Real Leadership on Social Security

In the state of Maryland alone, over 763,000 individuals receive Social Security. Social Security lifts over 191,000 Marylanders out of poverty, and generates over $22.2 billion in economic output for our state. In my family and in yours, Social Security has been a promise from one generation to the next — that we will look out for one another.

But Social Security has been under constant assault since its inception. Republicans have claimed that it’s an entitlement program our country cannot afford, and that it is bankrupting our country’s future.

The idea that a fund someone pays into for their entire working life would be considered an entitlement is proof of just how out of touch our Republican colleagues are with American workers. And unfortunately, every now and then they convince a Democrat to engage with them in this charade.

My opponent is one of those Democrats. He backed a plan that, if enacted, would have cut Social Security benefits and raised the retirement age for workers here in Maryland and all across our country. When his deal fell apart, he tried to walk back his support for the cuts. Then, upon entering this race for the Senate, my opponent signed onto legislation that would do the opposite: expand Social Security. We should be clear about why he made that decision — political expediency.

From day one, I fought against the cuts he was willing to support in the Bowles-Simpson deal. From day one, I fought back against our own President when he proposed Social Security cuts in his own budget, leading letters with my colleagues in the House to oppose a cost of living adjustment that would have left our seniors with less in their monthly checks. My opponent sat on the sidelines. Now he and a majority of Congressional Democrats are standing with us.

I opposed the cuts because I understood what they would mean for real families. For so many retirees, Social Security is all they have. Pensions have all but disappeared, 401k plans have lost value because of Wall Street speculation, and it’s harder to save for retirement when you’re just trying to make ends meet. Those cuts supported by my opponent in order to get a budget deal would be catastrophic for elderly women and African Americans. 55% of beneficiaries are women, and almost 50% of unmarried, many widowed, senior women rely on Social Security for up to 90% of their income. The numbers are similar for African Americans: almost 50% of beneficiaries rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income. Cutting what for many is a sole source of income would leave millions out in the cold. And, after a lifetime of paying into the Social Security Trust Fund, the benefits they have earned should be there when it’s time, not bargaining chips for Washington politicians looking to cut a deal.

I’ve fought every day in Congress to stop cuts to Social Security, and to change the conversation to one about expanding benefits for seniors and working families who rely on this vital program for their retirement security. Leadership is about taking a bold, principled stance and convincing others to stand with you: I wasn’t afraid to speak up to stand with seniors and working families when others wanted me to be silent. Now, my opponent’s reversal proves that we were right from the beginning.

We owe it to generations of American seniors to allow them to retire with dignity. We can’t leave them without the benefits they’ve earned. In the Senate, you can trust that will always be my position, and that I will never waver.

Rep. Donna Edwards is running for U.S. Senate in Maryland. Learn more: www.donnaedwardsforsenate.com