How We Can Have Real Social Security
(Posted 5-20-2015 - edited 7-11-2015)
The Need and The Problems
The Social Security Retirement Insurance Program was created as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. It is actually, or was intended to be, a Social Security Retirement Insurance Program, for which working citizens pay monthly premiums through their employer's payroll system. In other words, it is not an "entitlement" program. It is a pubic non-profit retirement insurance program for which citizens pay. The problem is, the program has been in jeopardy since it was established because private profit-making insurance companies want your business, and they have been working hard for many decades to destroy public Social Security.
Therefore, this is about the need for an adequate, non-profit public retirement insurance program, which Social Security and Medicare can and should be, and it is therefore also about the many reasons why America does not yet have such a program.
What America has is a Social Security insurance program that was established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal in the 1930s and was intended to be an adequate and ample safety net for the working poor population who were (and still are) unable to save much money because their low incomes were not sufficient enough to afford even all the normal, basic necessities of life. Social Security provided a safety net that was ample in those days to be able to at least afford the very basic necessities, so that poor old retired people did not have to go hungry or be homeless.
Today, however, poor old retired people do go hungry can't afford medicine, and some become homeless or live with relatives if they can. Why? Because the Social Security program has been under attack ever since by right-wing forces of greed and self-interest. Private profit-making commercial insurance companies and their political operatives have been waging a war against President Roosevelt's New Deal and Social Security during the last 60 years and particularly during the last 30 years, they have rendered Social Security even less than a safety net, and a program in jeopardy because of deceptive propaganda against it.
In fact, commercial media and private profit-making companies have spent a lot of money for television ads to convince Americans that we must have a private retirement account; that we must invest our money in banks, private financial companies, money management companies, and in their many profit-making programs like IRAs. But most if not all such private programs are based on your gambling and ultimately making the wealthiest few even richer.
They mislead you. In spite of the greed and corruption of the private profiteers and their self-serving propaganda, the truth is that America should have an adequate, fair, reasonable, non-profit public Social Security Retirement Insurance Program that would provide adequate income to retirees who need it.
We can and should pay reasonable premiums for it in our Social Security taxes, and that, along with reasonable allotment from our government to ensure that it would actually use the common wealth for the common good and promote the general welfare of the states (as the Constitution requires), would provide every retiree a fair and adequate retirement income.
But, we must fight for that, and we must expose the greed and corruption of the forces of greed and self-interest who are once again trying to pull the wool over the eyes of Americans, misleading us to think that we need to play their self-serving, rigged financial gambling games.
How Did It Get This Way?
While many right-wing American politicians love to tout America as the most exceptional and richest country on earth, the fact is that American has the highest child poverty rate of any industrialized country, and about half of American workers are underpaid and face a crisis when they retire.
While there are several reasons for that, one of the biggest ones is that due to the right-wing corporate political climate that has been increasingly detrimental to workers during the last three and a half decades, most of the organized labor movement has been stopped and forced to retreat, and employers have been able to sharply reduce worker benefits and avoid providing retirees any retirement pensions.
Another big reason is that the incomes of tens of millions of working poor and lower middle class workers are not enough for them to afford all the things necessary to enjoy even an average American standard of living. So, because they barely scrape by, living paycheck to paycheck and even going into debt in order to afford the increasing costs of basic living necessities and increasing health care costs, they are not able to afford to put much into savings or into a private retirement account.
Consequently, nearly or about half the labor force in America who retire face the prospect of having to live on their Social Security retirement insurance payments, which are not sufficient to maintain even the low standard of living they were accustomed to.
In fact, all these people are forced to give up many things that more fortunate people take for granted. Their life style deteriorates and becomes worse than it was, and many of them are forced to live with meager incomes that are below the federal poverty line. Moreover, they are forced to make sacrifices that are harmful to their well being, health, and mental health.
Today, about one third of senior citizens in America rely on Social Security for about ninety percent of their income, while two thirds of seniors receive more than half of their income from Social Security. Without it, the poverty rate of seniors in America would be much higher than it already is, which is now about ten percent according to federal government statistics.
However, regarding the federal poverty line and federal government statistics, you should know that federal figures are notoriously outdated, unrealistic, and even skewed to make things look better than they are. That is why most state governments across America consider that individuals and families need an income about twice the federal poverty level just to afford the basic necessities of life.
What that means is that many more disabled and elderly Americans live in poverty than federal government figures indicate.
Those are the facts of the matter. But politicians, corporations and the corporate commercial media lead Americans to believe otherwise.
