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Damaging Social Security

Location: Washington, DC

DAMAGING SOCIAL SECURITY -- (House of Representatives - February 01, 2005)

Ms. WATERS. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. Maloney) and the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Pallone) and the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Woolsey) for organizing this Special Order. This is very important. I am here tonight, but I intend to make many, many speeches over the next few weeks about this important issue.

Social Security is a vital program which provides an important safety net for our seniors. Nearly 30 million seniors receive a benefit under the program, and Social Security is essential for keeping millions out of poverty. Social Security is also vitally important to millions of Americans who depend on Social Security survivor and disability benefits.

When we include these individuals, the total number of people who depend on Social Security in order to live at a decent standard climbs to nearly 48 million Americans. If we privatize Social Security, as the President suggests, millions of individuals will be thrown into poverty. We simply cannot let this happen. We must strengthen Social Security, not gamble with it, not destroy it. Privatization is simply rolling the dice, gambling with a program that has proven to be consistently solid, that we can depend on.

In my home State of California, without Social Security, 49 percent of elderly women would be poor. Privatization would do nothing to decrease the number of Californians in poverty. In fact, the number of California women living in poverty would increase if we were to privatize Social Security.

Under current law, the typical recipient of a Social Security widow's benefit in California receives $892 per month. According to the Congressional Budget Office, under plan 2, this is a plan, one of the President's plans, under plan 2 of the President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security, today's kindergartners are projected to receive 45 percent less than they were promised under current law, even when the proceeds from their private accounts are included in the total. Therefore, if plan 2, the President's plan, were put into law, the typical California widow would receive only $490 a month, a dramatic cut in benefits that would force many into poverty.

Mr. Speaker, the administration argues that privatizing Social Security would be good for African Americans and other minorities because we have a shorter life span than white Americans. I am really insulted by this administration playing the race card on Social Security. I think they should stop doing it. Not only is it insulting, it is just not true. To quote White House press secretary Scott McClellan, privatization ``will enable us to be able to pass on those savings to our heirs if they happen to pass away early. African American males have a shorter life span than other sectors of America.''

What I dislike about this race card that the President and his representatives are playing with African Americans is this: They have to factor in that the health disparities that we are confronted with are going to continue. As a matter of fact, not only do they factor it in, they plan on it continuing. We are after the President and this administration to help us do away with health disparities, not to accept them and to factor them into their planning in ways that say to us oh, we know you are going to die early, we will factor this in, we will privatize Social Security and you can save some money and you can pass it on to your heirs. I wish they would stop it and stop it now because we are not going to stand for it.

Again, while it is true that African Americans have a shorter life span, it is because of health disparities which cause many young blacks to die early. Privatization will do nothing to help African Americans live longer or better lives than we do under the current system.

The Social Security Administration's actuaries, as well as studies conducted by AARP, clearly show that African Americans, minorities, and other low-wage earners do much better under the Social Security system than they would under other retirement plans because of the progressive structure of Social Security. Social Security is structured so that the lowest-income earners, which are often African Americans, receive the highest retirement benefits.

If we take away this aspect of Social Security, millions of African Americans would slip into poverty. If the President is really concerned about the black community and ensuring that we receive full retirement benefits, I would urge him to join with me and others in working to eliminate these health disparities that cause so many African Americans to die prematurely.

Mr. Speaker, this is the debate we should be having, not how to privatize Social Security.

Mr. Speaker, the President consistently tells the American people that Social Security is in a crisis and that the system is going to be bankrupt in 50 years, but these statements are just plain wrong. We can strengthen Social Security so it can meet its obligations, but we can strengthen it through simple and modest changes.

Mr. Speaker, privatization will not strengthen it. It will only break it. We should not expect our parents and grandparents to gamble their retirement savings on the whims of the stock market.

I urge my colleagues to oppose any effort to privatize Social Security.

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