The American Association of Retired People, (AARP) which represents more than 37 million Americans over the age of 50, wants Social Security fixed. That job will most likely fall to the next President of the United States. As the candidates hit the campaign trail, AARP has launched Take a Stand, a national campaign pushing them to outline their plan for Social Security, should they win the White House.
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The campaign heated up in December when AARP hosted a summit at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. John Hishta, senior vice president of campaigns at AARP, spoke to FOXBusiness.com on some of the summit’s findings.
Boomer: What are the challenges facing Social Security?
Hishta: The Social Security program, which serves as a lifeline for millions of Americans and has done so for more than 80 years, faces mounting financial challenges that only grow more difficult with each passing year.
While it’s true that the financial 'cliff' faced by Social Security is still a number of years off, if our nation’s leaders fail to act, future retirees could lose up to $10,000 per year.
A few salient points:
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- Nearly 60 million Americans currently receive Social Security, with a significant proportion of recipients having no other source of income.
- More than 165 million U.S. workers contribute to Social Security in every paycheck.
- The latest U.S. Census Bureau statistics show that retirement-age Americans are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population.
- Currently, 10,000 people in the U.S. turn 65 every day and that’s projected to continue for the next 15 years.
Boomer: What are the solutions to these challenges?
Hishta: It depends on whom you ask. Some people have examined raising the retirement age. Others suggest raising the cap on taxable wages as a way of generating revenue, among other approaches.
While it’s possible to debate the merits of various approaches to addressing the challenge of keeping Social Security strong and adequate for future generations, one thing is clear: 'doing nothing' is not an option. This is not a challenge that is going to go away if we simply ignore it. And, we’re never going to solve this problem without presidential leadership.
That’s why AARP has launched the Take a Stand campaign demanding all presidential candidates lay out a plan to make Social Security financially sound for future generations.
The Take a Stand campaign has kicked off in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, where we are engaging current and former elected officials, party officials, donors and bundlers who play a major role in setting a candidate’s agenda. In the general election, we’ll expand our efforts to key presidential battleground states.
Our message to them is: AARP will be holding candidates accountable for having a plan to keep Social Security strong through a multi-million advertising campaign, social media, grassroots outreach and our publications, which reach 22 million households.
Boomer: What plans do the presidential candidates have to address these challenges?
Hishta: Many presidential candidates – and this is true of candidates from both parties – dodge the issue of how, if elected, they would go about keeping Social Security financially sound for future generations. That is, candidates either ignore the subject of Social Security altogether, or if they speak about it, it’s sound bites, not specifics.
We’re headed into a critical election and voters deserve to know how the candidates will lead. Anyone who thinks they’re ready to be President of the United States should be able to tell voters their plan to keep Social Security strong.
AARP’s Take a Stand campaign site serves as a one-stop resource for voters to find out which candidates have plans and which don’t, and features a real-time feed of every candidate’s public statements on Social Security.
*This conversation was edited for length and clarity.