August marks 71 years of Social Security success
Many Oklahomans are worried about retirement security. Talk of the program being in crisis just fuels this concern among retirees and young workers alike. But all reasonable research tells us if we act now to save and strengthen the program it will be able to provide retirees promised benefits for generations to come.
The Social Security program marks its 71st anniversary this August. It is a true American success story, having reduced the percentage of our nation's retirees living in poverty from more than 50 percent to 11 percent since its inception in 1935. It saved our seniors during the darkest years of the Great Depression and continues to protect individuals from all walks of life. Nationwide, nearly two-thirds of older Americans rely on Social Security for at least 50 percent of their income, and Social Security is the only source of income for 22 percent of beneficiaries.
Despite this success, the vast majority of workers under 30 believe they will never see a dime of the money they have paid into the Social Security system. Attention has been drawn recently to proposals which would privatize the program. But this so-called solution promises security it can't deliver.
I have serious concerns that any proposal to replace our current Social Security system with private retirement accounts threatens to break the promise of dignity and independence during retirement made to all Americans. Privatization would take funds committed to guaranteed benefits and distribute them into individual accounts in private markets, replacing our current system with a risky one that would leave the fate of seniors to the ups and downs of the stock market.
Private savings are an important part of a sound retirement plan, but no one can plan for the unexpected. Especially now, when so many workers have lost their retirement savings because of fluctuations in the market, it is more important than ever to ensure the stability of Social Security.
Congress has to reassure the American workforce that Social Security will be solvent for future generations. Our first step toward strengthening Social Security has to be a return to fiscal responsibility by reducing our national debt and balancing our budget. I joined with other members of the Blue Dog Coalition last year to propose a plan that would reinstitute pay-as-you-go rules in the federal budget process. Individuals can't spend more than they have in the bank, and the federal government shouldn't be allowed to either.
The Social Security Trust Fund is based on the contributions of millions of workers in order to ensure that every working American can achieve retirement security. Despite record budget deficits, Congress should not be allowed to spend Social Security funds on anything but Social Security benefits.
Just as I believe corporations must honor their pension commitments, the federal government must ensure all workers are paid the Social Security benefits they were promised. On its 71st anniversary, Congress should work in a bipartisan manner to ensure the program's future success.