Braley defends social security


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Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, has taken aim at Senate opponent Joni Ernst’s proposal to privatize Social Security.

“Privatization jeopardizes Social Security during an economic downturn,” said Jeff Giertz, the communications director for Braley’s campaign.

Democrats said Ernst’s plan involves embracing private accounts for young workers paying into Social Security. On Ernst’s campaign site, she said she “opposes any efforts to change the promised benefits for today’s seniors.”

Representatives of Ernst’s campaign declined to comment.

Janice Laue, the president of the Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans, believes privatization to be an untenable risk.

“Social Security is one of America’s most successful social programs; it’s more reliable and safer than trusting our money to Wall Street bankers,” she said.

Laue said she fears that if stocks were to collapse, as they did in 2008, then retirees and other beneficiaries could be out a sizeable chunk of change.

Johnson County is one of the larger counties in Iowa for Social Security benefits. There are 16,015 recipients who received $15,306 in 2012. 

According to the study prepared by Social Security Works, a two-path system will decrease benefits received by everyone in the system.

The study said that with a traditional method, there is a 0.9 percent decrease after eight years, while those who opted for private accounts would experience a 0.5 percent decrease in the same time frame. 

After another 20 years those with traditional benefits would experience a 18.2 percent decrease, and those with private accounts would see a 15.2 percent decrease, according to the study.

Laue said Iowa lacks benefits, such as pensions and savings, on which many people who receive Social Security rely.

Iowa is a low-wage state, she said, so it can be hard for Iowa residents to build up significant savings, and pensions are becoming less common as compared with 401Ks.

“We’re running into a situation where there is more money coming out of the system than is going in,” said Timothy Hagle, a UI associate professor of political science.

Hagle pointed out that because the government has been borrowing from Social Security funds, it is now in the awkward position of having to come up with the funds. The baby boomers are also retiring at an ever-increasing rate, which is putting stress on a strained system. 

Privatization is, Hagle said, historically a Republican strategy that often receives resistance from Democrats.

“It’s a promise to every generation,” Laue said. “You pay in while you’re working, and you get your benefits when you need it.”

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