Today, one-third of the world is living longer. But will the money they’ve invested over the years last longer?
With this question in mind, former US Rep. James Roosevelt, President Franklin Roosevelt’s son, launched the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare in 1982 to create some peace of mind and financial security for Americans. Today, average Social Security benefits range from $700 to $1,800 monthly. This is no windfall, yet the working poor and middle class are intentionally marginalized by those who have “dipped into” or intend to “drain and blame” the Social Security Trust Fund.
Those who falsely mislead people into thinking that a balanced budget can be achieved on the backs of America’s seniors, families and disabled don’t mention the millions of dollars we spend every week on war. Social Security is not an entitlement, but a right, one paid in full with a lifetime of contributions.
In 2003, Social Security funds were, thankfully, spared from congressional cuts. In 2005, President Bush promoted a partial privatization plan, but that also failed. Hopefully, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s privatization plans for Social Security will follow the same path.
But today we may not be so lucky. According to Max Richman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, the House Budget Committee passed a resolution which cuts $5.4 trillion in federal spending over the next decade, including almost $500 billion from Medicare and $1.5 trillion from Medicaid, while raising the eligibility age for Social Security benefits to 67. The GOP’s 2018 budget proposal slashed another $64 billion from Social Security Disability Insurance.
Sen. Bernie Sanders notes, “At a time of massive wealth inequality, when 99 percent of all new income generated in this country goes to the top 1 percent, and over half of the American people have less than $10,000 in savings, the last thing we should do is cut Social Security.”
But that’s exactly what’s being proposed, even though “they have not passed legislation that asks the wealthiest Americans to pay more into Social Security by raising the cap on payroll taxes because millionaires are exempt from paying their fair share of taxes into Social Security while they block legislation which would allow Medicare to negotiate directly with drug companies for lower drug costs,” Richman said.,
Adding insult to injury, a quarter of Social Security Administration workers have been “retired,” either let go or reassigned. Losing these workers makes it even more difficult for potential beneficiaries to access their benefits.
But fear not; there is light at the end of this tunnel. There are members of Congress and organizations like the Senior Citizens League and AARP who are also supporting legislation in favor of protecting Social Security beneficiaries. If you were born between 1922 and 1959, sign the National Social Security Benefit Correction Register Petition and Authorization form. Ask Congress to grant the $70 per-month increase, to help compensate for the zero or close-to-zero cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) of the last few years. This year, the COLA is a pitiful one-third of 1 percent. That extra $70 will also help to make up for the loss of past annual COLA increases. There have been at least 18 cuts throughout the years, according to the Senior Citizens League’s register notification document. The COLA needs to be in line with the rising costs of living for older, average wage earners who are not millionaires or billionaires, and need the increase.
A major opportunity to halt current cuts is S.427, also known as the Social Security Expansion Act. This bill, introduced in February by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), enhances Social Security benefits and ensures long-term solvency of the program. The bill has been read twice and referred to the Senate Committee on Finance. Three of the bill’s most impactful benefits are: increases in cash benefits across the board, a revised computation of COLA adjustments, and an increase in minimum benefits for lifetime low-earners based on their years in the workforce.
Some like to brag about America’s high standard of living. We love it, but it should not end just because seniors are living longer. Housing, food, utilities and medical care cost more than ever before. Every citizen who has paid into Social Security should have priority when it comes to having these basic things to live.
Do your part! Tell your congressperson to support the Social Security Expansion Act.
Tell your congressperson to preserve your Social Security benefits!
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