Sanders: Hands Off Social Security

As Social Security emerged as a target in White House budget negotiations, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) insisted that the retirement program must not be cut as part of any deficit reduction deal.

Social Security, which had been off the table in the deficit talks, reportedly reemerged as President Obama met with congressional leaders.

"Let us be clear," Sanders said. "Social Security has not contributed one nickel to our deficit or our national debt. Social Security is funded by the payroll tax, not the U.S. treasury." The program that benefits more than 50 million seniors and disabled has a $2.6 trillion surplus, he stressed, and will be able to provide full benefits for every eligible American for the next 25 years.

"I am especially disturbed that the president is considering cuts in Social Security after he campaigned against cuts in 2008," Sanders added. Obama made his position clear on Sept. 6, 2008, when he said: "John McCain's campaign has suggested that the best answer for the growing pressures on Social Security might be to cut cost of living adjustments or raise the retirement age.  Let me be clear: I will not do either," Obama said.

"The American people expect the president to keep his word," Sanders said.

According to a coalition of seniors groups, Social Security Works, a change in the way Social Security cost-of-living adjustments are calculated would cost seniors hundreds of dollars a year in benefits. The Congressional Budget Office estimates adoption of the so-called "Chained-CPI," which would be used to determine Social Security's annual COLA, would cut benefits by $112 billion over 10 years. The Social Security Administration chief actuary estimates the effects of this change would be that beneficiaries who retire at age 65 and receive average benefits would get $560 less a year at age 75 than they would under current law and get $1,000 less a year at age 85 - a 3.7 percent cut and a 6.5 percent cut, respectively. The proposal would cut $1.6 trillion over Social Security's 75-year valuation period - mainly from the oldest of the old, primarily women and those who are disproportionately poor.

Cutting Social Security is opposed by overwhelming majorities of Americans.

A recent survey by Public Policy Polling in swing states echoed findings of other national polls. When voters in Ohio were asked this spring if they would support or oppose cutting spending on Social Security to reduce the national debt, only 16 percent favored that approach compared to 80 percent who were opposed. There were nearly identical results in other states. Meanwhile, strong majorities favor increased revenue from the wealthiest Americans and most profitable corporations should be part of any deficit reduction package. "In poll after poll, the American people agree there must be shared sacrifice," Sanders said.