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Let's Unite Behind Social Security

Social Security: Where we can unite is Behind Social Security

Nearly 61 million Americans receive Social Security, including more than 4 million children — Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Image

Amid last fall's heated presidential campaign rhetoric, one fact was ignored: Both major party candidates supported doing what was necessary to allow full payment of promised Social Security benefits.

So if we are looking for an issue that can unite this country, I know just the place to begin: Social Security.

That's right, the 81-year-old bedrock program, which is popular across generations, claims a bipartisan fan base and is the key to granting older Americans what they fervently want — to remain living independently in their homes for as long as they can.

Nearly 61 million Americans receive Social Security, including more than 4 million children. Plus, 173 million of us pay into Social Security with every paycheck.

The vast majority of Americans (82 percent in a 2015 AARP/GfK Roper poll) believe it is important to contribute to Social Security for the common good. About one-quarter of older Social Security recipients depend on it for 90 percent or more of their income, and over half depend on it for 50 percent or more.

With an almost universal public stake in Social Security and deep consensus on the program's value, we have a fine foundation for respectful discourse. And there is a great deal that demands discussion.

Video: How Social Security helps Janet Boes - Janet Boes' retirement benefits through Social Security cover her monthly expenses.

If we don't do anything about Social Security, in about 17 years it won't be able to pay full benefits. Every beneficiary will see cuts of more than 20 percent. For too many, that will mean losing their fragile toehold on financial security.

We have time to find a solution, but we don't have an eternity. The longer we wait, the tougher it becomes to come to an agreement. This is the right moment to begin the conversation. We need clear-headed, fact-based discussion. Wouldn't it be great to grapple with an issue before it becomes a crisis? Wouldn't it be marvelous to work side by side, listening to one another and doing something positive for all generations?

I have faith that we can do this. With the help and determination of our political leaders, with the support of every American who has a stake in Social Security's future health, I believe we can find common ground.

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