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Social Security: It’s time to build on its success

Written by Nancy Altman

Social Security is a model government program, financed by and supporting working families in the event of retirement, disability, and death. It is administered in a wise and cost-effective manner. Social Security can only pay out what it has in its coffers. It cannot spend more than it has.  Now, it’s time to build on its proven success.

In August 1953, President Eisenhower proposed an expansion of Social Security, telling Congress that “Retirement systems, by which individuals contribute to their own security according to their respective abilities . . .are but a reflection of the American heritage of sturdy self-reliance which has made our country strong and kept it free . . . The Social Security program furnishes, on a national scale, the opportunity for our citizens, through . . .self-reliance, to build the foundation for their security.”

Contrary to what you might hear from some pundits, our nation can afford our current level of Social Security. In fact, we can afford a greatly expanded Social Security. America is the wealthiest country in the world.  The question of whether to expand Social Security is simply about our priorities, not about whether we have the funds to do so.

Congress and the President should agree with President Nixon that “the retired, the disabled and the dependent [beneficiaries of Social Security] never again bear the brunt of inflation. The way to prevent future unfairness is to attach the benefit schedule to the cost of living.” And, in 1972, Congress passed legislation to index Social Security in order to prevent inflation from eroding its earned benefits.  Unfortunately, while in theory Social Security’s benefits should not erode over time, in practice they do.

The inflation adjustment measure for Social Security does not comport with the spending patterns of older adults and people with disabilities.  People who receive Social Security tend to spend more on health care, whose costs have been rising far faster than overall inflation.  As a result, while costs for Social Security beneficiaries have risen in the last year, there is no Social Security cost of living adjustment in 2016. The formula needs to change.  And, there are some bills in Congress that would change it.

Historically, Republicans and Democrats alike have worked together to improve and expand Social Security.  President Reagan signed into law the Social Security Amendments of 1983 and spoke about “our nation’s ironclad commitment to Social Security.”  It’s time that Congress pass Social Security legislation which expands benefits while requiring the wealthiest among us to pay their fair share.  That should, reassure Americans, as Reagan said, “that America will always keep the promises made in troubled times a half a century ago.”

It is time for Social Security beneficiaries to receive a raise and for the wealthiest Americans to start paying their fair share. If you agree, sign this joint Social Security Works and Credo Action petition.

Watch Robert Reich explain why we can afford to expand Social Security. Click here to learn about why claiming Social Security benefits early disproportionately hurts people with low incomes. Click here to read why higher Social Security benefits helps memory and mental functioning for older adults.

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9 Comments

  • ..another cost that is getting out of hand for recipients is rent. Where I live, rents have gone out of control with the median rent upwards of 500$ more than the average monthly Social Security benefit cheque.

    There is a critical shortage of HUD/Section 8 housing here which is forcing both low and fixed income households out of the city with it’s neighbourhoods that boast high walkability ratings, to the far flung burbs where services such as shopping and clinics are far apart, transit is poor (in some places no service evenings and weekends), gangs and crime are an issue, and there are not even sidewalks in many areas.

    Developers are loathe to build low income housing as there is no big profit in it, and the city pretty much has allowed, if not supported them in their efforts. In one case land in what was the old Pearl industrial district was literally given away for a song to firms which came in and built expensive apartment and condo towers Now there is a move to gentrify an area called Old Town, the last area in the city core where housing is affordable (and of course in high demand). This will displace even more low/fixed income residents, many whom will probably end up on the streets, in shelters, or various encampments. In fact, part of the city’s homeless issue is due to the exorbitant cost of housing here along with low and stagnant wages. It’s not just single citizens who are being forced out either, but families as well.

    My city is not alone in this, but is ranked #7th in the nation with regards to the rate of rental cost increase. Rents here have also been outdistancing wage growth be a factor of better than 2:1. Not a mark to be proud of by any means.

    • …error correction to my initial comment above.

      “…median rent upwards of 500$” should read “median rent upwards of 1,500$”.

  • although disabled severely with Fibromyalgia i continued to work until it was impossible. My doctors told me to stop work, it was time to apply for SSDI. I did so. I was bed ridden, unable to even get to the bathroom alone. After a six year battle with SSDI, i finally got a letter that told me there was no law that required SSDI to give benefits due simply to illness! Foolishly, i had believed all these years i was protected by paying SSDI INSURANCE PAYMENTS to the govenment. Not so. I was driven into poverty in the USA, forced to move to Philippines where i live on Early SS now, which is below the poverty standard for PHILIPPINES. The US govenment is a FRAUD, and an ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE. It must be replaced. With what? Sorry, i am too ill to think straight. Do not reply on the corrupt SS system, or the lies they tell when you apply for SSDI. They collect the insurance payments for 45 years from me, but when i apply, they fight tooth and nail to keep from paying out. US IS EVIL…i believe using the money to start ISIS and a continuous war for profits for the wealthy. They must be eliminated.

  • I’d be glad to have signed, being over 70 and getting SS myself, but after signing many dozens of petitions by CREDO and MOVE ON, I have opted out after discovering that I am finite (what a surprise!) and so is my time.

  • I am so sick of these idiot politicians believing we don’t need an increase in our Social Security & Disability benefits. I have been disabled far too long, unfortunately, it will not be getting any better but again, another year with no increase in our benefits! And the worse part is without buying anything “extra nor different” my grocery bill has gone up 33%!!(cost of food has gone up!!!) My heating & electric bill has gone up with me doing nothing different than I have the past 10yrs!! Health care costs have gone up including on pharmaceuticals. Any type of small repairs(God forbid a large repair) on homes, condos have gone up!! Plumbers alone get $90 to $125 per hour!! and we are just suppose to be able to afford all this crap without getting any kind of increase to our social security!!!!! Idiots, complete idiots. The time has come to change the way they look at giving increases to our Social Security because it is all total Bullsh*t that the cost of living hasn’t gone up. It goes up every single year…..food bills, heating, electric bills, gas & repairs on your vehicle(s). As they continue to give themselves huge salaries in Congress, Senators all these damn politicians have no idea what its like to live on limited income and even when they reach the age of retirement, they will have much more than SS to live on!

  • The pittance we receive is barely enough to make it through one month, even though we have paid into the fund for many many years out of our earned income. Some members of Congress seem to think we are not entitled to this money, and treat us as tho’they are doing us a favour. Please do whatever you can to help us. Thank You for your help.

    • …yet those same idiot politicians have no issue using SS funds for other purposes like offsetting expenditures for their pet programmes such as senseless foreign wars or tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.

      As with politicians against increasing the minimum wage, I feel all these jokers should be forced to live at the income the level of Social Security recipients for at least a year without access to their private accounts/fortunes or any help from outside sources as they also want to discontinue SNAP, the ACA, and Medicare.

      As I’ve mentioned before, Social Security should be a “real trust” and “protected” so that funds that are supposedly collected for the sole benefit of retirees and the disabled, cannot be used for “other government pork…err…purposes”.

      Tired of dealing with three decades of “gush up” economic policy.

  • Please vote in the up coming election. For the candidate, Bernie Sanders, who will support expanding Social Security. If we do not act now, we may be the last generation to receive it as a federal government program.

    • …we also cannot ignore upcoming Congressional and Senate races, otherwise Sanders will be hung out to dry by right wing tea party obstructionism just like like Obama was.

      It’s time to take our nation back from corrupt, greedy, and heartlessness politicians and their cronies.

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