As a grandfather of two, with one more grandchild on the way, I appreciate what a wonderful gift it is when grandparents can spend more time with their grandchildren by living longer and healthier lives – which happened, in part, because we, as a nation, invested in Social Security.
Today, almost 63 million Americans receive Social Security benefits. And in Ohio, that number is nearly two million. Yet, just as we as grandparents are there for our families, we need to make sure that Social Security is there both now and for future generations. In fact, preserving and expanding social security is a moral issue.
Here’s why this is a moral issue. For nearly two-thirds of seniors, Social Security provides more than half of their cash income. For more than one-third of seniors, Social Security provides more than 90 percent of their income. And for one-quarter of seniors, Social Security is the sole source of income. Think of that. After working hard all their lives, one out of four seniors would be destitute, having no income, without Social Security.
Unsurprisingly, Social Security helps to lift approximately 600,000 Ohioans out of poverty. In fact, if we didn’t have Social Security, Ohio’s poverty rate for seniors over age 65 would be 48 percent. Because of Social Security, Ohio’s poverty rate for this group of seniors is 8 percent. The result is that seniors are able to live happier and healthier lives providing them with the time and opportunity to spend more time with their families.
Yet, Social Security is under attack by those who wrongly think it adds to the federal deficit and want to cuts benefits under the false premise of deficit reduction.
Even though Social Security is operating at a surplus and is funded separately from the rest of the government, these are the same politicians who want to give extra tax cuts to the wealthiest two percent of Americans and tax breaks for big corporations while using every budget impasse as an opportunity to “reform entitlements.”
What this reform entails is always the same: cutting Americans’ hard-earned, Social Security benefits. Naysayers say that the program is unsustainable. But I don’t hear the same thing about the Department of Defense or tax loopholes for hedge fund managers.
Here’s a general rule of thumb. When people tell you that they want to “save” Social Security by cutting the benefits of the people that have paid into the program, it’s a pretty good indicator of their intentions.
What they don’t tell you is that we can not only strengthen Social Security, but also extend its life, by making sure that middle-class Americans and wealthy Americans pay into social security at the same rate.
That’s why I’m co-sponsoring the Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013. This legislation would do a number of things to improve Social Security and ensure its solvency.
First, it would change the Social Security benefit formula so that all beneficiaries will get an extra $60-70 a month. Too many seniors have to pick and choose which bills they can afford to pay each month. This extra money would help make sure they don’t have to choose between paying the heating bill or rent.
Second, it provides a cost-of-living adjustment or COLA that actually reflects the rising costs seniors face. The current formula used to calculate COLAs for Social Security recipients actually measures the costs of younger, employed individuals—and simply does not reflect a retiree’s true expenses, which can include high prescription drug bills.
Finally, this legislation would ask the wealthiest Americans to contribute to Social Security the same percentage that working- and middle-class Americans do. This will extend Social Security’s surplus an additional 16 years, from 2033 through 2049.
For millions of seniors, Social Security has meant food on the table and a roof over their head. And for our nation, Social Security has meant a lower poverty rate. Because of Social Security, more seniors are able to enjoy life and spend time with the families. That’s why I’m proud to support this legislation to strengthen and expand Social Security so that it can be there for generations to come.
Sherrod Brown is a United States Senator from Ohio.