Written by Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy Friday, 26 August 2011 00:00
If you had a good friend who has dutifully been there for you and your family and your neighbors for her entire life, and she was having her 76th birthday, how would you celebrate?
On Aug. 14, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law, creating the safety net that’s helped millions of retired and disabled Americans stay out of poverty and contribute to the economy for several generations now.
It’s a program that relies on the most American of values: you work hard all your life, you pay into the system by setting a little bit of money aside with every paycheck, you retire in your later years and then can rely upon the money you’ve contributed to be there when you most need it.
Unfortunately, some Republicans in Congress are so dedicated to preserving tax breaks for the most profitable corporations and the wealthiest handful of Americans that they are willing to slash Social Security benefits in order to pay for those special interests.
This is no way to celebrate a birthday. Some Republicans in Washington are presenting a false choice, and no one should be fooled. Social Security doesn’t add to the U.S. deficit; attacks on benefits for retirees and the disabled amount to attacks on millions of the most vulnerable and voiceless Americans on behalf of a few of the most privileged and well-connected.
Social Security benefits don’t just keep seniors and the disabled out of poverty; they help the greater economy, too, when they are spent on the essential goods and services that beneficiaries rely on, like food, medicine and housing.
According to the AARP, more than one third of retiree households count on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income. Social Security benefits keep over 36 percent of people age 65 and older out of poverty, including 39 percent of all older women, whose higher average life expectancies and lower average earnings than men make the program even more critical for them.
In today’s weak and struggling economy, we must protect Social Security beneficiaries, and the small amount of money they receive after contributing to the system their whole lives, from attacks by some Republicans in Washington on behalf of the wealthiest few.
I pledge to continue to fight, as I did during the recent debt ceiling debate, to protect the most vulnerable Americans from misguided attacks on their well-being and their ability to contribute to the nation’s economy. The American public should join the fight too, speaking up and telling Congressional leaders to put people before special interests, and protect Social Security beneficiaries so that we can focus on more fair and effective ways to improve the economy.