Sen Mary Landrieu's latest television commercial in her re-election bid aims to fire up seniors, and, for that matter, future Medicare and Social Security recipients.
"Bill Cassidy's plan increases medicare costs by thousands of dollars and raises the social security age to 70,” an announcer tells viewers.
During Tuesday night's debate on Louisiana Public Broadcasting, Landrieu pounded Cassidy on the issue.
"Social Security is not an entitlement,” Landrieu said. “It is an earned benefit."
Cassidy dug in, arguing that raising the retirement age would in no way apply to current Social Security recipients, or those retiring anytime in the near future.
“Ideally, you do it for those young as possible, like someone who's not yet born,” Cassidy said. “But the reality is you've got to make changes someplace.”
With tens of millions of baby boomers about to hit retirement age, Social Security and Medicare are the ticking time bombs of the federal budget.
The annual report of the Social Security Trustees warns that in the absence of policy changes, the government will deplete the trust fund for Social Security somewhere around the year 2033.
That does not mean the system will run out of money, but the commission report warns recipients might draw roughly 75 percent of their benefits.
On Tuesday, both Landrieu and candidate Rob Maness pounced Cassidy's idea of a 70-year-old retirement age.
“I've worked in operation fields with those out in the field for many years,” Maness said. “There's no way a lot of these skills can be done up to age 70."
Landrieu argued many jobs are “very hard and people cannot work to 70.”
Cassidy insists he is committed to preserving benefits “for those who are on it, those who are soon to retire and those who are going to be in the future."
On Thursday, Cassidy fired back, citing a letter Landrieu co-signed in 2010, urging the President and Senate leaders to push budget reforms suggested in the Simpson-Boles Presidential Commission. While the commission report suggested an overall of social security, Landrieu and 10 other senators who signed the letter noted there was “plenty” in the report they disagreed with.
Cassidy insists he is only talking gradual change, such as the deal Ronald Reagan and then-House Speaker Tip O'Neill cut in the 1980s to preserve Social Security.
“The fact that people don't talk about it is it just didn't hurt anybody,” Cassidy said.