Monday, June 10, 2013

How do Frank Pallone and Rush Holt Talk about Social Security on their NJ Sen Campaign Sites?

When I found out this morning that Frank Pallone had officially entered the NJ Senate race, I decided to check out his campaign website.  Like Holt, he had a full campaign website up and running. Cory Booker does not have a substantive site up yet.  I expect Pallone and Holt were able to do so as quickly as they did because they could just adapt the websites from their House races.

I think it is worthwhile to pay attention to how politicians talk about various issues to see what flexibility they try to give themselves.  I have been especially attentive to such cues since the Democratic leadership expressed its interest in cutting (or considering cuts to) Social Security benefits--even if they phrase such cuts as mere "changes" or "technical fixes."
Rush Holt's website includes the following language in his "Seniors" section:
Social Security continues to serve Americans well.  Without Social Security, half of all seniors would fall into poverty.  That is why I oppose any cuts to Social Security benefits, including raising the retirement age.  Additionally, I will continue to oppose any efforts to privatize Social Security. I recently wrote President Obama to oppose the possibility that cuts in Social Security benefits could be used to help reduce budget deficits.  Instead, we should be working to preserve and strengthen this important program.   I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for solutions that do not impose undue burden on senior citizens, yet do not threaten the solvency of the Social Security program.
I believe our best days are still ahead - an America where opportunity is forged, responsibility is demanded, and prosperity is available to all of us.  That means securing retirement for seniors, while also providing opportunities for and protecting those who still wish to work.
His statement includes three main parts: (1) an opposition to Social Security benefit cuts, (2) an opposition to raising the retirement age, and (3) an opposition to privatization. At the bottom of this section, he describes his past legislative activity, including the following:
-Support a fairer senior’s cost-of-living adjustment calculation for Social Security in order to keep pace with the actual increases in the true cost of living. -Cosponsoring the Social Security Fairness Act of 2009, H.R. 235, which would amend the Social Security Act to repeal the Government pension offset and windfall elimination provisions that hurt senior citizens.
Back in April, Rush Holt was a co-signer on Rep. Ted Deutch's letter to President Barack Obama expressing concern with the President's chained CPI proposal.  We can tell he views chained CPI to be a benefit cut (which it is) and that he opposes benefit cuts.  His website, in the aforementioned passage, alludes to support for a CPI-E or similar index to account for the higher impact of inflation on goods such as health care that make up a large share of seniors' cost of living. Frank Pallone's website has a section on "Defending Social Security and Medicare."  It includes the following language:
Social Security was a promise made by Congress to ensure every person, upon retirement or disability, had a source of income that would be there at all times.  For 75 years, Congress has made good on this promise, and that should not change in the future. Representative Pallone opposes all measures that would privatize Social Security.
According to the PCCC, Frank Pallone, like Holt, has signed on to letters opposing Social Security cuts.  However, I think it is worthy of note that Pallone does not express direct opposition to raising the retirement age or cutting benefits (whether through means-testing or chained CPI).  He only directly opposes privatization.  The Democratic leadership has frequently embraced the boogeyman of privatization as a foil.  Unlike the mean old Republicans, they oppose privatization.  But no one is currently advocating outright privatization.  Many Republicans would like to, but the Paul Ryan budget simply punts on the issue of Social Security, likely out of a fear of alienating the elderly voters that make up the Republican base. 
As this race moves forward over the next two months, we'll likely get clearer statements from the candidates.  Unfortunately, it seems likely that charismatic Wall Street Dem Cory Booker (who along with "Christiecrat" Sheila Oliver would probably gladly support legislation that cuts seniors' retirement security or tosses it to Wall Street speculators) will end up taking the nomination, at least according to early polling.  However, much of his current support likely comes from name recognition alone, and if the other candidates run a good campaign, they can at least deny him such a large margin of victory if not edge out a tight victory.

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