Representative C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger's decision not to run for governor might not have been much of a surprise for Maryland's politicians, but his older constituents, who comprise about 12 percent of his district's voters, may well have been surprised to hear that he wants to remain in Washington to continue working on tax and entitlement reform ("Ruppersberger decides against a run for governor," Jan. 22).

On Capitol Hill, "entitlement reform" is the "kinder, gentler" phrase that members of both political parties now use to describe plans to cut benefits for middle-class Americans. Fortunately, Congressman Ruppersberger hasn't been one of them, which is why he has earned a 100 percent positive rating from the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

Most seniors would like to see the "entitlement reform" debate, and the benefit cuts associated with it, disappear altogether. They understand that middle-class families and seniors, half of whom receive an average monthly Social Security benefit of $1,269 or less, should not be targeted for cuts under any circumstances.

Instead of "entitlement reform," we suggest Mr. Ruppersberger talk about boosting "earned benefits" that improve the lives of older Marylanders and strengthen the economic outlook for Maryland's 2nd District — including the 118,000 Social Security beneficiaries who receive $1.7 billion in Social Security benefits. That's not just retirees but also people with disabilities, surviving spouses and children, all of whom who are pumping billions of dollars into local businesses and the state's economy.

America is facing a retirement crisis. Traditional pensions are almost extinct, and workers have less income to save for retirement, leaving Social Security the only remaining leg in America's three-legged retirement stool.

It's time for a bipartisan commitment from Congress to tackle this retirement crisis, which impacts the lives of almost every American family. Fifty-eight million Americans of all ages depend on the anti-poverty protection offered by Social Security. Social Security will be even more important to future generations, including the Recession Generation that is facing income loss, diminished net worth and high unemployment during their vital earning years. All these factors ultimately impact their retirement security.

Mr. Ruppersberger has a long and successful record of serving his constituents well. Hundreds of thousands of 2nd District seniors will be counting on him to continue that record. He knows that Social Security did not cause the current budget deficit and should not be used to correct it.

We need a people's champion like Mr. Ruppersberger to usher in a new fairness agenda that focuses on providing economic security to all Americans, young and old alike, beginning with boosting Social Security benefits.

Max Richtman, Washington, D.C.

The writer is president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

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