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Social Security: The Cornerstone of Our Societal Safety Net




Social Security Protects Americans of All Ages Against a Variety of Risks that Can Befall Anyone

The Social Security program provides most American workers and their families with a basic level of income during retirement, disability, and early death. Privatization will not "save" Social Security but will do just the opposite -- it will erode a program that is a vital part of our societal fabric. Privatization is in no one's interest.

All Public School Employees Would Be Adversely Affected by Privatization of Social Security, Even if They Work in a Job Not Covered by Social Security

That's because they may be eligible for benefits from working at other jobs where they paid Social Security taxes, or on their spouse's record. Also, their family members, friends, students, and communities are safe-guarded by the Social Security safety net.

The determination to privatize Social Security stems from ideological reasons and is part of a broader effort to eliminate guaranteed benefits. If Social Security is changed to include privatized accounts, we should expect more efforts to convert public employees' defined benefit pension plans to defined contribution plans and reduce benefits for retirees to follow. Guaranteed Social Security benefits can and must be saved.

Social Security Is the Major Source of Income for the Majority of Retirees over 65

Although Social Security benefits benefits are modest, they account for a large portion of income for many elderly households. The Social Security Administration found that Social Security provided more than half of the total income for almost two-thirds of households comprised exclusively of those aged 65 and older and provided at least 90 percent of income for a third of this group. (Social Security Administration. 2004. Annual Statistical Supplement to the Social Security Bulletin. Washington, D.C.) Furthermore, Social Security is a guaranteed and lifetime benefit. Retirees do not have to worry about outliving their savings.

Working People and Their Families Are Insured in Case Workers Become Disabled

Social Security provides insurance to working Americans in case they become disabled and can no longer work. In 2002, Social Security paid an average monthly disability benefit of $834 to 5.5 million beneficiaries. (Social Security Administration. 2004. Annual Statistical Supplement to the Social Security Bulletin. Washington, D.C.) Private individual accounts would provide nothing in the way of disability benefits.

Social Security Offers Life-Insurance-Type Benefits to Dependents

The loss of the family wage earner can be devastating, both emotionally and financially. Social Security helps by providing income for the families of workers who die. In fact, 98 of every 100 children could get benefits if a working parent dies. Social Security now pays monthly survivor benefits to over 7 million Americans, including almost 2 million children. (Social Security Administration. 2004. Annual Statistical Supplement to the Social Security Bulletin. Washington, D.C.)

Public Employees Should Not Be Unfairly Penalized

Unlike employees in the private sector, state and local government employees are not universally covered by Social Security. Individual governmental employers have the option of electing Social Security coverage for their employees if they are already covered by a state or local government retirement system. NEA has 1.1 million members who are not covered by Social Security and who face penalties for their public service. NEA supports repeal of the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), which unfairly penalize some public employees by cutting or taking away completely Social Security benefits they or their spouse earned. But now we find that instead of making Social Security fairer and more secure, the President has determined to dismantle it by privatizing it.

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