I grew up in a typical coastal Maine family of staunch Republicans. Whenever my grandmother mentioned President Franklin Roosevelt, she would use a curse word (rare for her) because she thought FDR changed everything for the worse.

My mother wasn’t a big fan of FDR either, but she is now 93 and is grateful for Social Security. My mother and father were both self-employed, so my mother’s checks are pretty small – they only cover food and utilities. But she says it’s the best thing the government ever did.

I mention my family because it underscores how much Social Security means to people all across the political spectrum. Over 54 million Americans rely on Social Security. That’s one out of every four households in the U.S.

More than a year ago, the Strengthening Social Security Act was introduced in the Senate by Tom Harkin of Iowa. The proposal would increase Social Security benefits by an average of $800 per year per person. It would also use a special Consumer Price Index for elderly people that would allow benefits to keep pace with the rising cost of services that are used more by older people, such as medical care.

It would pay for these increases by removing the cap on earnings that are subject to Social Security contributions. Right now, people who earn more than $117,000 pay Social Security taxes on that amount only – no more.

As with other good ideas in Congress, this one has not moved since it was introduced last year, with 62 co-sponsors for the House version (including Maine’s Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District).

I think during this election season, the least we can do is to find out where our congressional candidates stand on strengthening Social Security before we cast our votes.

Jill Tabbutt-Henry


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