The evolving Democratic strategy for victory in 2012? Portraying Republicans -- and especially Tea Party types -- as Grinch-hearted zealots determined to cut programs like Social Security. And a new poll showing that 71 percent of Coloradans across the ideological spectrum oppose such slashing should add fuel to this theory.
The survey, assembled by Strengthen Social Security, a Washington, DC-based organization, found that 83 percent of Democrats are against reducing Social Security benefits -- no surprise, there. But majorities of those who describe themselves differently agree, including 69 percent of independents, 61 percent of Republicans and 53 percent who identify with the Tea Party.
"It's an issue that everybody has in common -- one of the few," maintains onetime Denverite Josh Rosenbloom, Strengthen Social Security's spokesman.
What about reports that the Social Security Trust fund will be exhausted by 2036? Isn't this worrisome?
"That's a long time," Rosenbloom counters. "Folks who learned their businesses would be good for another 25 years would be pretty happy with that. The system can be fixed with some small tweaking and be solvent for another 75 years -- and it hasn't contributed to the deficit, which is something people tend to misconstrue. The program runs on a separate track, so it's not part of that problem."
Moreover, he argues that "any increase in retirement age is the equivalent of a benefit cut of 7 percent each year."
Rosenbloom stresses that Strengthen Social Security "isn't a partisan organization. So we hope Democratic and Republican candidates carry this mantle -- and don't try to cut folks' benefits for any reason."
The former almost certainly won't attempt to do so in the current political climate -- and the latter may be thinking twice about such suggestions about now.
Here's a Strengthen Social Security release with more information about the poll.
New Colorado Poll Shows 71 Percent of Likely 2012 Voters Oppose Cuts to Social Security
Washington, DC -- In a new poll released today, 71 percent of likely voters in Colorado's 2012 election oppose cutting Social Security benefits in order to reduce the federal deficit. Those opposed include 83 percent of Democrats, 61 percent of Republicans, 69 percent of Independents, and 53 percent of Tea Party supporters.
The poll was released as leaders in Washington debate how to reduce the federal deficit and many members of Congress call for having all options on the table, including deep cuts to Social Security. Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall have not declared where they stand on cutting Social Security benefits or taking it off the table because it does not contribute to the deficit.
The poll found that Social Security could be a real wedge issue in 2012 U.S. House of Representatives races. Over six in ten Colorado voters say they would be less likely to vote for a House candidate who supports cutting benefits to reduce the deficit, including nearly six in ten voters in every region of the state.
The Social Security issue also has the potential to swing voters: 51 percent of independents and 49 percent of those who are undecided in the generic 2012 House ballot indicate they would be much less likely to vote for a candidate who supports cutting Social Security benefits to reduce the deficit. Thirty percent of those polled said they were undecided in 2012 House contests.
"This poll shows that voters are clear in their thinking: Don't cut Social Security benefits, don't reduce the COLA and donâ€™t raise the retirement age," said Max Richtman, Acting CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, which has 220,000 members in Colorado. "They also agree on something else: Congress should raise the Social Security tax cap so that people making more than $107,000 a year pay taxes on all of their wages just like everyone else who makes less than that amount has to do. This will guarantee that full Social Security benefits can be paid for the next 75 years. These findings also suggest that members of Congress who recently voted to end Medicare as we know it by turning coverage over to private insurance companies and who voted to make deep cuts to Medicaid, two programs that seniors heavily depend on, could suffer a voter backlash."
"More than 630,000 Coloradans receive Social Security and nearly half of them are lifted out of poverty by the program's modest benefits," said Coloradan and Alliance for Retired Americans Activist Vivian Stovall. "Social Security is based on a promise that if you pay in then you earn the right to guaranteed benefits. Our elected officials in Washington need to be sure that promise is kept."
"Social Security does not contribute a penny to the deficit, in fact it has a huge surplus," said Eric Kingson, Co-Chair of the Strengthen Social Security Campaign. "This is money that belongs to all of us who contributed our entire working lives so that we could retire with dignity. Voters want politicians in Washington to keep their hands off Social Security."
Significant findings in the poll include:
When likely Colorado voters were asked "Would you favor or oppose cutting Social Security benefits in order to reduce the federal deficit?" a total of 76% opposed cutting benefits. Below is a breakdown of those opposed to the cuts by their political affiliation:
Tea Party Supporters -- 53% opposed to any Social Security benefit cuts
Republicans -- 61% opposed to any Social Security benefit cuts
Independents -- 69% opposed to any Social Security benefit cuts
Democrats -- 83% opposed to any Social Security benefit cuts
TOTALS -- 71% opposed to cutting Social Security benefits
Strong majorities of Colorado voters oppose three specific proposals that would cut Social Security benefits by:
• Raising the retirement age: 56% oppose
• Changing the COLA formula in a way that reduces the amount beneficiaries receive: 59% oppose
• Reducing benefits for people earning above $60,000 -- typically what a proposal to "means-test" Social Security would do: 62% oppose
In a candidate comparison, by a margin of 70 percent to 25 percent Colorado voters agree with the House candidate who says that Social Security did not cause the federal deficit and should not be on the table for cuts to address the deficit because it is funded by and belongs to the people who have worked hard and paid into the program, over the candidate who calls for cutting Social Security to avoid burdening future generations with debt.
There is strong bipartisan support among Colorado voters for lifting the cap to impose Social Security taxes on all wages above $106,800 and requiring both employees and employers to pay (67 percent favor, 58 percent strongly). This was supported by large majorities of Republicans (64 percent), Independents (58 percent), and Tea Party supporters (64 percent). By a margin of 53 percent to 23 percent voters say they would be more likely to vote for a Senate candidate who supports requiring employees and employers to pay Social Security taxes on all wages above $106,800.
The survey of 502 likely voters was conducted March 3-7, 2011, by the national polling firm of Lake Research Partners; it has a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percent. The poll was paid for by Social Security Works, a national organization that convenes the Strengthen Social Security Campaign, which is comprised of more than 300 national and state organizations representing more than 50 million Americans from many of the nation's leading aging, labor, disability, women's, children, consumer, civil rights and equality organizations; the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare Foundation, which has 220,000 members in Colorado; and the Alliance for Retired Americans, which has 32,000 members in Colorado.
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