Guest editorial…Social Security has no role in the deficit

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Putting Social Security on the table in debt ceiling negotiations is perhaps the most serious mistake President Obama has made since taking office.

First, Social Security hasn’t contributed one dime to the federal deficit. In fact, the U.S. Treasury owes the Social Security Trust Fund $2.6 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. So the deficit would actually be much higher if the treasury hadn’t been dipping into Social Security.

Second, Social Security is fully funded to 2037, and minor adjustments—say, for instance, removing the cap that allows taxpayers to pay 6.2 percent of their incomes up to $107,000 annually into the trust fund—would make it fully funded into the 22nd century.

Third, and most important, if the Cost of Living Allowance for Social Security payments is put on a chained Consumer Price Index instead of the straight CPI presently calculated monthly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics—as some are proposing in these debt talks—the elderly will be hit hard, and among them unmarried Black women will be hit the hardest.

Chained CPI presumes seniors will trade down to cheaper goods as costs rise, meaning the amount of a retiree’s monthly Social Security check will get smaller as the retiree gets older. That will throw retired Black women into poverty in bunches.

Social Security Administration data show that almost half—45.6 percent—of unmarried African-American women over 65 rely on Social Security for all of their incomes and 54.1 percent rely on it for 90 percent or more of their incomes.

Obama said his proposed cuts on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security would be done in a way “that does not increase poverty”.

Switching to chained CPI will definitely raise poverty levels.

According to the National Women’s Law Center, under chained CPI a 65-year-old Black woman receiving $10,600 a year from Social Security in 2011 would get nearly $1,000 a year less if she happens to live until age 95.

That is immoral. And, Mr. President, it will increase poverty.

The Republicans have been trying to get their hands on Social Security for decades so they can hand it over to Wall Street, and now we have a situation where they may not get it, but there’ll be less there to be gotten.

A person works for over 40 years, paying 6.2 percent of his or her salary for Social Security and 1.45 percent for Medicare in order to live with a modicum of independence and dignity in the golden years, and now politicians want to change the rules.

This foolishness must be stopped. Medicare does need some fixing, but Social Security should be taken off the table immediately.

If not, it is likely Big Mama will be shopping for cheaper cat food as she gets older, and she doesn’t own a cat.

(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune.)

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