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Deficit Reduction Plan May Affect Social Security, Medicare

Raising the limit to finance the nation's debt

As Congress moves to tie deficit reduction to raising the debt ceiling, several proposals have called for a cap on federal spending that might adversely affect Social Security and Medicare for older Americans.

See also: Help AARP prevent harmful cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

Here's how it works: The debt ceiling must be raised so that the government can continue borrowing to finance the nation's debt, which now totals about $14.3 trillion. If the ceiling is not raised, the United States would default on its obligations, something that has never occurred in the country's history.

But some members of Congress — both Democrats and Republicans — are tying their votes to raise the limit to some plan to reduce spending. The vote will probably occur before Aug. 2, when the government is expected to reach its debt limit.

Several deficit plans under consideration would cap spending. At least one in the Senate, for example, would limit spending to 20.6 percent of the nation's gross domestic product in the next decade.

That would put pressure on lawmakers to slash the budget — including cuts in Social Security and Medicare.

In a new television ad campaign, AARP is calling on Congress to resist arbitrary caps that could threaten the two crucial programs.

"You've worked hard your entire life," the ad goes. "Paid your dues. Raised a family. You've earned a little peace of mind. Now, some in Congress want to make harmful cuts to Medicare and Social Security. Cutting your benefits so Washington can pay its bills. AARP believes the country can do better. We can cut wasteful spending without cutting the benefits you've earned. Join us. Tell Congress to stop the harmful cuts to Medicare and Social Security."

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