Social Security has always had its rabid opponents. Alf Landon, the 1936 Republican presidential nominee, called President Roosevelt's new Social Security program "unjust," "a fraud on the working man," and "a cruel hoax" that would leave retirees with nothing but "roll after roll of neatly executed IOUs."
Alf Landon was wrong. But he at least had an excuse for his wrongness: he had never seen Social Security in action. Today's Social Security opponents have no such excuse.
After 77 years, Social Security has compiled an overwhelming record of success. Its payments are modest, averaging only $1,265 per month, but for about 13 million seniors, such an amount is the difference between poverty and sufficiency. And notwithstanding claims to the contrary, the program remains on reasonably sound financial footing, as I have described before.
Yet opponents such as Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, want to slash Social Security by changing the rate at which benefits adapt to inflation. Sen. McConnell claims that something called "chained CPI" is a more accurate measure of inflation -- ignoring evidence that most seniors experience higher inflation levels than measured under current law, due to their disproportionate use of high-cost-growth services such as health care.
While Social Security's foes might prefer to couch their proposals in bureaucratic phrases about inflation indexes, big words can't hide hard truths: this plan would mean a cut for America's seniors, one that would eliminate benefits that they have earned and depend on, one that would cut the average benefit by $16,000 over a 25-year retirement.
Troublingly, President Obama, in an effort to reach political compromise, has included similar Social Security cuts in his proposed 2014 budget. Not only is it bad strategy to concede to your opponents' demands before even sitting down at the negotiating table, but the President is flatly wrong to use seniors' earned benefits as a bargaining chip.
I already have written the President to oppose these cuts to Social Security, and I will strongly oppose his plan in Congress.
A better way forward is the Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act, which I have cosponsored. It would bring Social Security's revenue back into line with historic norms by increasing the wage base that pays into the social insurance program, and it would adopt a more sensible inflation index that recognizes that seniors' costs generally rise faster than the costs faced by younger families.
Honoring Those Who Have Served
From 1952 to 1954, Gerald Graff served in the Medical Aid Battalion of the U.S. Army in the Korean War, providing front-line aid to wounded soldiers.
Later, he built a life beyond his military service. He attended NYU on the GI Bill, which he credits for providing higher education that he could not otherwise have afforded. He raised a family and settled down in Somerset -- and somewhere along the way, he lost the medals he had earned in service to his country.
Recently, Mr. Graff reached out to me hoping to obtain duplicate decorations that he could pass along to his grandchildren. I had the honor of visiting him in his neighborhood to present him with the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Service Medal with 2 Bronze Service Stars, and the United Nations Service Medal.
If you or someone you know is also due a military medal or award, please contact me so that our nation may properly honor those who have served.
Medicine Based on Evidence, Not Ideology
Policy should be based on evidence and analysis, not ideology. That is why, in 2011, I led a letter to the Obama Administration expressing my disappointment with their decision to overrule career FDA scientists and impose an age restriction on the over-the-counter purchase of emergency contraception.
I was pleased that a federal judge ruled last week that the Administration had acted wrongly in disregarding the scientific study conducted by the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research that found that the product was safe and effective for adolescent females. The court ordered that women of all ages be given the access they deserve to safe reproductive health care.
I have been in touch with the Administration to urge that they allow this sensible decision to stand.
Member of Congress