New Social Security tampering a concern

Pay attention, West Virginians! Watch closely how Congress intends balancing the budget and who will be asked to pay the sacrifice. One-fifth of the U.S. population receives Social Security. Nearly 58 million retirees, disabled workers, spouses and children get Social Security benefits.

When you hear sequestration, the automatic across-the-board cuts to government programs to balance the budget, you should be very wary of how that will be done. The Congressional Budget Office has even proposed cutting all Social Security benefits by 15 percent as one means of balancing the budget and reducing the deficit. Social Security has nothing to do with deficit reduction, because Social Security has not contributed a dime to the deficit because it is independently funded by the payroll tax.

This discussion of balancing the budget and reducing the deficit centers on entitlements. I will have to use that word since it is the one being tossed around these days. I detest that term in relation to Social Security since those on Social Security are not receiving a handout. They worked all their lives, paying dearly from their earned wages to receive it back now.

This discussion on entitlements also seems to focus on reducing your Social Security benefit. One proposal is to use a chained CPI (Consumer Price Index) rather than the usual CPI as your cost-of-living adjustment. This would reduce your Social Security benefit over time since you would no longer be able to keep up with inflation. The COLA or Cost of Living Adjustment intended to help those on a fixed Social Security income keep pace with inflation and price changes on food, housing, and other living expenses would be greatly reduced over time using a chained CPI. Say “no” to that!

Presently, the average Social Security monthly payment is $1,162. In 2010 and 2011 there was no COLA at all for anyone receiving Social Security. In 2014, it is estimated that the COLA will increase the typical monthly payment by about $17. Not much, but for those receiving it, it is not money they can afford to lose. Today, more than 9 percent of older Americans live in poverty. If we reduce Social Security, that number will increase. Before Social Security, 35 percent of seniors lived in poverty.

Despite what you may have been told, Social Security today has a $2.7 trillion surplus and can pay out 100 percent of benefits for the next 21 years. So our job is to make Social Security strong for the next 75 years and future generations without cutting benefits. There are ways to do that by, among other ways, lifting the cap on taxable incomes. And, say no to any thoughts of privatizing Social Security. Can you imagine where the elderly, the disabled, the widows and orphans would be today after the stock market crash of 2008?

Eighty-two percent of older workers say they will likely work after retirement. Older adults are now the fastest-growing segment of the American workforce. While our young people are seeking work, our seniors are competing with them due to their growing financial need.

Tell Congress that Social Security benefits need to increase, not decrease. Removing the income cap on the $113,000 wage for Social Security to be taken from your paycheck is the first step that should be taken to strengthen Social Security. Simply applying the Social Security payroll tax to all income levels would make Social Security solvent for the next 75 years.

Do not tamper with Social Security benefits for the millions of Americans who are already receiving them. These people have no choice but to depend on these promised benefits!

David and Theresa Bruner