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Voters Must Demand Candidates Discuss Social Security
2/17/2016 2:51:24 PM

Max Ritchman - NCPSSM CEO
By Barney Blakeney

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare thinks there needs to be more discussions between voters and candidates campaigning to become the nation’s next president about initiatives to protect and enhance the Social Security system.

The nation’s two major political parties over the next two weeks will conduct primary elections in South Carolina to decide who will be their nominee to run for president.

Max Ritchman, CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM), which is the country’s second largest senior citizens advocacy organization behind AARP, says voters have to demand that candidates make commitments to Social Security.

The issue of Social Security has been discussed by several of the candidates - Republican candidates far less than Democratic candidates, said Ritchman - but the discussions aren’t specific enough and few commitments are being made.

Social Security is extremely important for the African American community because they have lower earnings and less pension coverage than other Americans, Ritchman noted. About 72 percent of Blacks rely on Social Security for at least half their income, 50 percent of Blacks rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income and 37 percent of Blacks rely on Social Security for all their income.

Younger voters also should be demanding candidates progressively address Social Security. If the retirement age is raised they will have to work longer to be eligible to receive benefits. For workers whose jobs are more physically demanding, who becomes president really matters. And unless the program is managed well their future benefits will be at risk.

“We’re concerned about the political discussion surrounding Social Security, especially since it means so much to so many in South Carolina. With the presidential road show headed to South Carolina, we think it’s important for voters to know what’s going on with this important program,” said NCPSSM Media Specialist, Brad Wright.

Just over 1 million residents of the state receive Social Security benefits. They include retired workers, disabled workers, widowers, spouses and children. Social Security benefits contribute some $15 billion annually to the state’s economy.

Ritchman said that’s money being spent in local economies. Social Security beneficiaries aren’t banking their benefits. They’re spending it on housing, food and other necessities. It goes right back into the economy, he reminds.

The average Social Security beneficiary receives about $14,000 annually, Ritchman said. For many that’s all they have to live on. He suggests voters pay close attention to candidates who are talking about cutting benefits or raising the retirement age, which effectively cuts benefits. A measure of a progressive society is how well it treats its oldest and youngest members, he said.

Improving Social Security is essential, Ritchman says. The nation’s next president should be focused on strengthening the cost of living adjustments, improving basic benefits for all current and future beneficiaries, enhancing the the special minimum benefit and restoring college/vocational school student benefits.

Ritchman said discussion about Social Security is just as important as the conversation about income inequality. It’s an issue that’s important because it’s an essential benefit to workers and because it’s an integral part of national and state economies, he said.

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