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Hearing From People, Not Politicians, About Social Security

Closeup detail of several Social Security Cards representing finances and retirement
Lane Erickson - stock.adobe.com
Closeup detail of several Social Security Cards representing finances and retirement

Keeping Social Security afloat without enacting cuts remains a thorny topic in Congress. As those debates continue to unfold, Wisconsin residents have a chance to express their views about this safety net.

AARP has been holding informal gatherings around Wisconsin - providing details about the longstanding program, the latest developments about its future, and how residents would like to see it handled.

Martin Hernandez - associate state director for advocacy with AARP Wisconsin - said these sessions are meant to provide a relaxed atmosphere that allows participants to discuss a hot-button issue, without the political tension often connected to it.

"There's so much rhetoric going from both sides," said Hernandez, "and we really want to just present the facts."

He said they're especially trying to engage with workers in their 40s and 50s, who will eventually rely on the program.

Social Security is popular with voters, but lawmakers are divided on how to maintain it amid forecasts that its trust fund will be empty in a decade - meaning it would have to pay out benefits from what's coming in.

Some Republicans have been criticized for floating potential cuts amid their calls for tighter spending.

So far, Hernandez said a common topic has been who is paying into Social Security - and how it's often described as an earned benefit for most workers, made possible by deductions from their paychecks.

"So it's not just this obscure pot of money that's hanging out there," said Hernandez, "it's their money that they've been paying into."

AARP says more than one in five Wisconsin residents receive Social Security benefits. The program also keeps 264,000 state residents 65 or older out of poverty.

While there's been controversy over the rhetoric surrounding proposed cuts, there have also been efforts to find solutions through bi-partisan commissions.

Democrats want to raise taxes on the wealthy to help boost the program, an idea Republicans oppose.

Mike Moen is a radio news reporter with nearly two decades of experience in the field. He has covered much of the upper Midwest, including Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. Many of his stories have aired nationally, including several public radio programs.
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