For its more than 87 years, Social Security has given Americans much to be thankful for.
Together we protect ourselves, our families and our communities through our social security system against the devastating loss of wages in the event of retirement, disability or death.
Social Security represents the best of American values, including rewards for hard work, solid self-reliance, and shared risk.
More than 65 million Americans receive Social Security benefits, which lift 22.5 million people – including more than a million children – out of poverty each year and reduce the poverty of millions more. In addition to Social Security retirement benefits, more than nine million people with disabilities and four million children benefit directly from the program, with their own benefits earned by themselves or working parents. In addition, these benefits, which are paid out like clockwork every month, are largely spent in the local community, generating economic activity and hence jobs and wealth.
Social Security represents the best of American values, including rewards for hard work, solid self-reliance, and shared risk. It is efficient, universal, fair, portable and safe. Nearly every American is either a current Social Security beneficiary or is likely to benefit from it in the future.
Almost everyone has a loved one who receives social assistance benefits. And everyone benefits from living in a society with past leaders who had the foresight to ensure that virtually everyone has some degree of basic economic security.
This Thanksgiving, families across the country appreciate our Social Security system. If they don’t say thank you expressly, it’s because it might not cross your mind for good reason. Social Security is always there, silently in the background, doing what it was made to do: protecting us when the unfortunate befalls us in the form of disability or death and leaves dependents behind or when happiness strikes, in the form of a long to live.
In addition, those of us who work to protect and expand Social Security have another reason to be thankful and breathe a sigh of relief: Republicans fared much worse than expected in the midterm elections, decreasing the threat they pose to our social security system is declining. .
In the months leading up to the election, Republican politicians barely bothered to hide their deep desire to reduce or even dismantle earned Social Security benefits. They proclaimed their usual platitudes about “saving” Social Security, but released plans to do the exact opposite.
Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) released a plan to put Social Security and Medicare on Congress’ chopping block every five years. Not to be outdone, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) announced his support for turning Social Security and Medicare into “discretionary spending,” meaning they would lose their ironclad guarantee. Instead, they would be subject to negotiations by Congress, likely resulting in benefits cuts (or, at best, delays) every year. Millions of Social Security beneficiaries who depend on Social Security would be disadvantaged. They would certainly be surprised to learn that their earned benefits are “discretionary”!
The Republican Study Committee, a group whose membership includes some 75 percent of House Republicans, was even more explicit about the party’s intentions. Instead of hiding behind processes and complicated concepts such as discretionary spending and program shutdowns, as Scott and Johnson did, the RSC released a detailed plan to cut Social Security in several ways: raising the retirement age to 70 ( a 21 percent cut in benefits), cutting middle class benefits, and transferring billions of dollars of Social Security revenues to Wall Street and private insurance companies.
Fortunately, the Democrats fought back. Social Security was a major focus in the weeks leading up to midterms. Democrats blanketed the country with ads highlighting Republican plans to cut Social Security. President Joe Biden condemned Scott and Johnson’s plans at every possible opportunity. Democratic candidates in competitive races, including Pennsylvania senator-elect John Fetterman, pledged to protect and expand earned Social Security benefits.
Fortunately, voters listened and issued a resounding rebuke to the Republicans on Election Day. The “red wave” expected by political pundits turned into a trickle, with Democrats retaining control of the Senate and Republicans gaining a much smaller majority than expected in the House.
Senator Johnson won reelection by just one percentage point, his most competitive race by far. Fetterman won his race, while Social Security foes like Blake Masters of Arizona and Don Bolduc of New Hampshire lost.
Records show that Americans voted with Social Security in mind. Navigator Research found that Social Security was one of the top three issues for swing voters, behind only inflation and abortion. (Both issues received much more media attention in the months leading up to the election. In fact, most media didn’t even clearly report the threat to our earned benefits.) Data for Progress found that voters were “incredibly averse to Republican attempts to cut or scrap programs like Social Security and Medicare.”
We should all be thankful that as polarized as we may be on many issues, the American people are united in our support for Social Security and Medicare. Voters have made it clear once again that politicians who try to cut Social Security and Medicare will pay the price at the polling booth.
But there is more to do to protect our earned benefits.
Republicans have repeatedly threatened to hold the must-pass debt limit hostage and refuse to raise it unless Democrats agree to cut Social Security and Medicare. In other words, presumptive Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and his band of budgetary arsonists are so eager to cut earned benefits that they’re willing to risk economic catastrophe to make it happen.
Democrats can stop this crisis before it happens by getting the hostage out of danger now — by raising the debt ceiling in this year’s final session of Congress, before Republicans take control of the House. Any political leader who cares about the future of Social Security should make this their top priority.
So does President Joe Biden. At a news conference the day after the election, Biden stated, “Under no circumstances will I… cut or make fundamental changes to Social Security and Medicare. That’s not on the table. I won’t.”
The president’s strong promise to protect Social Security and Medicare is something we can all be thankful for, especially if he fulfills that promise by getting Democrats in Congress to raise the debt limit before the end of the year .
That will pave the way for Democrats to continue expanding Social Security and Medicare while requiring the wealthiest to begin paying their fair share. If the Democrats stand firm and keep fighting to protect and expand our earned benefits, we’ll have even more to be thankful for next Thanksgiving.