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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Why You Should Care About Social Security & Seniors

America's Social Security program is the nation's only subsidized family-protection program for all persons, regardless of race, class, age, and gender. It has been in effect since President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act in 1935. Social Security provides retirement and disability insurance benefits for qualified workers and their dependents, as well as benefits for survivors of deceased workers.

Impact

Social Security enjoys widespread support from all age groups. However, projections indicate that the Social Security trust fund, which in effect depends on payroll tax revenues of current workers to finance current retirement benefits, will be exhausted by the year 2030 as the last of the baby boomers enter retirement.  Social Security reform is necessary to remedy this problem. Privatization of benefits into personal accounts has been encouraged as a potential solution to maintaining and ensuring Social Security benefits for all.

However, the attempt to privatize these benefits not only undermines the economic security of the individual by significantly cutting these benefits, but also does not offer inflation-adjusted COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) benefits as currently received.

  • In 2001, Social Security paid retirement and survivors benefits to 38.8 million people and disability to 6.7 million. Meanwhile, 153.4 million workers contributed to the program.
  • Privatizing Social Security would require deep cuts in benefits, even for those who choose not to participate in private accounts. One plan advanced by President Bush's Social Security Commission relies least on transfers of general revenue to finance the high cost of transitioning to a system of private accounts, which would cut Social Security benefits for future retirees, including those who choose not to participate in private accounts, by over 45 percent.
  • Benefits are now guaranteed; the stock market is not. If Social Security funds are invested in the stock market, there is no guarantee that the money will grow, or even that it will hold its value. With pensions disappearing, 401K funds depreciating, and savings rates falling, it is imperative that Social Security remain a source of income seniors can count on.
  • Privatization would endanger all types of Social Security benefits, including disability and survivor benefits. Social Security is a comprehensive, integrated insurance system in which different types of benefits are calculated in similar ways, based on a central formula, modified for particular circumstances. This means that cuts in retirement benefits cannot be made without unraveling Social Security's disability and survivors' insurance protections as well, a point recently confirmed by the President's Social Security Commission.

Background

Social Security benefits affect the five following sectors: retirement, disability, family benefits, survivors and Medicare. Statistics show that "one in six Americans receives a Social Security benefit, and about 98 percent of all workers are in jobs covered by Social Security. Social Security benefits comprise about 5% of the nation's total economic output. From 1940, when slightly more than 222,000 people received monthly Social Security benefits, until today, when almost 45 million people receive such benefits, Social Security has grown steadily. And Social Security benefits provide income security not just to the elderly. Nearly 1 in 3 beneficiaries are not retirees."

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