Government

Ashley Hinson 'open' to raising Social Security retirement age

'Tough calls' needed to keep program solvent, congresswoman-elect says

Ashley Hinson speaks with journalists at her Cedar Rapids campaign office Nov. 4 after being elected to Congress. Hinson
Ashley Hinson speaks with journalists at her Cedar Rapids campaign office Nov. 4 after being elected to Congress. Hinson said Friday she is willing to discuss raising the retirement age for Social Security to keep the program solvent. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Congresswoman-elect Ashley Hinson is “open” to changing the retirement age but says other steps must be taken to preserve Social Security for future generations of American workers.

Hinson, who was elected in Iowa’s U.S. House 1st District, a month ago said if changes are made to Social Security, they must be phased in to avoid creating hardships for retirees and soon-to-be retirees.

The Marion Republican made her comments Friday during taping of “Iowa Press,” which can be seen at 7:30 p.m. today and noon Sunday on Iowa PBS, at 8:30 a.m. Saturday on PBS World and online at IowaPBS.org.

“I think it’s my job now to go in and try to make some of those tough decisions to fix it and make sure it is solvent for my kids and, hopefully, their kids, too,” the two-term Iowa House member said.

However, addressing the federal government’s debt has to be a part of the discussion or “there won’t be any Social Security or any of these entitlement programs,” she said.

Washington — Republicans and Democrats — has a spending problem, Hinson said.

“My perspective is the kitchen table perspective,” she said. “It’s not lost on me the value of a dollar and how important that is to Iowa families.”

As a result of changes made by Congress in 1983, the Social Security Administration projects that benefits will be paid in full on a timely basis until 2037 when the trust funds are exhausted. Then it expects to be able to pay 76 percent of scheduled benefits.

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The agency projects that Congress would need to enact the equivalent of a 13 percent cut in benefits or raise the payroll tax between 12 and 14 percent to allow full payment of benefits.

Hinson would prefer not to raise the payroll tax.

“But I think we need to be looking at the age of workers,” she said. “If I know coming in — I’m 37 years old — if I know coming in I’m going to have to work longer, it’s much easier for me to absorb that than to pull the rug out from someone who is 62 years old right now.”

That may not be a popular position, she acknowledged, but “somebody has got to be willing to make a tough call and that is exactly why the problem hasn’t been fixed.”

“I may be roasted on both sides for saying that I’m willing to be open to it,” Hinson said, but she thinks that frankness helped her defeat incumbent Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer by about 10,000 votes in the 20-county 1st District.

“I think that is why I won this election is because people are like, ‘OK, she’s willing to go and just at least entertain the topics,’ which I think has been missing from the discussion.”

It was a “kitchen-table election,” Hinson said, adding she believes her willingness to meet with voters and listen to their concerns made a difference.

Part of Republicans’ success in Iowa, she said, came from knocking on voters’ doors because “people want to be able to see who is working for them and ask them questions in person.”

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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