Gulleson, Cramer favor different reforms for Social Security

Pam Gulleson

FARGO – North Dakota Democratic U.S. House candidate Pam Gulleson says privatizing Social Security “is not an option” to solve the program’s longterm viability.

“That’s very, very reckless,” Gulleson told Fargo area senior citizens on Tuesday as she marked the 77th anniversary of Social Security’s enactment.

Gulleson said she favors small reforms over sweeping changes that could dismantle the federal program as it exists today.

“Social Security is an integral part of providing economic security to our seniors. … There is no better model,” Gulleson said. “You don’t want to gamble with senior citizens’ retirement.”

Kevin Cramer

Republican candidate Kevin Cramer said he’s “never been a big proponent of privatizing Social Security,” but it could be an option among many solutions that future generations could use.

“I do think we can have an honest discussion with young people to provide opportunities and choices for people,” Cramer said, “but full privatization of Social Security would be counter to (the program’s) intention and counter to its mission.”

A huge factor in the success of Social Security is national spending, both Gulleson and Cramer said.

Congress has borrowed from the Social Security trust fund to pay for other federal programs, putting the entitlement program at risk.

“These spending habits of Congress raid Social Security, and that’s got to stop,” Cramer said.

There should be enough money in the program’s trust fund to maintain benefits through 2037, so Gulleson said Congress should use that time now to look at the program and “make a few reforms.”

One such solution might be increasing the income cap above $106,000, Gulleson said.

Individuals who make more than that have Social Security deducted from their income only up to $106,000. Any income above that is not subjected to a paycheck deduction.

Cramer suggests what he acknowledges might not be a popular reform: re-calculating Social Security benefits so they’re even more based on income brackets.

“If, in fact, you don’t need it or need as much as someone where that’s their sole source of income upon retirement – I don’t think we have to treat everybody exactly the same,” Cramer said. “But this requires pretty honest discussion.”

Cramer said he also supports raising the retirement age for those not yet nearing retirement.

“We can definitely raise the retirement age for younger people,” he said. “We live a lot longer; we live healthier lives; we’re more productive.”

Under reforms adopted in 1983, the retirement age – at which individuals can start receiving full Social Security benefits – will rise to 67 by 2027.

Gulleson said she doesn’t favor raising the age limit higher than that.