Titus rallies Las Vegas seniors to protect Social Security

Senior citizens watch US Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nevada) discuss proposed changes to Social Security during a rally at the Liberty Fitness Center in Henderson, Nevada, on April 24, 2024. (Photo credit: Casey Harrison/The Nevadan)

By Casey Harrison

April 26, 2024

Seniors are sounding the alarm on a plan by House Republicans that could result in across-the-board cuts for Social Security recipients.

Las Vegas senior and Vietnam War veteran David Tipton recalls seeing a lot during his 12 years in the US Army.

And while it wasn’t always easy Tipton—now 78—admitted his time in the service helped set him up for a long career in security. Tipton said he considers himself fortunate enough to have served in the security detail for legendary comedian Bob Hope during one of his wartime tours to help uplift American troops.

After the war, Tipton worked for the Army’s bomb squad and was part of the Secret Service security detail for four different US Presidents: Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan.

But Tipton on Wednesday was one of the roughly three-dozen seniors and advocates who met at a Las Vegas community center worried that the Social Security benefits they’ve paid into for decades and other public programs could be slashed should former President Donald Trump be elected again in the November presidential election.

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“I look forward to receiving this benefit every month because it helps me plan my finances and my obligations,” said Tipton, who noted he didn’t begin collecting his monthly checks until he turned 70.

Wednesday’s event was hosted by the Sun City Anthem Democratic Club and featured remarks from seniors like Tipton, as well as US Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nevada), who warned the future health of the program could be in jeopardy.

“Social Security is not an entitlement—it’s something you’ve worked for, paid into and you deserve,” Titus said. “It does what it was supposed to do. It works, it helps people, and we need to keep it solvent so it can last for generations in the future.”

At a similar event Monday in North Las Vegas, fellow Nevada US Rep. Steven Horsford, also a Democrat, issued a similar sentiment.

“This is the most successful anti-poverty program for seniors and the disabled,” Horsford said. “And it’s a social contract we’ve entered into over generations, because all of us and those of you who have worked a lifetime, have paid into Social Security.”

In 2023, the Social Security Administration said in a report to Congress that costs for the trust fund that provides income to seniors, minor dependents, and disabled workers exceeded revenue for the first time last year. That means under the agency’s current operations, the program is projected to reach insolvency by 2033, which would automatically trigger benefit cuts by roughly 25% for all recipients.

And while hard-line Trump allies have proposed raising the retirement age and benefits cuts to offset projected shortfalls, Titus said, President Joe Biden and Congressional Democrats are proposing to increase taxes on anyone who makes more than $400,000 annually to further fund Social Security and other safety net programs. Currently, workers only pay Social Security tax on earnings up to $168,600 per year.

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Raising that threshold and requiring higher earners to contribute more to the program would not only solve the insolvency dilemma, Titus added, but would also bring in enough tax revenue to expand Social Security for more Americans.

“We don’t have a Social Security problem, we have a billionaire problem,” said Alex Lawson, the executive director of Social Security Works, a group that advocates for growing federal social programs.

House Republicans in March unveiled a plan that would extend a series of tax cuts Trump signed into law in 2017, which progressives say put Social Security on the track toward insolvency in the first place. That plan would reduce spending on Social Security and Medicare by roughly $2.3 trillion over the next decade—representing an 8% cut to current benefits, according to Yahoo! Finance.

“We deserve to retire,” Lawson said. “We don’t need to be forced to work until we die so that some billionaire can buy another gold yacht.”

Alan Gerstner, a 70-year-old recent retiree, told The Nevadan he thinks it’s simply wrong that the government can change who is eligible for benefits just because of projected shortfalls. Gerstner added that from the moment he entered the workforce, he viewed his contributions from each paycheck as holding up his end of the bargain.

And now, Gerstner said, it’s time for the government to hold up its end.

“I’m worried that Republicans are going to try and decimate it,” Gerstner said. “It’s death by a thousand cuts. A little here, a little here, and, pretty soon, you cut the base off of the tree.”

  • Casey Harrison

    Casey Harrison is political correspondent for The Nevadan. Previously, he covered politics and the Oakland Athletics' relocation to Southern Nevada for the Las Vegas Sun, and before that, was a digital producer at The Detroit News. Casey graduated from Michigan State University in 2019.

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