By Francine Busby and Tracy Emblem
August 18, 2010 (San Diego) -- As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of Social Security, we are reminded of the profound transformation that Social Security has left on our society. Since its enactment in 1935, Social Security has provided a critical national safety net that Americans have come to value.
Prior to enacting Social Security, the concept of retirement and “the golden years” did not exist. The elderly either worked until they died, lived with family or were relegated to live in “poor houses” and “poor farms.”
This is a far cry from today’s retirement communities where seniors often choose to reside because Social Security has allowed them to live independently and out of poverty. Social Security has also empowered generations of working parents, freed from the responsibilities of caring for elderly relatives, to increasingly provide higher education opportunities for their children.
According to the Social Security Administration, “there are 9.4 million military veterans receiving Social Security benefits, which means that almost one out of every four adult Social Security beneficiaries has served in the United States military.”
For more than 51 million Americans, including disabled workers and children receiving survivor benefits, Social Security is their main source of income. The average Social Security benefit is only $1,100 a month.
With longer life spans, Social Security is critically important to elderly women. The Social Security Administration reports, “women represent 57 percent of all Social Security beneficiaries age 62 and older and approximately 69 percent of beneficiaries age 85 and older...In 2008, for unmarried women including widows age 65 and older, Social Security comprises 50 percent of their total income.”
In the upcoming months, you may hear scare tactics and predictions of doom and gloom for Social Security as more baby boomers retire. You may hear words like “entitlement programs.” Social Security is not an entitlement program. It is a “paid in” program and pays its own way independently. The Congressional Budget Office reports Social Security has over a $2.5 trillion surplus and is anticipated to pay full benefits for another quarter of a century.
Recently Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wis) has proposed a plan called “A Roadmap for America’s Future” supported by Karl Rove. The Social Security part of the “road map” endorses a partial privatization so that younger individuals can invest 1/3 of their Social Security savings in Wall Street.
This proposal would be a detour down the dangerous road that led to our collapsed economy. Investing in the stock market is always risky as we have learned from the “too big to fail” fiasco. Social Security is a sustainable social policy that has worked for our parents and grandparents’ generations. Congress needs to leave the Social Security safety net alone and work on how to create jobs that will create a roadmap for America’s future.
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