Monday, July 18, 2011

What You Need to Know about Social Security

Have you ever heard someone say Social Security is going bankrupt? Or that Social Security won’t be there for your children and grandchildren? Unfortunately, some politicians have used these lies during debt ceiling debates to frighten the public and further their political agenda. The truth is, as Social Security celebrates its 76th anniversary, it remains one of the nation’s most successful, effective, and popular intergenerational programs.

To help arm intergenerational advocates with the truth about this issue, we’ve highlighted some facts everyone should know about this important program.

1. Social Security is NOT going bankrupt. Social Security has a $2.6 trillion surplus and can pay full benefits through 2036 without any changes. Furthermore, relatively modest changes could be made and would place the program on a sound financial footing for 75 years and beyond. To read more about these recommendations, check out the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) publication: Strengthening Social Security for the Long Run.

2. Social Security did not cause the deficit. Social Security has its own funding stream and did not contribute to the deficit. It should not be cut to reduce a deficit it did not cause. Because Social Security operates from a dedicated self-funding stream, it is projected to be fully solvent until 2036.

3. Social Security will be there for you. Social Security has never missed a payment in 75 years. It is 100% solvent for the next 25 years and, in the highly unlikely case that Congress did not act before 2036, Social Security could still pay about three-fourths of benefits thereafter. With minor changes, Social Security can be solvent for years to come.

4. Social Security is more than a retirement program. It provides essential protections for people of all ages. Social Security pays more benefits to children than any other federal program, protecting 98 percent of the children in the U.S. in the event that they lose a parent. More than 6.5 million children receive part of their family income from Social Security.

5. Social Security benefits are modest. As politicians continue to discuss Social Security reform, it’s important to note that cuts to Social Security would dramatically affect an individual’s benefits. Social Security benefits are much more modest than many people realize. In June 2010, the average Social Security retirement benefit is about $14,000 a year. (The average disabled worker and aged widow received slightly less.)

6. Americans would rather pay more than see benefits cut. 87 percent of all Americans agree that they don’t mind paying for Social Security because of the security and stability it provides to millions of Americans. (Survey sponsored by NASI and Rockefeller Foundation in Fall 2009).

7. Almost half of all seniors would be poor without Social Security. Social Security lifts 13 million older adults age 65 and older out of poverty.

8. For many grandfamilies, Social Security is essential to their families’ survival. Social Security is a safeguard for families when tragedy strikes. The vast majority of grandparent caregivers did not plan to raise another family and unexpectedly find themselves caring for their grandchildren. Many of these grandparents live on fixed incomes and find themselves forced to make decisions between paying for diapers and formula for the children or prescription drugs for themselves. Even with Social Security benefits, 22 percent of grandparent-headed families are poor. Without Social Security benefits, the group’s poverty rate would be 59 percent or more. Read more about what’s at stake for grandfamilies in our publication: What’s at Stake for Children, Youth, and Grandfamilies.

9. Changes already enacted will cut Social Security benefits by 19 percent for future retirees. In the 1980s, Congress enacted changes to ensure the long-term solvency of Social Security. Those changes cut retirement benefits by 19 percent for workers born in 1960 and later, and more cuts could undermine the basic economic security of future retirees. To help educate the public and Members of Congress on this complex issue, NASI recently released a report on the effects of this piece of legislation.

10. Social Security should be strengthened, not cut.

Generations United believes the best way to invest in and protect our nation’s most vulnerable citizens is to strengthen Social Security, not cut it. Social Security plays a critical role in providing economic security and indispensable protections for children, families, and retirees. Social Security provides vital support for children, in addition to older adults, covering 98 percent of all children in the event of the death or disability of a caregiver.

In order to improve Social Security for future generations, Generations United continues to advocate for one low-cost recommendation that would strengthen Social Security for future generations: reinstating the student benefit. Restoring the Social Security student benefit would offer students whose parents are deceased and disabled the support they need to become the educated workforce our country’s economy needs. To read more about our recommendation, download our publication Social Security: What's at Stake for Children, Youth, and Grandfamilies.

This article is the final installment in Generations United’s Budget Blog Series.

1 comment:

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