Deficit hawks: ‘keep your hands off Social Security’

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By The Staff

The nation’s outsized deficit is high on the list of domestic problems most in need of a solution.

From the president’s deficit commission, meeting throughout the year to figure out what to do, to the America Speaks group holding multiple town hall meetings, experts are zeroing in on the skyrocketing deficit number.

And we keep hearing that cutting Social Security benefits needs to be part of the solution.

Hold on a second. The budget deficit needs to be tackled, and Social Security needs to be strengthened for the long run.

But just about everything else in this line of thinking is flawed.

Social Security is not in crisis.

Moderate adjustments can ensure Social Security is strong for our children and grandchildren. And it has not added a dime to the deficit.

 With these assumptions dismissed, it’s pretty tough to argue that closing the budget gap by targeting Social Security benefits would be fair or warranted.

Financed by money that hard-working people contribute over their working lives, Social Security is the one reliable, source of income for older Americans and others.

It provides a foundation of retirement income security for them to build upon and it offers economic security for disabled workers and the spouses and children of deceased workers.

The benefits  keep millions of Americans out of poverty.

As Social Security marks its 75th Anniversary August 14th, the program is financially strong and in no immediate danger of going broke.

Over the years it has built up a surplus of $2.5 trillion. Even without changes, Social Security will be able to pay full benefits until 2037 and nearly three-quarters of promised benefits for decades beyond.

     Social Security needs changes so it can continue to pay the benefits that have been promised to current and future generations. The  changes do not have to be drastic, but the sooner we act, the easier and more manageable the solutions will be.

     With the other pillars of retirement security crumbling, pensions, savings and investments, Social Security will likely play an increasingly vital role.

Although it was never meant to be a worker’s sole source of retirement income, it is the strongest and most reliable of the pillars.

Among seniors, 20 percent of married couples and 41 percent of singles rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income.

     Cutting benefits to reduce the deficit or converting Social Security to private accounts is not the answer. Americans cannot afford the social insecurity that will come from risky proposals that put everyone’s retirement in jeopardy.

If Washington wants to restore confidence in our nation’s budget picture, they should deal with what has really caused our federal deficit. The fact is American workers contributions pay for Social Security, and it hasn’t added anything to the deficit.

Louis Sarabia

State president

AARP New Mexico