The movement to expand Social Security received a monumental boost last week when President Barack Obama said it’s time we made the program “more generous, and increased its benefits so that today's retirees and future generations get the dignified retirement that they've earned.”
A boost to Social Security is greatly needed at a time when the average monthly benefit is about $1,200 for retirees. However, Social Security’s future will be largely determined by the people we elect this fall.
Here are four reasons why our next president and Congress should answer President Obama’s call to expand Social Security:
1. Social Security is the only savings plan most working Americans have for retirement.
Political extremists often talk about cutting Social Security on the campaign trail, but they don’t mention this program will be the primary source of retirement income for millions of working families. Nearly half of all working-age households do not own any retirement account assets, according to the National Institute on Retirement Security. Expanding Social Security would help ensure more Americans have access to modest, reliable income in their elder years.
2. Social Security doesn’t discriminate based on race, gender or sexual orientation (unlike some presidential candidates).
Social Security’s modest benefits and protections are important to every group but they are especially critical for LGBTQI Americans, say researchers at Social Security Works. Despite years of gains, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans still face workplace discrimination, wage gaps and higher rates of poverty due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. For example, gay men earn 10 to 32 percent less than their heterosexual counterparts. Expanding Social Security would not only boost retirement benefits for LGBTQI Americans, it would uphold our country’s most basic values including hard work and equality.
3. Social Security is cool with every generation.
Social Security opponents like to pit Millennials against seniors but truthfully every generation benefits from Social Security. The program is considered to be the nation’s largest and most generous children’s program with more than 3 million children younger than 18 receiving benefits. Social Security will continue to be critical to Millennials as workplace retirement plan coverage continues to dwindle. Expanding Social Security would help ensure that every generation has an opportunity to retire with dignity after a lifetime of hard work and playing by the rules.
4. Social Security has been pretty successful. Why not build on that?
Since its 1935 inception, Social Security has been the single most successful U.S. government program in history; keeping 22 million Americans out of poverty. Imagine how it would be if we strengthened t these essential retirement, disability and survivors’ benefits.
An expansion would help ensure benefits kept pace with the cost of living for today’s retirees. It would provide a caregiver credit for working parents, grandparents and others who have to leave the workforce to care for their loved ones. Wouldn’t it be great if future generations were assured of their ability to retire with dignity after a lifetime of hard work and playing by the rules?
As President Obama said: "We can't afford to weaken Social Security, we should be strengthening Social Security ... and we can start paying for it by asking the wealthiest Americans to contribute a little bit more.”