Thank you for joining me for my first DailyKos Live Blog! As a proud progressive, I’d like for these conversations to become a regular occurrence.
For this first post I'd like to focus on Social Security, a priority for me – but feel free to ask more general questions about me, my work, or my campaign as well. I’ll be online for the next half hour to answer questions live.
Some of my earliest memories are from the inside of an internment camp that my family and I were placed in during WWII because of our Japanese-American heritage. My experiences in the camp were very formative, and throughout my career as an educator and public servant I have been committed to speaking up for those who don't have a voice – because I've seen first hand what happens when no one does.
Today, we need more of our political leaders to speak up honestly for our seniors. Senator Elizabeth Warren gave a great floor speech Monday about the retirement crisis in our country, where she pointed out that there is a $6.6 trillion gap between what Americans under the age of retirement are currently saving and what they will need to maintain their standard of living when they hit retirement. Pensions are more and more rare, and even people with savings plans like 401(k) are at the mercy of the market. You may have heard Senator Warren mention the statistics that two-thirds of seniors rely on Social Security for the majority of their retirement income, and that 14 million seniors rely on the program to stay out of poverty.
Social Security is an essential safety net for our seniors, current and future, and it is a reliable, secure program that needs to be strengthened, not cut. Yet too much of the discussion around the program presupposes that it needs to be cut. Even President Obama’s budget proposal earlier this year includes a switch to Chained CPI, which would cause a substantial cut to the benefits that seniors, people with disabilities, and many veterans currently depend on. A Washington Post editorial on Monday went so far as to suggest that seniors are undeserving of better benefits.
I believe strongly that we need to enhance Social Security benefits, not cut them. That is why, building off of a bill introduced by Senator Tom Harkin, I worked with Congresswoman Linda Sanchez and other colleagues in the House to introduce H.R. 3118: The Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013, in September. The bill increases core benefits and uses a Cost of Living Adjustment (called CPI-E or CPI-U) that accurately reflects the more expensive costs that seniors face. The bill also scraps the cap on Social Security taxes so that the most fortunate amongst us pay the same percentage into the system as everyone else (currently they only pay Social Security taxes on the first $113,700 of their income). Social Security is an essential part of our social safety net, and we should have a fair tax structure that reflects that reality.
As I’ve spoken to people in every part of my district over the past few months, I am more and more confident that this bill, and the broader effort to strengthen Social Security, are necessary. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how we can shift the national discussion of Social Security in this direction.