MASON CITY | U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, discussed Social Security and Medicare with senior citizens in Mason City on Wednesday.

Taking part in a roundtable discussion with about 25 seniors at the Manor, Braley, of Waterloo, drew sharp contrasts between his views and those of State Sen. Joni Ernst, his Republican opponent in the race to fill the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin.

He never mentioned Ernst by name, calling her only "my opponent," but criticized her positions on Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs.

He said she has called for privatization of Social Security and has also supported plans that would pave the way for Medicare vouchers, increasing costs for retirees.

Braley said, “Social Security and Medicare are a promise that if you work hard, the benefits you’ve earned will be there for you when you retire. We need to protect Social Security and Medicare and ensure their promise is honored for current and future generations of workers."

He said Republicans refer to Social Security and Medicare as entitlements.

"They are really investments," he said, "with the promise of the return on those investments."

Lyle Mackey of Mason City told Braley there has been a scare for decades that the Social Security system would run out of money. "Misinformation wins the battle all the time," he said.  

Braley said as of 2012, 10,685 Cerro Gordo County residents relied on an average Social Security benefit of $13,773 a year.

"My opponent says Social Security is in crisis," he said. "The Social Security system is projected to be 100 percent solvent through 2033 and 75 percent solvent through 2086, so we have time to fix it."

Braley said privatizing Social Security would eliminate one of the three legs of the retirement stool -- Social Security, pension and savings. He said scrapping Social Security and setting up individual investment accounts relies too heavily on the stock market.

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