They lead you to believe that corporations are struggling to make good on their pension promises, but they just “can’t afford it.” They also lead you to believe that you must establish an individual private retirement account for yourself and pay into it each month. And they also imply (if not blatantly claim) that you must do so because Social Security won't be there for you in retirement.
However, you should not believe them, because none of that is true. It is carefully crafted, self-serving propaganda designed to destroy Social Security by wiping it out or privatizing it, and that propaganda is also designed to be highly beneficial to profit-making wealth management companies, banks, financial institutions and others that want to profit from the use of your money, make you pay for their services, and make promises to you that they may not keep.
The truth is this:
1) Large corporations are richer and more profitable than ever before, and can well afford to pay for decent retirement pensions for their workers;
2) The Social Security retirement insurance program can be reformed and greatly improved to make it what it should be; and
3) A good, well managed, well regulated public, non-profit Social Security retirement insurance program is (or would be) far more beneficial to the people and to the country than any retirement programs offered by private, profiteering companies run by executives who become Multi-Millionaires and Billionaires by profiting enormously from making use of your money.
How To Fix the Social Security Insurance Program So It Actually Provides Social Security
We can improve the Social Security retirement insurance program, and we can do that in several ways. And the first thing we need to do is reverse the perception that Reaganism has created of Social Security, because it is a false perception. The truth is that Social Security is actually a public retirement insurance program and all workers pay premiums every month all their working lives. Thus they should receive a decent retirement income that they can actually live on when they retire, so that they may live comfortably in their retirement.
Unfortunately, the false perception is that Social Security is a government handout, as if it was not earned, and that false perception causes right-wing politicians, pundits and corporations to lay guilt on workers and accuse them of "failing" to save enough money in private accounts for their retirement.
That false perception of Social Security has deceived and misled Americans, and that false perception was created by Reaganites — (and the term Reaganites would include not only Libertarians and Republicans, but Corporate Democrats as well, because they too serve the interests of the wealthiest few to our detriment).
So, we need to change that perception. That’s a first step.
To actually reform and improve Social Security, we can eliminate the cap on income subject to Social Security taxes, and we need to require Billionaires and Millionaires to pay their fair share into the system.
We need to do that because, as it is, the Social Security payroll tax is capped for any income over $118,500 (as of 2015), which means that Multi-Millionaires and Billionaires pay the same Social Security payroll tax as someone earning $118,500. But that is simply absurd because the wealthiest few can certain afford their fair share into the program, according to their ability to pay.
Moreover, we need to do much more than simply eliminate the cap on income subject to Social Security taxes and require the rich to pay their fair share in Social Security taxes.
We also need to view and regard Social Security insurance like other insurance programs. For example, we all pay automobile insurance, and many of us make use of that coverage when we need it. However, some people do not need to make any insurance claims and don't need to collect anything from the insurance company. Therefore, even though they paid regular premiums to be insured, they don't really need to collect any insurance benefits.
We could change Social Security insurance to make it more like that. We could make it so that if a person does not need to receive Social Security payments in retirement because they are very wealthy, that person would not be able to collect anything from the Social Security fund, and we could establish a means test to determine the guidelines. After all, Multi-Millionaires and Billionaires certainly do not need to collect. They already have more than enough money, and they certainly don’t need to collect anything from Social Security.
If Americans insist that we do those things (and establish other workable reforms that others may suggest), the Social Security insurance program would be what it should be, and no one who worked all their life would have to suffer in poverty during their retirement years. They would be comforted by receiving an income that would allow them to keep their dignity and well being.
Moreover, if we did the same thing with Medicare, it would provide sufficient health care insurance coverage for all elderly people who need it so that no one would go deep into debt because of health care costs (as they do now), and every elderly person would be able to enjoy quality health care without fear of financial problems.
Now, of course, the greediest of the wealthiest few will probably cry foul and claim that this type of reform would be unfair to them. As they usually do, they would probably claim that it is simply a plan to “take money from my pocket and give it to someone who doesn’t deserve it.”
However, that is a misleading, self-serving, miserly attitude, and we should let anyone get away with saying that. We should tell them frankly and bluntly. After all, anyone who would say that, or think that, needs to realize that we are all members of one human family; that we need to care about and care for each other; and that we need to treat others as we would want to be treated if we were them. That is not only the Golden Rule. It is the Universal Divine Imperative.
It's time for the truth to prevail, because the truth liberates, empowers and benefits the great and vast majority, and in fact all humanity, even though the forces of greed and self-interest will initially claim it is a lie.