By U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI)
Social Security is one of the great American success stories, and
August 14 marked the programs 75th anniversary.
On August 14, 1935 President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social
Security Act into law, and since then Social Security has been
providing our seniors, disabled citizens, children, and widows and
widowers with a guaranteed source of income. At the end of last year,
53 million Americans were receiving Social Security benefits,
including 36 million retired workers and their dependents, 6 million
survivors of deceased workers and 10 million disabled workers and
Social Security provides life-long wage insurance that is paid for by
payroll contributions from workers and employers. These contributions
come back to Americans by providing monthly income when they retire or
become disabled or to family members when an individual passes away.
This program will remain critical in light of the fact that only half
of our nations workforce has a retirement plan through work, and
employer-sponsored benefit pension plans are quickly being replaced by
riskier employee savings plans.
Social Security is especially important to residents here in Northern
Michigan. The First District ranks 8th in the nation in terms of the
number of recipients, with nearly 164,000 people drawing Social
Security each month. Social Security provides the only income for
many of our neighbors to live with a sense of dignity and
Seniors in Northern Michigan, and nationwide, have worked hard all
their lives, seeing our country through war, the depression and
dramatic social changes. Without Social Security one in every two
seniors would be living in poverty, and today six in 10 seniors rely
on Social Security for more than half of their income.
These men and women also deserve Social Security benefits based on the
true cost of the goods they purchase. That is why I have co-sponsored
legislation to establish a seniors only Consumer Price Index (CPI)
to account for seniors different buying habits. This would ensure a
truer senior Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA).
Social Security has provided consistent and reliable income for
retired and disabled workers even during times of economic turbulence.
It has remained strong through 13 recessions. During our most recent
economic downturn, when 401(k)s and IRAs lost 32 percent of their
value, individuals on Social Security did not lose a dime.
That is why I do not support renewed efforts to privatize Social
Security. Many privatization proposals rely on a manufactured crisis
claiming that Social Security will soon be bankrupt. But the fact
is, as long as workers continue to pay into the system it will never
become bankrupt. Currently, the fund is large enough to pay full
benefits through 2037 and 75 percent of scheduled benefits after that.
Clearly some adjustments will need to be made to continue to fully
fund benefits after 2037, but subjecting the program to the whims of
Wall Street is not the solution we need.
Social Security is a uniquely American system that guarantees a
retirement nest egg will be there for workers when they retire or
become disabled. Benefits have been paid on time and in full every
single month for 75 years, providing critical income to our retired
and disabled workers and their families. We must work together to
determine long-term solutions that ensure benefits can be paid in full
for another 75 years, and beyond, without putting the financial
security that is the bedrock of the Social Security program at risk.
Bart Stupak is the Congressman for Northern Michigan‘s 1st District.