WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 – A group of senators today urged President Barack Obama to spare Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in the budget blueprint that he will submit to Congress on March 4.
A letter written by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and signed by 15 other senators praised the president for improving the economy and creating jobs while reducing the deficit. In making the case against cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, however, the senators expressed concerns about retirement insecurity, growing income inequality and rising poverty.
The White House spending plan submitted to Congress one year ago proposed a cut in Social Security benefits. The president’s misguided overture to congressional Republicans would have cut future payments to retirees and disabled veterans by changing how the consumer price index is calculated. This year, the senators wrote to Obama, “We respectfully urge you not to propose cutting Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits in your fiscal year 2015 budget.”
In the letter delivered to the White House today, the senators said retirement insecurity is as great as ever. Only 1 in 5 private sector workers is covered by a defined benefit pension plan. Half of Americans have less than $10,000 in savings. And two-thirds of seniors rely on Social Security for a majority of their income.
The senators also emphasized that Social Security has not contributed to the deficit. In fact, the retirement system’s $2.7 trillion surplus can pay all benefits owed to every eligible American for the next 19 years.
The senators also stressed the importance of Social Security in reducing poverty. Before Social Security, about half of our seniors lived in poverty. Today, senior poverty is down to 9.1 percent. Without Social Security, one-third of senior citizens would have virtually no earnings at all.
In addition to preserving Social Security, the senators told Obama that they oppose shifting health care costs onto senior citizens, the poor, and the disabled by cutting Medicare and Medicaid benefits.
“Mr. President: These are tough times for our country. With the middle class struggling and more people living in poverty than ever before, we urge you not to propose cuts in your budget … which would make life even more difficult for some of the most vulnerable people in America. We look forward to working with you in support of the needs of the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor – and all working Americans,” the letter concluded.
Sanders is a senior member of the Senate Budget Committee and the founder of the Senate’s Defending Social Security Caucus. His letter also was signed by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.) Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Al Franken (D-Minn.) Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).
To read the letter, click here.