Political Dodgeball: Updating Social Security

En español | You may have played dodgeball as a child. If you didn’t, the premise is pretty simple: Dodge any ball that is hurled in your direction while trying to throw balls at other players to knock them out of the game. The last two people in the game usually square off in some form of “chicken,” and the last person standing wins.

Sounds eerily reminiscent of our political process for the presidency too, doesn’t it? Avoid specifics and instead hurl volleys at the other players.

Voters deserve better. That’s why AARP launched Take a Stand — a national campaign to press the presidential candidates to lay out their plans to make Social Security financially sound and ensure it provides adequate income for future generations. We did this in hopes of avoiding the dodgeball game.  But when asked where they stand on the future of Social Security, most of the candidates are still playing a game of dodgeball.

So we commissioned a nationwide survey of likely voters 50 and older to ask, among other things, what qualities the next president should have. Not surprising, one of the top characteristics mentioned: leadership.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand why 86 percent of people said leadership as a very important quality; after all, the president is the leader of our government. But right now, the candidates for president are not leading the policy debate, especially when it comes to Social Security.

America needs the candidates to prove that they can lead. A key component of that is having a Social Security plan. In total, 82 percent of 50-plus voters view having a Social Security plan as a basic threshold of leadership. Furthermore, people want specifics about that plan. “Raising the retirement age” or “expanding Social Security” are just sound bites; those statements aren’t specific enough for Americans to understand what a candidate means. Why don’t we talk about how and who is affected if the retirement age is increased? Does that include individuals that are performing hard, laborious work? How do we pay for an expansion of benefits?

To be completely frank, 50-plus voters don’t want a sound bite; they want a candidate’s plan.

And it’s easy to understand why the 50-plus are so concerned about Social Security. Nearly 40 percent of the respondents are dissatisfied with their retirement savings.

That’s especially worrisome because if our leaders fail to update Social Security, future retirees could lose, up to $10,000 a year. When you’re living on a fixed income or what is left of your 401(k), that’s a significant loss. Additionally, with the Great Recession just behind us, financial concerns are also job related. Even in this improved job market, individuals age 50 and older still face uphill battles regarding reemployment. In 2014, 45 percent of unemployed people 55 and older were jobless for longer than 27 weeks, which potentially means delaying saving for retirement or even delaying retirement itself.

But assuming that you are in a stable employment position, the realization that you will need to live off what’s left of savings or what you get from Social Security can be frightening. To put that in perspective, here are a few facts:

 

These types of impending costs, coupled with Washington’s lack of action in numerous ways, are weighing heavy on 50-plus voters’ hearts this election cycle. One in three respondents felt that D.C. gridlock seriously affected their financial situation. Instead of the substantive debate that we deserve, we get name-calling and rancor.

You may be thinking, “Why should the candidates care about this poll?” Because Americans 50 and older have been the largest voting bloc in the election so far. Just over half of the votes in the Democratic primaries and nearly 60 percent of the votes in the Republican primaries have been cast by 50-plus voters! If I were running, I’d take the majority of the people electing me seriously; so too should the candidates.

Americans are tired of playing childish games when it comes to the future and the serious challenges that face our nation. I encourage the candidates to Take a Stand and talk about the specifics of their plans for Social Security today, so that the national discussion on Social Security may begin. That is what the 50-plus and the rest of America are looking for in a presidential candidate — the courage to lead.

Nancy LeaMond, chief advocacy and engagement officer and executive vice president of AARP for community, state and national affairs, leads government relations, advocacy and public education for AARP’s social change agenda. LeaMond also has responsibility for AARP’s state operation, which includes offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

You can follow her on Twitter  @NancyLeaMond .

Search AARP Blogs

Related Posts
December 11, 2018 10:07 AM
In an election year filled with partisanship and political fights, it’s no surprise that many Americans feel that their voices aren’t being heard or that the issues that affect their lives aren’t being addressed. But, many outstanding elected officials work hard every day to make a positive difference for their constituents.  That’s why AARP recognizes state legislators, governors, and other elected officials – from both sides of the aisle – who have stepped up and worked together to write, support, and advance common-sense policies that help older Americans remain in their homes and communities and retire with confidence. AARP is proud to announce our fifth annual bipartisan class of Capitol Caregivers, who fought this year to increase support for family caregivers and their loved ones, along with our fourth annual bipartisan class of Super Savers, who championed policies that enhance retirement security.
December 05, 2018 01:06 PM
Caroline is a mother of two children and a preschool teacher who unexpectedly became a family caregiver for her father after he suffered a major stroke. Her father, Tom, now deceased, lost the use of his right side and his ability to speak. Multiple surgeries and rehabilitation treatments later, he was able to live at home with the help of nurses. But it was up to Caroline to provide daily care, such as overseeing appointments and handling certain nursing responsibilities, like managing his medications. “I became the person my father could rely on more than anyone in the world,” Caroline said. “I became his safe place and his best friend.” In communities across the country, family caregivers like Caroline are caring for older parents, spouses and other loved ones, helping them to remain at home – where they want to be. Their tasks are done out of love and commitment, but are not easy. That’s why AARP is fighting for family caregivers and their loved ones in every state. In 2018, AARP advanced new policies to provide more help at home, flexibility at work, training, relief and more, which will benefit over 30 million family caregivers. Here are a couple highlights:
November 27, 2018 08:55 AM
A few months ago, I wrote a blog about the vital role that transportation options play in what we at AARP call “livable communities” – great places to live for people of all ages. Being able to get around is critical to earn a living, raise a family, contribute and stay connected to your community and enjoy life. And, having alternatives to getting behind the wheel of your own car is particularly important for older adults who want to stay in their homes and communities as they age.