.1 billion.
Discussing the importance of protecting Social Security, Langevin emphasized that without it nearly half of elderly Americans would live below the poverty level. Additionally, Social Security cannot and has not ever added to the deficit. Instead, the program currently has a $2.7 trillion surplus. Because the impending retirement of the baby boomer generation will strain the system, Langevin has advocated ending the payroll tax cap that allows wealthier individuals to avoid paying into the Social Security on income above a certain level. Legislation the Congressman has cosponsored that includes a change to this effect, the Preserving Our Promise to Seniors Act, would ensure the program's solvency for the next 75 years.
Among a series of stops in the area earlier in the day, Langevin visited the Marina Park Farmers Market to greet constituents and the Jonnycake Center in Peace Dale, where he received a tour from Executive Director Susan Gustaitis. The facility, founded with a vision to eliminate hunger, assists Rhode Islanders in need of food, clothing, and household items through individual and systemic advocacy. Its programs include a Vacation Breakfast and Lunch Program, which serves children eligible for nutrition assistance when school is not in session, including throughout summer break.
"With heated debates about the budget continuing in Washington, it is critical to remember that the decisions we make have very real implications on the lives of people back home. When we pursue policies that give more people the basic tools they need to get ahead, such as support for facilities like the Jonnycake Center, it provides increased opportunities for all Americans to achieve their own success," said Langevin.