Tip O'Neil, the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives during the '80s is thought to have coined the phrase, "Social Security is the third rail of American politics." O'Neil, of course, was referencing the electrified third rail of a train track and relating it to an issue that is so charged that is therefore untouchable by politicians, else they suffer politically. That's how important the Social Security program and policy was to American leaders thirty years ago. But is it today? Is Social Security as well-respected and fought for today by our elected leaders as it was years ago? We're not so sure.
Maybe you've heard - there's an election this year. It's officially "Silly Season." As silly as the political campaigns may seem, the issues at stake are deadly serious. One of them is Social Security.
Social Security is a massively successful program. Since it's inception in 1935 it has provided a “comprehensive package of protection” against the “hazards and vicissitudes of life.” Basically, it's saved millions of older Americans, and those with disabilities, from landing in the poorhouse or the street, a common sight during the 1930s. These are your parents, your grandparents and one day, despite all you may think when you're younger and feeling invincible, you. Yes, it's a slight possibility that you'll make millions and be able to afford all the costs of getting older. But it's much more likely that you'll appreciate the extra financial support that Social Security provides when you're no longer working. Whether you're giving comfort and support to an aging parent or you're in the twilight of your twenties or thirties, Social Security is relevant. Do you have a job? You're paying into it. Hoping to retire and wondering how you'll pay all your bills on a fixed income? You can count on Social Security to help. In fact, hundreds of thousands of Mainers, and millions of Americans, count on it each and every day. But, we need Congress to make a few minor tweaks to update the program for the 21st Century. And soon.
Here's the deal: The Social Security Trust Funds will continue to pay out 100% of expected benefits to retirees until 2034. After 2034, if no changes to the system occur, beneficiaries will begin receiving only 75% of what they are owed. After a lifetime spent paying into the program and supporting their fellow Americans that went before them, I can imagine this news would be infuriating. The good news is that AARP has some solutions. We've pulled policy ideas together from both sides of the aisle to represent multiple perspectives. These 12 different proposals (solutions) would update Social Security for the 21st Century. The bad news is, politics may keep us from actually implementing any of them. Which is why this election year is SO important in escalating the fight for a Social Security program that works for all Americans not just today or tomorrow, but in the years to come.
You might be asking yourself, "Since when is Social Security a top issue to be worried about? Should I be alarmed?" Here's why you should be demanding action from every candidate running for federal office this election season:
- Maine is the oldest state per capita in the country with more than 226,000 residents over the age of 65.
- Social Security was founded to ensure that older Americans had some degree of financial security as they got older and more frail. Currently, 46% of Maine private sector employees (235,000) do not have access to a retirement plan. Add to this the shocking statistic that more than half of older workers between 55 and 64 have NO retirement savings, and suddenly the importance of Social Security is a top financial priority.
- 24% of Maine residents receive Social Security benefits, and more than 60% of them are retirees.
- Social Security remains the ONLY source of income for one in three Mainers over the age of 65 and more than 50% of the income for 2 in 3 Mainers over 65. In essence, Social Security is what keeps tens of thousands of older Mainers from homelessness.
Social Security is keeping a majority of older Mainers financially afloat. The national conversation during this election continues to ignore the issue with little to no mention in either party's debates, and nearly no mention by media when covering election issues.
This is why AARP launched our Take A Stand campaign: To bring attention and focus to the elephant (and donkey?) in the political room, that of Social Security and the overall financial security of older Americans around the country.
Too many Mainers depend on Social Security to get by and we can't continue to kick the can down the road any further.
Regardless of who wins the White House this November, and seats in the U.S. Congress, the number one priority for all elected representatives will be to address the financial security of millions of Americans across this country. How? With a plan to update Social Security for the 21st Century. We hope you can help change the dialogue by joining us in Taking a Stand!