Two of the Democrats running in the 6th Congressional District attacked Republicans on Social Security and college student loans this past week.
Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) began the week on Monday outside the old Myrtle Avenue Social Security office in Glendale that closed in 2011.
Lancman, joined by fellow Assembly member Cathy Nolan (D-Ridgewood), said the country can keep the Social Security trust fund solvent for 75 years by eliminating the current cap on personal income that is taxed for the fund.
Currently, everyone pays 4.2 percent on all income up to $110,000. Earnings beyond that are exempt.
“So people like you and me, who do not make $110,000, pay that amount on all of our income,” Lancman said outside the vacant Myrtle Street storefront. “But Mitt Romney can earn his millions and only pay on that first $110,000.”
Lancman said his plan is not a tax on but “elimination of an exemption” for the wealthy. He also said that despite the changes in the nation’s demographics and life expectancy since Social Security was introduced in 1935, he does not see the need for structural changes to the program.
Lancman’s press conference came the same day that trustees for the nation’s Social Security and Medicare trust funds said they are on unsustainable paths, and are on track to run out of money in 2033 and 2024, respectively.
Lancman also said if elected he would press to reopen the Glendale Social Security office, which he said was closed because of $1 billion in budget cuts that he said amounted to “a war on Social Security” by Republicans.
Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) has the Democratic party endorsement for the race. In a statement issued by her campaign, she echoed the latter sentiment.
“The best way to ensure the future of Social Security as separate and protected is to fight for responsible policy and budgeting outside Social Security, thereby improving the fiscal condition of federal government and removing the made-up pressure to fix a crisis created by the very same cynical and reckless Republicans who now want to privatize this vital entitlement,” Meng’s statement said. “Social Security isn’t the problem, it’s the solution.”
Lancman deflected questions about Senate Democrats also approving the cuts to the budget, and President Obama signing them into law. “The president had to have a budget,” Lancman said.
Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), who has the GOP nod in the 6th District, wasn’t impressed, and said he, like Congressman Bob Turner (R-Queens, Brooklyn), is dedicated to preserving Social Security.
“The system needs fixing,” Halloran said. “We’re going to ensure that Social Security benefits are there for the people who have paid into the system. Any scare tactics being used by Democrats are just that, and no responsible legislator would use them.” Halloran said Democrats are embracing the failed polices of President Obama.
Lancman and Nolan both said that if elected to Congress, Lancman would fight to reopen the Glendale office. A number of people passing by during Monday’s press conference said they had difficulty going to the new site on Austin Street in Rego Park by public transportation.
When asked where Lancman might find offsetting cuts in the Social Security Administration budget to fund the reopening of Glendale and other offices, he said cuts would not be necessary “if we stopped obsessing about the deficit and cutting spending, and spent more time growing and stimulating the economy.”
Meng on Tuesday hosted a press conference outside Forest Hills High School. She called on Congress to extend the law setting interest rates on federally-subsidized student loans at 3.4 percent. The rate is scheduled to go up to 6.8 percent on July 1 when the existing law expires.
“This is an unsupportable burden that Congressional Republicans are refusing to address, preferring instead to play politics with family budgets and young people’s futures,” Meng said.
She said 72 Republicans in the House voted for the 3.4 percent rate when it was introduced in 2007, and called on them to support H.R. 3826, a bill introduced by Congressman Joe Courtney (D-Conn) and supported by Congressman Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) and the man she is seeking to replace, Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-Queens, Nassau).
Speaking at the press conference, Patrick Jordan, a student at Queensborough Community College in Bayside, said he might be paying off student loans until he is 30 if the extension does not go through.
Lancman, in a statement issued by his campaign, said he has called on Congress to preserve low-interest rates for students, increase Pell Grant funding, link federal aid to a college’s keeping tuition increases down, and require colleges to fully disclose the true cost of a four-year degree.
Other Democrtic candidates, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and Dr. Robert Mittman did not respond to requests for comment.