By STEPHEN GORIN

Friday, October 3, 2014 

(Published in print: Friday, October 3, 2014)

Older adults, and those who care about them, need to think carefully before they vote in this year’s congressional elections.

Marilinda Garcia, the Republican candidate in the 2nd District, has taken positions that pose a serious threat to Social Security.

For example, in the Granite State Debates, Garcia said that for individuals under age 65 we need to consider, among other things, raising the retirement age and means testing (under which benefits would be restricted to individuals making below a certain amount of money). These proposals are misguided.

To begin with, as a result of the 1983 Social Security amendments, the full retirement age is already increasing, from 65 to 67, for individuals born in 1960 or later. Unfortunately, it is not often recognized that increasing the full retirement age amounts to an across-the-board cut for future beneficiaries. This would impose a particular burden on young people, a generation about which Garcia has expressed concern.

According to the National Academy of Social Insurance, increasing the retirement age to 70 would reduce benefits by 30 percent for individuals currently “34 and younger.” Many people have argued that increasing life expectancy justifies an increase in the retirement age. This is misleading. During the past three decades, the bulk of the increases in life expectancy have gone to more affluent individuals.

According to NASI, increasing the full retirement age would have a particularly adverse impact on lower-income people, who “on average, have seen little or no gain in life expectancy.”

Garcia’s proposals would hurt Social Security beneficiaries. If Social Security were means tested, many people who have paid into the program, usually with the expectation they would receive it, would lose their eligibility for benefits. Garcia also supports a balanced budget amendment, which could increase the Social Security retirement age to 70 and cut more than $1 trillion from the program.

Garcia may be a rising star, as Fox News has called her, but anyone who counts on Social Security, including older adults, people with disabilities and caretakers for young people receiving survivors’ benefits, should think twice before voting for her.

(Stephen Gorin is past chairman of the New Hampshire State Committee on Aging.)

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Annie Kuster for Congress

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