It’s time to protect Social Security

This week marked the 77th anniversary of the creation of the most successful anti-poverty program in American history. The Social Security Act was enacted during the Great Depression in response to the widespread levels of poverty among older adults.

We are currently in the midst of a heated debate – a distortion of the truth about this vital program where our nation’s budget deficit has been used to justify cuts to Social Security and other safety net programs. Those who oppose Social Security argue for smaller government and assert that taking care of its most vulnerable people is not the proper role of our federal government. When the U.S. House of Representatives passed a budget it included proposals to privatize Social Security and cut spending on virtually everything but the Pentagon’s defense budget. The House version of the budget would also give $1 trillion in tax breaks to the wealthy “1 percent” and profitable corporations.

But we know better: balancing the federal budget must ensure that everyone pays their fair share. Now is the time to strengthen the future of Social Security, not to dismantle it.

Many LGBT people are underemployed or live on the brink of poverty. And especially for those who are disabled or over 65, Social Security may be the only thing keeping a roof over our heads and food in our kitchens. We know that without Social Security benefits, the rate of poverty among older adults would jump from just under 10 percent to over 50 percent. Nearly 90 percent of all elder households rely at least partially on Social Security, and nearly a third relies entirely on it. If we don’t keep Social Security’s promised benefits intact, our seniors will face an enormous economic crisis – and it will hit the LGBT community hard.

At The Task Force, we are deeply troubled by any budget that would severely cut vital social safety net programs and leave the poor, working people, seniors, children and other groups who depend on government assistance with the proverbial “short end of the stick.” Our position on Social Security privatization’s impact on LGBT people was articulated in our August 2005 report Selling Us Short: How Social Security Privatization will affect Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Americans.

Now is the time to protect the most successful anti-poverty insurance program for seniors, the disabled and children:

  • Social Security can be more solvent by strengthening it, not by cutting benefits and balancing the budget on the backs of Social Security future recipients. The program has its own dedicated funding source, made up of payroll contributions from working Americans and because it is independent of the federal budget, it shouldn’t be a part of the deficit reduction discussion.
  • Social Security can pay beneficiaries currently promised benefits in full until 2037 – by using the $2.6 trillion surplus in its trust fund. While fiscal discipline is needed to reduce the federal debt it should not come at the cost of hurting Social Security beneficiaries.

Tell your representatives in Congress during their August recess that Social Security did not add a dime to the federal deficit and its future should not be  jeopardized to balance the budget.