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AARP CEO: Keep Social Security Out of Deficit Debate; Program Doesn’t Add to Debt

Capitol Building in Washington, DC
Rudy Sulgan/Getty Images

En español | AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins wrote to federal lawmakers on Monday calling on them to keep Social Security and Medicare out of any discussions about the national debt or deficit.

In a letter sent to every member of the U.S. Congress, Jenkins pushed back against the idea that Social Security is a driver of annual deficits or the national debt, pointing out that the program is self-funded by workers and employers and not financed by general revenue. More than 90 percent of Social Security is paid for through payroll tax contributions, she wrote. The rest is funded by federal income taxes on some Social Security benefits and interest earned on U.S. Treasury bonds held by Social Security.

“The national debt is a serious issue, and older Americans care deeply about the future of this country and leaving a legacy for their children and grandchildren,” Jenkins wrote. “Older Americans also care deeply about Social Security and Medicare, which is why these two programs should be protected in any discussion about the debt or deficit.”

Jenkins' letter comes amid the ongoing debate in Washington over government funding and a potential government shutdown, and as some members of Congress are calling for a special commission to address the national debt. AARP is strongly opposed to including Social Security and Medicare in any such fiscal or debt commission, Jenkins wrote. She called on Congress to ensure any discussions about the future of Social Security and Medicare are done through “a fully transparent process.”

“Congress owes it to the American people to be directly accountable and engage in open and public discussions about the programs,” Jenkins wrote.

Regardless of their politics, the vast majority of older Americans (85 percent) strongly oppose cutting Social Security and Medicare to reduce federal budget debts, according to AARP research.

Social Security and Medicare are essential to older Americans’ retirement and health security, Jenkins noted. “They have paid into these programs their entire working lives. They have earned those benefits,” she wrote.

Read the letter and learn more about how AARP is fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare.

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