What do older voters think about the back-door debt limit deal tactics of using Social Security cuts in exchange for lifting the debt limit? The single biggest government account holding federal debt is the Social Security Trust Fund — holding about $2.8 trillion in special obligation bonds, or I.O.U.s for payments of Social Security benefits.
TSCL’s 2016 Senior Survey conducted between January through March of this year found that virtually everyone, an astounding 99% of older voters, said they don’t agree with the tactics that Congress used to enact surprise Social Security changes negotiated during last fall’s closed-door debt limit deal.
As the federal budget approached the debt limit last October, the government faced running low on funds to make the November 2015 Social Security payments in full and on time. House leadership and President Obama reached a secretive last-minute deal to lift the federal debt, but the deal came with controversial changes to Social Security. It ended two benefit claiming strategies used by married couples at full retirement age to maximize their benefits, known as “file and suspend,” and “restricted application.” According to financial advisors, the change will cost some dual-income married couples, who were counting on using the strategy, from $10,000 to $60,000.
Critics of file and suspend and restricted applications called the strategies “loopholes.” Some members of Congress say that the federal debt is too high, and that more changes like these are needed to bring long-term spending on Social Security and Medicare into balance. TSCL’s survey results, however, suggest that lawmakers need to end the closed-door budget dealings and take a more open and balanced approach to legislation affecting Social Security.
Survey respondents disapproved of:
- The threat of nonpayment of Social Security benefits, Medicare and other federal benefits to force votes on lifting the debt limit.
- Members of Congress demanding entitlement cuts in exchange for votes to lift the debt limit.
- Secret, closed door negotiations between Congressional leadership and President Obama that included surprise Social Security changes.
“Social Security benefit cuts have no place in legislation to lift the debt limit,” says TSCL Chairman Ed Cates. “Our federal government has borrowed about $2.8 trillion in payroll taxes meant to pay Social Security benefits, and there should be no question of honoring the obligation to repay that debt,” Cates states.
What do you think about these changes? To participate in TSCL polls and surveys, visit www.SeniorsLeague.org.
Sources: “Rarely Used Social Security Loopholes, Worth Thousands of Dollars, Closed,” Tara Siegel Bernard, The New York Times, October 30, 2015.