Those who threaten to cut or privatize our workers’ and seniors’ Social Security need to know the facts. And here’s an astounding one: more than 2 out of 5 seniors, or 14 million elderly Americans, would fall into poverty without Social Security, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
For two-thirds of elderly Americans, Social Security provides a majority of their cash income. For nearly half of seniors older than 80, it provides almost their entire income.
Since World War II, Social Security has evolved into the Great Safety Net for American workers who pay into the system – providing not just pension insurance in their golden years, but also health insurance through Medicare, as well as unemployment insurance and disability insurance.
Alarmingly, in the current Republican-controlled House of Representatives, there is an ongoing effort not only to reduce the retirement benefit by tying cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) to a chained Consumer Price Index, but also to reduce guaranteed health benefits under traditional Medicare, and to block an extension of emergency unemployment benefits, and curtail disability benefits.
There is also an effort underway to starve the Social Security Administration of the resources and personnel needed to staff offices, answer phones, process benefits, and adjudicate appeals. These cuts have resulted in the closure of local Social Security offices.
I am and always have been an ardent opponent of privatizing Social Security and Medicare, fighting against legislation that would replace traditional Medicare with a voucher program that cuts guaranteed benefits and jeopardizes the health and retirement security of seniors, as proposed in the so-called Ryan Budget passed by the Republican-controlled House.
In addition, I am fighting hard against any legislation that would undercut the annual Social Security COLA. I have cosponsored legislation to ward off proposals that would reduce the annual COLA by substituting a chained Consumer Price Index in calculating benefits. At my urging, this proposal was not included in the President’s budget request, like it has been before, nor was it included in the House Republican Budget, like was threatened, which is good news for all of us who want to protect Social Security beneficiaries.
I have proposed a fix for the faulty inflation formula that is used to calculate Social Security COLAs. That formula currently does not accurately measure seniors’ real costs related to food, energy, and health care, and it resulted in seniors not receiving a COLA in 2010 and 2011.
One in four West Virginians — including retirees, widows, and children — collect Social Security benefits, receiving, according to the AARP, an average $14,000 in annual payments. That amount pales in comparison to the massive salaries we hear about on Wall Street, but it is a critical lifeline for families and it is vital to ensuring our Nation’s and State’s seniors live and retire in dignity after a lifetime of hard work.
Retirement and disability insurance benefits should be guaranteed by the full faith and credit of the United States, and not subject to the whims of the financial markets or shortsighted, ill-informed politicians.Seniors have a moral claim on the benefits they have earned over a lifetime of paying into Social Security and Medicare; those obligations must be honored.
U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) represents West Virginia’s Third Congressional District. For more information, contact Diane Luensmann at (202) 225-3452, or visit http://rahall.house.gov.