Social Security and Medicare are not just the cornerstones of the social safety net. They are promises that must be kept. That means Congress must ensure the Social Security and Medicare systems are there for the people who need them.
Here are some important facts about Social Security:
The average amount paid out to beneficiaries is less than $13,000 per year.
For 26 straight years, the amount of money paid into the system every year was greater than the amount of money paid out. That reversed in 2010, due in part to the recession and the number of baby boomers who retired last year.
Social Security is not in immediate danger of financial disaster. However, most experts agree that the Social Security Trust Fund needs to be stabilized long before 2037, when many experts believe there will be a crisis if nothing is done.
We need to take steps soon to improve the long-term health of Social Security. We need to seriously evaluate whether we should raise the payroll tax on high-income earners (currently, the tax is paid only on the first $106,800 a taxpayer earns in a year. Those who make more than that pay no Social Security tax on their additional earnings), adjust the formula for cost-of-living increases in benefits, and increase benefits for low-income retirees. Raising the age for eligibility to receive benefits does not make sense right now, and I oppose efforts to privatize Social Security and slash benefits.
In this tough economic climate, keeping our promises to our seniors is a top priority. We simply cannot balance the budget on the backs of those who rely on Social Security and Medicare to make ends meet.
We can start to bolster Social Security in the short term by spending less in Afghanistan and Iraq.