Yes, I'm talking about Social Security and before I get going, let me tell you a secret about this crucial program as it relates to Time Goes By readers: every time I write about it, traffic drops that day by at least a third and sometimes by half.
Too boring to read about. You won't think so when the Republicans cut benefits and start trying to privatize it again. More about the 2016 candidates below. But first, did you know Social Security provides more than half of all income for two-thirds of elders?
As the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) reminded their readers this week:
”For 65 percent of elderly beneficiaries, Social Security provides the majority of their cash income. For 36 percent of them, it provides 90 percent or more of their income. For 24 percent of them, it is the sole source of retirement income.”
How would it be for you if your Social Security benefit were cut by 10 percent? Or 20 or 30 percent? Here are a couple more facts about Social Security which is NOT, as Republicans like to say, an "entitlement." It is an earned benefit you have paid into all your working life:
”Without Social Security benefits, more than 40 percent of Americans aged 65 and older would have incomes below the poverty line, all else being equal. With Social Security benefits, less than 10 percent do. The program lifts 14.7 million elderly Americans out of poverty.”
Today is the 80th – that is EIGHT-OH – anniversary of the day, 14 August 1935, that President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law. This is a big deal – that this important, highly successful program has lasted for eight decades while being under assault from conservatives all that time.
As FDR signed that legislation on 14 August 1935, he said,
"We can never insure one-hundred percent of the population against one-hundred percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life. But we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against…poverty-ridden old age.”
Let me tell you, without Social Security, I would be living in deep poverty and I suspect many TGB readers would be too. So just as we celebrate the days of our birth, we must take time today to celebrate the birth of this most successful social program of all time and dedicate ourselves to protecting it.
Eleven years ago in 2004, then-President George W. Bush announced his intention to privatize Social Security. If you have any doubt that it was a terrible idea, recall what happened to investments in 2008. I lost a lot I've never recouped. How much did you lose? Imagine if that had been your Social Security account.
It is crucial to remember that they will tell you something different but the real reason Republicans want to privatize Social Security is to award Wall Street the billions of dollars in fees that would be created to manage Social Security investment accounts.
It took a year of hard work but Americans fought back against Bush's privatization initiative and defeated it. Will we be able to do that next time?
A week ago at Huffington Post, Nancy Altman, founding co-director of Social Security Works and the co-author of the best book ever written on Social Security, Social Security Works! subtitled, Why Social Security Isn't Going Broke and How Expanding It Will Help Us All, posted the known policy positions on Social Security of all the candidates who participated in the Republican debate:
JEB BUSH: Privatize Social Security, Raise the Retirement Age As High as 70, End Medicare
BEN CARSON: Views unknown
CHRIS CHRISTIE: Make Social Security a means-tested welfare program and raise eligibility age to 69
TED CRUZ: Privatize Social Security, Raise the Retirement Age, Cut Benefits
CARLY FIORINA: May Raise Retirement Age
JIM GILMORE: Views unknown
LINDSEY GRAHAM: Cut Social Security Benefits for People who are unmarried and have no children
MIKE HUCKABEE: Against cuts but erroneously believes trust fund has been stolen
BOBBY JINDAL: Privatize Social Security
JOHN KASICH: Privatize Social Security, Cut benefits
GEORGE PATAKI: Raise Retirement Age, Shift More Medicare Cost to Seniors and People With Disabilities
RAND PAUL: Raise the Retirement Age to 70, Means-Test Social Security
RICK PERRY: Social Security is a "Ponzi Scheme," "Monstrous Lie"
MARCO RUBIO: Raise the Retirement Age, May Cut Benefits, Privatize Medicare
RICK SANTORUM: Raise Retirement Age, Means Test Social Security, May cut cost of living adjustments for current and future beneficiaries
SCOTT WALKER: Raise the Retirement Age
There seems to be a consensus, or close enough to call it that: all Republican candidates want to damage Social Security and therefore harm old people.
See anyone missing from that list? Yes, Donald Trump who, Altman quotes him as saying:
"'Every Republican wants to do a big number on Social Security, they want to do it on Medicare, they want to do it on Medicaid. And it's not fair to the people that have been paying in for years and now all of the sudden they want to be cut.' He made clear, 'I'm not gonna do that!'"
Democratic frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders both advocate expansion of Social Security.
(You will find links for each candidate's statement at Altman's Huffington Post story.)
I could write all day about the good that Social Security does and why maintaining and expanding it are an important reason not to vote for a Republican candidate in 2016.
Here are a few good links about Social Security:
Did you know that Thomas Paine may have been the first person to think up Social Security. If you are historically minded, Nancy Altman explains.
ABC News lists the modest changes that would ensure Social Security for everyone for the next 75 years.
The National Committee to Protect Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) lists the top ten facts about the program everyone should know.
AARP has a page of facts about Social Security for each state of the union.
The CPBB link I gave you at the top has a lot of charts worth checking out that explain all the great, good things Social Security does for so many millions of Americans.
So let's hear a Hip Hip Hooray for Social Security. Let's also congratulate, in absentia, all the wonderful, unnamed people who for 80 years have fought so hard to preserve Social Security against its powerful adversaries - and let's all pledge to be one of them during this endless presidential election season.