July 15, 2011
RICHMOND, Va. – As the debt-ceiling debate continues in Washington, some of Virginia's college students and interns are traveling around the state to make sure cutting Social Security is left out of that conversation. Their target audience is not their peers, but Baby Boomers and older people who are about to retire or have already done so.
Virginia Organizing volunteer Evan McLaughlin says his group has been hitting retirement homes, senior centers and libraries to help wade though what he calls myths surrounding the political arguments. One in particular, he says, is that cuts are needed to strengthen Social Security.
"Cutting people's benefits and raising the retirement age? We don't think that's the right way to do it. We think there are a lot of better ways to go about strengthening the program that aren't going to hurt people, and are going to make people's lives better instead of worse."
The group advocates raising the tax cap on Social Security for workers who earn more than about $106,000 annually, because that's the current maximum amount of income tapped for Social Security contributions. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., one of the remaining "Gang of Six," has stated he supports making cuts to Social Security as part of an effort to reduce the deficit.
Another misconception, says Tiffany Williams of Virginia Organizing, is that Social Security somehow contributes to the national deficit. By law, she says, Social Security funds are separate from the budget and the program must pay its own way.
"As people are paying into it and their employers are paying into it, it's an insurance program so that when you retire you are able to get those funds. So Social Security does not add to the deficit whatsoever because it has its own separate budget."
Another myth, says Williams, is that Social Security is broke. She says the program is solvent for the next quarter century, adding that almost 15 percent of Virginia's population now receives Social Security checks.