Leaders on opposing sides of the political spectrum are trading jabs on Social Security, a crucial program that has an impact on millions of Americans, as the November midterm elections draw near.
President Joe Biden criticized certain lawmakers on Twitter over the weekend for their program-related activities, notably Republican senators Rick Scott of Florida and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.
Scott “wants to require Congress to vote on the future of Social Security every 5 years,” tweeted by Biden. Nevertheless, Johnson “wants Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block every year,” according to a different tweet from the president.
Senator Ron Johnson wants Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block every year. He's the same guy who said if Republicans get control of Congress, they'll try to get rid of the ACA again—denying insurance to people with preexisting conditions.— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) August 27, 2022
These guys never stop.
“If Congress isn’t forced to fix it, Social Security will go broke in 2035. You’re damn right that I have a plan to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Scott responded by tweeting.
This you, @JoeBiden?— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) August 27, 2022
If Congress isn't forced to fix it, Social Security will go broke in 2035. You're damn right that I have a plan to make sure that doesn't happen. https://t.co/DI4uLVX1lS pic.twitter.com/CfcyCeLdF3
Johnson’s team, however, denied the president’s allegations that he is attempting to undermine the initiative.
“President Biden’s tweet is false,” Johnson spokeswoman Alexa Henning made the statement. “The senator is trying to save these programs, not put them on the chopping block.”
According to the most recent estimates from the program’s trustees, Social Security can provide full payments for 13 years, after which only 80% of benefits will be paid.
At the moment, more than 65 million Americans, including retirees, partners, widows and widowers, kids, and disabled employees, depend on their monthly Social Security cheques.
It’s unclear, though, how much influence the program will have on voters come November given the economy’s concerns, like as soaring prices and a possible recession.
According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in January, protecting Social Security rated fifth among the public’s top goals for policy for 2022, behind boosting the economy, cutting health care costs, addressing the coronavirus outbreak, and enhancing education.
“I don’t see Social Security playing a big role in people’s decisions on voting in the midterms,” stated Jason Fichtner, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s principal economist.
Several reasons why Social Security may be a “front-burner issue”
Democrats and program supporters, though, are working hard to spread their message.
In order to ensure that candidates who promise to defend and enhance Social Security are elected, Jon Bauman, head of the Social Security Works Political Action Committee, said he anticipates traveling from coast to coast to more than 40 candidate events.
Social Security is a “front-burner issue for this election,” according to Bauman, a proponent of the program who has been running for office since 2004.
“There’s been a Republican Party offensive during this cycle against Social Security,” Bauman said.
This is especially true given that plans from leaders like Scott and Johnson would mandate more frequent assessments of the program’s status, which supporters believe would either result in benefit reductions or privatization of the program.
Bauman, better known as “Bowzer” from the band and 1970s television program “Sha Na Na,” has a personal reason for going on this expedition.
“I saw firsthand that when my dad passed away it was my mom’s Social Security and her Medicare that allowed her to live a life of dignity and independence that my grandparents never lived,” Bauman said.
Rep. John Larson, a Democrat from Connecticut, has been advocating for significant benefit increases in his measure titled Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust.
There are currently more than 200 Democratic co-sponsors of the proposal. Supporters of the bill in Washington state want to put it up for a vote this coming fall.
Important events to keep an eye on before the election
One significant Social Security development to keep an eye on as Election Day draws near is the announcement of the cost-of-living adjustment for 2023 in October, according to Fichtner.
According to recent data on inflation, that might be the biggest increase in approximately 40 years.
According to Fichtner, that presents a “double-edged sword” for Democrats. On the one hand, the Biden administration does not appear to be doing well with such high inflation. On the other hand, it demonstrates that participants of the program are somewhat protected against rising costs.
Secondly, the outcome of the elections on November 8 may signal a change in the direction of the Social Security policy.
“If the House switches to Republican control in the midterm … the ability for Democrats to push through an agenda basically stops,” Fichtner said.
According to Fichtner, while that would delay Democratic-led Social Security reform ideas, it also might compel the bipartisan cooperation necessary to advance bipartisan change all the way to completion.
“That sets up a potential with President Biden for a negotiation on Social Security reform where he can help drive it,” Fichtner said.
“What better way to actually have a legacy for a Democrat than to say you secured Social Security for the next 75 years?” he said.
Whether or not Biden is a one-term or two-term president could be a crucial determining factor in whether or not that occurs.
Before the election in 2024, Biden’s negotiating leverage might be significantly diminished if he decides to seek for re-election, according to Fichtner.