Social Security is on the Ballot

Social Security works for all Americans. Social Security is essential to most people’s present and future financial security. It is much more than retirement income for old folks. Social Security is very efficient with overhead costs which are way below those of private insurance companies. It is also very popular and the most successful public program in our history.

So why are Republican politicians constantly trying to mess around with Social Security? Even more inexplicable, why do so many people, who benefit from Social Security, continue to vote for Republicans?

Social Security is on the ballot in November and, if Republicans win control, it will be on the chopping block. For decades Republicans have hyped the fear of Social Security going “bankrupt.” They have spread lies about it causing budget deficits and the national debt. They have advocated turning it into individual retirement accounts which would be a financial mistake for most people. This would be a money-making bonanza for Wall Street and the financial services industry, but it would hurt most people.

Social Security was created to solve a problem that wasn’t being met by the “free markets.” Before Social Security at least 50% of seniors lived in poverty. Today only 9% do. Before Social Security an accident at work, or loss of a male breadwinner, left many families, widows and orphans in poverty. When life happened, it was just your individual tough luck.

Today we all have an insurance program – called Social Security – that protects everyone when they get too old to work, become disabled, or suffer the premature loss of a spouse or parent. Social Security is life insurance, and you don’t have to die to receive benefits. Instead, you get paid to live.

Social Security is public, non-profit insurance with the federal government acting as the insurance company. Like private insurance you pay “premiums (payroll taxes) and you get help later when you need it. Social Security operates with much lower overhead costs (about 2%) than for-profit insurance (typically 10-30%). And Social Security is always there. You can’t out-live the benefits. For 89 years Social Security has never failed to pay the benefits people had earned and were eligible to receive. You won’t get stiffed when the insurance company denies your claim or goes broke.

Republicans denigrate Social Security as an “entitlement” program. But you (and your employers) have contributed to this insurance your entire working life. So yes, you are “entitled” to receive benefits when the time comes. It is not a handout, welfare or socialism. You have paid for it.

Social Security is more than retirement income for seniors. One in five (20%) of Social Security beneficiaries are disabled or have suffered the premature death of a spouse or parent. Social Security is the country’s largest disability insurance program. Everyone is covered and 8.7 million people are receiving assistance. It is the nation’s largest children’s program. Four million kids receive survivor benefits, and some 6 million more children live in households that receive disability or old ages benefits.

Social Security is the largest anti-poverty program. It lifts 22.5 million Americans, including over 1 million children, out of poverty and reduces the depth of poverty for millions more Without it the poverty rate for seniors would be 38% instead it 9%.

Social Security is especially important for women. Women often earn less, spend more time doing unpaid childcare work and accumulate less in retirement savings or pensions. Social Security helps over 600,000 (21%) Wisconsin women, lifting many of them out of poverty.

In Wisconsin twenty percent (1.3 million) of residents receive income from Social Security. Thirty-two percent of those people are under 65-year-old. One third of households with people over 65 are entirely dependent on Social Security for retirement income (for low-income seniors it is 75%). These people have inadequate company pensions, 401Ks, or significant savings.

Social Security will be more important in the future. Increasing income inequality, stagnating wages, disappearing employer-sponsored traditional pensions, and growing student loan debt are reducing people’s ability to save for the future. Today, 52 percent of working-age households are at risk of being unable to maintain their standards of living in retirement.

Social Security is also important for the overall economy. Social Security income gets spent fueling and stabilizing local economies. In 2022, there were 70.6 million recipients nationwide and the benefits they received pumped $1.5 trillion into the economy. Social Security has a $28 billion dollar impact on Wisconsin’s economy each year.

Contrary to the Republican lies, Social Security is not going bankrupt. The Social Security trust fund currently has a $2.85 trillion surplus. Social Security can pay 100% of its obligations through 2035. Beyond that it is 90% funded for the next 25 years. Ninety seven percent of benefits are paid from payroll contributions and interest on the trust fund. So Social Security can continue paying benefits into the future.

Because our population is aging, wages are stagnating and many younger workers are not earning as much, Social Security does have financial problems. But the major problem is political. For decades Congress has refused to address the real problems.

Social Security does not contribute to the federal budget deficit nor will cutting benefits help reduce the deficit. Social Security was not allowed to borrow money so it cannot contribute to the national debt. Money in the Social Security Trust Fund cannot be used to pay for other expenditures so cutting benefits cannot reduce deficits. Current deficits and debt have been caused by tax cuts (for the wealthy and corporations), tax breaks and loopholes, excessive military spending and COVID related and other business bailouts.

What can you do to protect Social Security? You can share these videos with your friends and family to help counter the Republican lies.

“Social Security a Ponzi Scheme?”

“Strengthen Social Security, Don’t Cut It”

You can contact your elected representatives to demand sensible action. Most importantly, you can vote for candidates that support protecting – not cutting – Social Security.