Social Security continues to serve Americans well. It provides a foundation of retirement income which permits seniors to live in dignity and helps relieve younger family members of the obligation for their support. Without Social Security, half of all seniors would fall into poverty. In addition, Social Security is more than just a retirement program. In fact, 38% of all Social Security benefit dollars goes to disabled individuals, spouses of retired and disabled workers, dependent children and survivors.
The creation of Social Security was bold in 1935 and some have been critical of it ever since despite compiled evidence of its success. Critics of Social Security have presented exaggerated and even false claims about the finances of Social Security, and they have created an elaborate budgetary shell game to hide the true costs of President Bush's 205 Social Security privatization proposal: a $2 trillion hole that would have to be financed by saddling younger generations with more debt, increased payroll taxes, and decreased benefits to current retirees. (In 2005, I sponsored a series of forums in New Jersey that examined the President's proposal in detail, alternatives for restoring the system's long-term solvency, and testimonials from individuals and organizations about the value of Social Security. To review those materials, click here.)
Though you would not know it from all the hyperbole in the current debate, Social Security is in pretty good shape. According to the two independent trustees overseeing the Social Security and Medicare programs, without any changes at all, the Social Security program can pay all benefits through at least 2041. The current system could be made financially sound for the indefinite future with adjustments in the tax code far more modest than those enacted in 1983. Those adjustments could be selected from a list of possibilities affecting the income to Social Security or its outlays. I also believe that because Social Security goes to almost everyone, it helps to create an important sense of national community. Social Security helps to tie this country together. We must not forget that as we consider a you-are-on-your-own system of riskier investments. I will work hard to strengthen Social Security's long-term finances so that it continues to provide a reliable, guaranteed base of retirement, disability and survivor's income.