PLATTSBURGH — “No Cuts - Social Security - Medicare - Medicaid.”
Most at a small rally on Durkee Street near the Social Security Administration offices carried signs with that slogan on them Monday, expressing support for those benefits.
Plattsburgh Town Councilor Tom Wood is also a regional representative for the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. That group, he explained, is a nonprofit organization founded in 1982 by James Roosevelt, son of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, to preserve the financial security of current and future generations of Americans.
“We are trying to bring Social Security to the forefront as an issue in this election,” Wood said.
Wood is concerned that Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan supports efforts to make cuts or even privatize Social Security. He wants to make sure people understand what is at stake.
“People are going to have to make one of the biggest decisions of their lives, but the facts aren’t out there,” Wood said.
Slightly more than 21 percent of the residents in Clinton County receive Social Security benefits, he said. The program protects an individual’s income level by providing cost-of-living increases to keep up with inflation and provides people with disability insurance and life insurance for children and spouses.
Wood said Social Security uses less than 1 percent of its budget for administrative costs. That could increase to about 15 percent or more if a privatized system were put in place, he said, basing his estimate on privatized systems in other countries.
Social Security is an earned benefit based on contributions that each person makes to the program during his or her years of employment. It is not an entitlement; it is an earned benefit, Wood said.
“We paid for something. We should get something.”
‘CUT THE CAKE’
Wood said Social Security has a $2.7 trillion budget surplus at present; it doesn’t add to the national debt, he said, as it has no borrowing authority.
When people become disabled, there is only so long that employers will continue to support them. Once employer-funded health insurance is lost, he said, the cost of coverage is usually prohibitive.
Social Security has come under attack in recent years, Wood noted. That includes elimination of annual benefit statements by mail (they are available online only now), closing offices around the country, staff reductions and delays for hearings and decisions on disability claims.
Social Security has just marked its 77th anniversary, and Wood wants to see the system have many more.
“Cut the cake and not the benefits,” he said.
Email Dan Heath