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Wake Up and Smell the Tea, DC!

As President Obama and Congressional leaders consider adding cuts to Social Security benefits as part of the deal to raise the debt ceiling, they should heed this: Polls released last week in five 2012 battleground states—Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, and Virginia—show that 7 in 10 likely voters favor requiring employees and employers to pay Social Security taxes on all wages above $106,800 to make Social Security solvent.  Those favoring the taxes on millionaires and billionaires include 77% of Democrats, 65% of Republicans, 68% of Independents, and 65% of Tea Party supporters. 

The poll also found in response to the question of whether or not Social Security benefits should be cut to save the deficit that 57% of Tea Party adherents oppose cuts for this reason, as do 64% of Republicans, 72% of Independents, and 86% of Democrats, for a total of 74% opposed overall. 

In polling land, these are huge numbers. Since Social Security’s long-range funding gap can be closed solely by scrapping the payroll tax cap, as described in this fact sheet, no benefit cuts would be necessary if Washington chooses to  tax the wealthiest 6% of earners rather than bleeding the rest of us. 

 “These findings suggest … Congress should side with the people they represent by demanding no benefit cuts and supporting a plan that closes the Social Security tax loophole that benefits millionaires and billionaires,” said Ed Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans. “Social Security does not contribute a penny to the deficit, in fact it has a huge surplus. 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.”

 “This poll shows that voters are clear in their thinking: Don’t cut Social Security benefits, don’t reduce the COLA and don’t raise the retirement age,” said Max Richtman, Acting CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. “They also agree on something else: Congress should raise the Social Security tax cap above $107,000 a year to help extend the solvency of the Social Security Trust Fund.”  

Far from supporting cuts, voters see the cap on Social Security taxes as a tax-loophole that should be closed,” said Pollster Celinda Lake.  “In fact voters are surprised to hear there is a cap since only 6 percent of voters make over the cap. Voters are strongly willing to vote for candidates based on their position on this issue: majorities across party lines, including a majority of tea party supporters say they would be more likely to vote for the candidate that closed this loophole.” 

So keeping Hands Off Social Security is good politics as well as good policy. Capitol Hill and the President need to hear from us right away. Hopefully they’ll be listening.