Stephen Lynch Takes Two Positions On Social Security Retirement Age (UPDATE)

Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), who is running in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, released a video Monday stating that he supports "small changes" to the Social Security retirement age, but on Wednesday he signed a letter stating he would support no increase in the age at all.

"We will vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits -- including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need," reads the letter, also signed by Reps. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) and Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and touted by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

Earlier in the week, Lynch gave a different take in one of a series of videos on campaign issues.

"We do have to recognize that when Social Security was established in 1935, the average life expectancy for women was 65. For men, it was 62, I believe. And, nowadays, for kids born today, the ages are, I think, 87 and 91 for women," he said. "So, obviously, with the life expectancy expanding for beneficiaries, we’re going to have to make some changes there. But I think those are small changes over a long period of time will keep Social Security’s promise to future generations."

Lynch's is roughly right about life expectancy in 1935, but that fact misleads, according to the Social Security Administration: "Life expectancy at birth in 1930 was indeed only 58 for men and 62 for women, and the retirement age was 65. But life expectancy at birth in the early decades of the 20th century was low due mainly to high infant mortality, and someone who died as a child would never have worked and paid into Social Security."

Lynch is running against Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) in the April 30 Democratic primary to replace John Kerry, who moved on to become secretary of state. Markey has a 50 to 21 percent lead in the primary, according to a UMass-Lowell poll released Wednesday. Many voters, however, have yet to make up their minds, with 41 percent unsure whether they viewed Lynch favorably or unfavorably.

UPDATE: 8:57 p.m. -- Lynch spokesman Conor Yunits said: "Congressman Lynch signed both the Grayson-Takana letter and the Progressive Caucus letter last month because he does not believe the answer to our budget woes is to make changes to Social Security. He doesn't say anything about raising the retirement age in the video, just points out that average life expectancy has increased, and thus some minor tweaks may need to be made down the line to Social Security funding. Rep. Lynch does NOT support raising the retirement age for Social Security."

UPDATE: March 12 -- On Tuesday, Rep. Lynch took the position that the Social Security payroll tax cap should be raised above the first $113,700 in income.

"We cannot cut benefits, and we cannot raise the retirement age. Instead, we must focus on the way Social Security is funded," he said in a press release. "In 1983, 90% of wages in this country were subject to the Social Security tax. As a result, this critical safety net was on more solid footing. But despite an explosion in wages for the wealthiest 1% of Americans over the last 30 years, funding for Social Security has not kept pace."

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