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Hartzler signs GOP letter advocating changes to Social Security

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: In the midst of the shutdown, U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Harrisonville, has already moved on to her next budget-cutting topic: Social Security.

Hartzler’s staff has confirmed that she was among 51 Republicans in the U.S. House – and the only one from Missouri – to sign a letter to Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, that called on him to include Social Security “as part of the current fiscal discussions.”

“Fixing Social Security would send a strong message to the financial markets that we are willing to responsibly address our nation’s long-term fiscal issues,’’ said the letter dated Oct. 8.

The letter asked Boehner to include Social Security in any of the budget talks expected to get under way during the current controversy and after the shutdown.

The letter’s recommended changes to Social Security include: raising the retirement age, “adjusting the inflationary formula used for calculating future growth"; means-testing benefits for high-income recipients; and lowering the cap on wages subject to the Social Security tax “to its Reagan-era levels.”

The latter proposal would lower the maximum amount of wages subject to the Social Security tax to roughly $45,000 – less than half of the current cap of $113,700. Such a plan would reduce the revenue into the program.

It was during Reagan's tenure in the 1980s that the most significant changes were made in the Social Security program, including the phased-in hike in the retirement age to 67, and the graduated cap in the wages subject to the tax.

Hartzler's support has begun to attract attention from partisan groups on both sides.

Hartzler's spokesman Steve Walsh said she signed the document “to signal a willingness to open a discussion to preserve, protect and strengthen Social Security for today’s and future generations.”

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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