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Woolf outlines Social Security proposals

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WATERTOWN — After blasting his opponent for her stances on Social Security and Medicare, Democrat Aaron G. Woolf released more details about his ideas for ensuring the vitality of the two systems, which center on growing the overall economy.

Citing articles from Economic Policy Institute and the Center for American Progress, which discuss the impact of increased worker productivity and wage growth on the economy, Mr. Woolf’s campaign advocates increasing the federal minimum wage, passing pay equity legislation and closing tax loopholes for “millionaires, billionaires, Big Oil companies, and our richest corporations.”

Mr. Woolf said he would make no changes to Social Security or Medicare, which reports say will begin to face significant trouble by 2030. Instead, he has pushed economic policies aimed at expanding the economy.

“Millions of Americans every year rely on Social Security and Medicare for a safe and dignified retirement,” Mr. Woolf said at a news conference Thursday in Gloversville. “We must protect these programs without cutting benefits or postponing them for any hardworking American. Instead, we can ensure the solvency of each by growing the economy and ensuring everyone pays their fair share. Upstate New York and north country voters deserve a representative who won’t waiver in his commitment to preserving Social Security and Medicare.”

Elise M. Stefanik, Mr. Woolf’s Republican opponent, calls his proposals a “do-nothing approach” and has put forward ideas such as raising the retirement age for future generations, a position GOP groups have attacked Democratic candidates for in other parts of the country.

The ideas are part of an overall package of adjustments Ms. Stefanik is proposing, including changes to how cost-of-living expenses are calculated and how lower-income individuals receive benefits that are aimed at reforming the system.

Economists who study Social Security and Medicare caution that simply growing the economy, a daunting task in the wake of a lasting recession, will not be enough to save the two programs.

According to John L. Palmer, dean emeritus of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University and a former public trustee for Medicare and Social Security, simply growing the economy will not be enough to preserve Social Security. Other changes will have to be made, Mr. Palmer said.

And Eric Kingson, another Syracuse University professor and co-founder of Social Security Works, said that while Mr. Woolf’s point about improving the economy is “hugely correct,” he wouldn’t put it forward as his only proposal.

According to Mr. Kingson, lifting the payroll tax cap on people who make more than $117,000 a year or slowly increasing the payroll tax on Social Security by one percentage point, from 6.5 to 7.45 percent, over the course of 20 years would increase the amount of revenue going to the Social Security trust fund and keep the program solvent.

Mr. Kingson, who, with his colleague Nancy Altman, is co-author of a forthcoming book, “Social Security Works,” also suggested diversifying the portfolio of investments in the trust fund, as well as tax increases on people making more than $1 million.

While Ms. Stefanik said she would consider, as an option, lifting the payroll tax on income above $117,000, Mr. Woolf’s campaign has yet to take a position on the idea and did not include it in a list of proposals for maintaining Social Security and Medicare.

Mr. Woolf, a documentary filmmaker with a home in Elizabethtown, and Ms. Stefanik, a former White House policy adviser who lives in Willsboro, are facing each other in the November general election. Also running is Green Party candidate Matthew J. Funiciello.

Mr. Funiciello is advocating for increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and subjecting all income above $250,000 to the Social Security payroll tax.

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