Social Security is one of America's greatest success stories. For the past 75 years, Social Security has been a critical lifeline for millions of American families. Regardless of the state of the economy or the stock market, Social Security is a steady source of income ensuring that senior citizens will not live their final years in the depths of poverty. Today, approximately 53 million Americans, including over one million Wisconsinites, receive Social Security benefits. I am committed to preserving and protecting this vital American program and oppose all efforts to dismantle or privatize it.
Preserve and Protect:
When American workers retire, they need a dependable income to provide for basic living expenses. Social Security, along with pensions, retirement programs and personal savings, provides that foundation. I strongly oppose efforts to privatize Social Security, which would gambling retirement security in risky investments and result in cuts to benefits and risk of total loss. Unlike other forms of retirement savings, Social Security has no investment risk, is protected against inflation, and provides a guaranteed monthly income.
Efforts to privatize Social Security are especially troubling given recent history. The Enron scandal, the collapse of major investment banks, and the losses experienced by American who invested in the stock market prior to October 2008 demonstrate the importance of protecting Social Security from privatization. While beneficiaries continued to receive full monthly benefits during the financial collapse in 2008, other retirement savings accounts, including 401(k)s and IRAs, lost approximately 32 percent of their value. Seniors and other beneficiaries need a stable safety net that is not subject to private market vulnerabilities.
Cost of Living Adjustment:
Retirees, veterans, and people with disabilities who are no longer collecting paychecks rely heavily on their savings and Social Security to keep up with their living expenses. Unlike private savings and most pensions, Social Security is protected against inflation through a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). The COLA accounts for an entire year of change in the cost of living and is added into the annual benefit. However, the Social Security Act was designed so that when inflation is negative, beneficiaries do not receive a COLA.
I am deeply concerned by the recent announcement from the Social Security Administration that for the second straight year there will be no COLA. Despite the lack of COLA, many Americans continue to face rising expenses, including increasing costs for food, medicine, fuel, and housing. For this reason, I support providing seniors with a one-time payment of $250 in 2011. This would provide critical assistance for more than one million beneficiaries in Wisconsin.
Future of Social Security:
I am committed to ensuring there is adequate funding for Social Security now and into the future. All Americans who have worked hard to contribute to Social Security should receive their fair share when they are eligible. Recent projections by the Social Security Administration estimate that Social Security will be able to pay 100 percent of the promised benefits until at least 2041. Consequently, there is ample time to thoughtfully and thoroughly consider all the options to ensure that Social Security continues to provide for future generations.