by Rick Patelunas.
Mal Hyman is the Democratic candidate for the U.S. 7th Congressional District. Mal wants to protect, strengthen and expand Social Security, a vital safety net for millions of Americans. His opponent, Republican Tom Rice, says that entitlements like Social Security need reform, but Rice’s idea of reform is to shrink the program.
These are clear, fundamental differences on the future of an essential federal program that will have an impact on you and your family for generations to come.
South Carolinians depend on Social Security
The most recent data from the Social Security Administration reports that over 1 million South Carolinians receive Social Security. That’s more than one in five residents. In 2015, South Carolina’s 7th Congressional District that includes Horry Country had the highest number of Social Security beneficiaries of any district in the state with 184,082 recipients.
These South Carolinians are not the lazy moochers or welfare queens depicted by some. No, two out of three are retired workers who paid into Social Security throughout their working years. The average annual amount is about $16,000. It’s not all that different from the federal poverty level of $15,930 for a family of two.
A recent study showed that South Carolina was the second most popular moving destination in 2015. Earlier this year, the Census Department reported that the Myrtle Beach Metro area was the second fastest growing in the country. The majority of the moves are from the North and they’re retirees, many of whom receive Social Security.
Social Security is not bankrupt and there are fair solutions for expansion
The most common argument against Social Security expansion is that the program is bankrupt. That’s not true. The 2016 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees states that Social Security is not running out of money and 74% of benefits will be available through 2090 with no changes.
There is one big change that should be made to expand Social Security – lift the $118,000 income cap. The cap means that incomes over $118,000 are exempt from Social Security taxes. There is no rational reason why the rich shouldn’t pay their fair share for the program.
Social Security benefits have been indexed to inflation through cost of living adjustments (COLA) since 1975. Only at the bottom of the Great Recession in 2010 and 2011 has the COLA been zero, until this year. In response to the decision that the COLA would be zero this year, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren introduced the Seniors and Veterans Emergency Benefits Act (SAVE). The bill would be funded by closing a loophole in the tax code that benefits CEOs. In South Carolina, the SAVE bill would benefit:
• 81,000 children;
• 382,000 women over the age of 65; and
• 180,000 disabled workers.
• State and local government retirees who are not covered by Social Security
Arguments against Social Security expansion don’t hold up
A retired couple or a disabled worker trying to provide for a family at the poverty level are not welfare queens. By putting money into the hands of people who need it and who will spend it on life’s necessities, the economy expands. The U.S. is a consumer-driven economy and since the Great Recession, consumer demand has been slack. Boosting consumer spending can only help.
The “solutions” offered by Republicans like Tom Rice are not fair: privatization, cutting benefits, increasing the retirement age and “chaining” any benefit increases to the consumer price index. This will hurt – not help – millions of South Carolinians.
Vote for Mal Hyman on November 8. Learn more about Mal here.