October 8-14, 2018
By Nan Selz
Executive Council, AARP Arkansas
The future of Social Security
Nearly every American is either paying into the Social Security system or receiving Social Security benefits. In 2016, 673,193 Arkansans were paying into Social Security and 830,219 were receiving benefits. Those numbers represent a cautionary tale about the future of the system.
In its 83-year history, Social Security has helped approximately 250 million Americans. But as America has evolved, Social Security has not. If our leaders don’t act, future generations could face cuts of up to $10,000 a year. Hard-working people who earned their benefits could get slammed with across-the-board cuts of 25 percent.
Why do we need to update Social Security? The average 65-year-old is living seven years longer than in the 1930s. People are having fewer children, so there aren’t as many people paying into Social Security.
More women are working than in years past, so they are collecting more benefits from a system that wasn’t designed with the modern woman in mind. Finally, a growing share of earnings is going to those at the top of the pay scale, despite the fact that a large portion of their earnings is exempt from Social Security’s payroll tax.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt paved the way for the new program during the Great Depression. When funds ran low many years later, President Ronald Reagan worked across party lines to achieve a major overhaul.
A Democrat and a Republican – each understood the need to keep Social Security strong for future generations. Each committed to action and followed through. This should not be about politics as usual. This is about solving a problem. And it’s not going to happen until today’s leaders step up, just as their predecessors did.
AARP is working hard to address this issue. You can encourage your senators and congressman to support legislation to ensure the solvency of the Social Security Trust Fund so that it continues to pay adequate benefits for years to come. The longer our leaders wait, the harder it will be to come up with a good solution.