Ever since the Democrats created the Social Security System in 1935, it has not only formed the centerpiece around which Americans plan their retirement, but has provided piece of mind by providing benefits to both disabled workers and the children and wives of deceased beneficiaries. Currently over 3 million Floridians are receiving Social Security benefits. Including over 100,000 in my District alone.
Social Security is especially important to the millions of women who rely on it to keep them out of poverty. Elderly unmarried women, including widows, get over 50 percent of their income from Social Security. Women tend to live longer and tend to have lower lifetime earnings than men do. They spend an average of 11.5 years out of their careers to care for families, and are more likely to work part time than full time, and when they do work full time, they earn an average of 70 cents for every dollar men earn. These women are our mothers, our wives, and our daughters - and we must save Social Security for them.
Social Security benefits are also crucial to the poor and people of color; Approximately 49 percent of African-American beneficiaries rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income.
Let’s be clear. There is no immediate crisis in Social Security’s solvency and it does not contribute to the deficit. If Congress does nothing, Social Security will deliver full guaranteed benefits until at least 2037. Even after 2037, without any changes, the trust funds can pay more than 75% of benefits. That said, Congress would be prudent to begin modifying the program’s structure well before the shortfall begins.
In order for it to remain politically popular, however, Social Security must not be seen as a “welfare program.” For example, if all wages above $106,800 in 2009 were taxed and counted toward benefits, Social Security would remain 95% solvent for the next 75 years. High earners and their employers would pay more, but these top earners would also receive higher benefits. Thus, the program would continue to serve as an investment for all Americans and garner broad legislative support.
I remain strongly opposed to any plan that privatizes Social Security. I have always fought against putting Social Security funds into the stock market. The recession has shown how swings in the stock market could be devastating even for careful investors – let alone the millions of people without enough cash to open a mutual fund.
I also oppose increasing the retirement age or cutting benefits for the middle class. Although average life expectancy has increased since Social Security was created, the life expectancy for working class people has not. Expecting them to work beyond age 65 is unnecessary and unjust.