Perhaps no one feels more strongly about the prospect of changes to Social Security than people ages 50 and older - and in Arkansas, a new survey confirms it.
AARP asked 800 Arkansans if Social Security even should be part of the discussion about reducing the federal budget deficit. Eighty-six percent said "no," which mirrors the results of the same survey in other states.
"Social Security’s gotten mixed in with deficit reduction," said senior Frank Hatfield. "Social Security didn’t cause the deficit, and I think it should be looked at separately from trying to reduce our deficit."
One proposal included in President Obama’s budget would change the way the annual cost-of-living adjustment is calculated for benefits, using a method called the "chained CPI" (Consumer Price Index). It would ultimately reduce the amounts people receive, and Cristina Martin-Firvida, AARP’s director of financial security and consumer affairs, said three out of four people surveyed in Arkansas oppose it.
"We saw very strong opposition," she said, "specifically when we asked, ‘What about this idea of a chained CPI, which is a way to change the way we calculate the inflation adjustment for your Social Security benefit or your veterans benefit.’ "
A majority - from 68 percent of Republicans to 73 percent of Democrats - said they’ll rethink whether to support their members of Congress if they vote to approve the chained CPI adjustment.
Martin-Firvida said people’s political affiliations didn’t seem to matter in the survey. The view, she said, was, "Hands off Social Security, and handle any negotiations separately from the deficit debate." "That held true across party lines," she said. "We saw 85 percent of Republicans agree that Social Security should not be affected for deficit reduction."
The survey was conducted two weeks ago. AARP Arkansas officials said the results aren’t surprising, since more than half of Arkansans on Social Security depend on it for at least half of their income.
The survey results are online at aarp.org/colasurvey.