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Seniors' Eyes on Presidential Debate to Pin Down Social Security Plans

Seniors will be watching the first presidential debate for detailed plans on Social Security. (iStockphoto/LarryHW)
Seniors will be watching the first presidential debate for detailed plans on Social Security. (iStockphoto/LarryHW)
September 23, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY – Social Security reform can be a hotly debated issue, especially during presidential elections. But once in office, officials rarely want to touch what some call the "third rail" of U.S. politics. The last time the program was adjusted to ensure long-term solvency was during the Reagan administration.

AARP Utah State Director Alan Ormsby said the group's "Take A Stand" campaign is targeting the first presidential debate on Monday to get candidates to commit to making Social Security a priority and put detailed proposals to safeguard the program on the table.

Ormsby said, "We would love for the moderator to ask the question, 'What is your plan for Social Security?' And it would be really great to see those candidates lay out their plan for keeping Social Security strong and fiscally stable."

Ormsby said the campaign is also urging all congressional candidates to lay out at least one plan that would make Social Security financially sound so future generations get adequate benefits. AARP isn't advocating for any particular plan or candidate, but Ormsby said now is the time to move the program into the 21st century.

Ormsby noted keeping Social Security strong also makes good business sense. The program contributes almost $9 billion annually to Utah's economy, according to AARP research conducted in 2012. Ormsby said if public officials don't take action, future retirees could lose up to $10,000 a year.

"If we don't have action on Social Security relatively soon, we're gonna then start bumping up against some very hard dates," he added. "And we don't want this to be done in a crisis mode. We want it to be done thoughtfully."

The report found just under half of Utah retirees would be living below the poverty line if not for Social Security. And while most of the benefits go to seniors, nearly a third of all recipients are children, people with disabilities and widows or widowers.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - UT