Don't Get Duped Out of Your Social Security
by Holly Sklar
March 11, 2004

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George W. Bush won't need Social Security for retirement. He's a millionaire many times over.

Taxpayers will pad Bush's retirement with a large presidential pension. Former presidents receive $175,700 this year plus office, travel, medical and other benefits.

Social Security isn't broke, but millions of retirees who depend on it are, and many more would be broke without it.

The average retired worker's Social Security benefit is just $922 a month--about $11,000 a year. Disabled workers average just $862.

One out of three seniors depends on Social Security for 90 to 100 percent of their income. Two out of three seniors depend on it for more than half their income. Even with Social Security, many seniors find themselves choosing between eating and heating, paying the mortgage or paying for medicine.

With Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's help, the Bush administration would rob retirees to pay for tax cuts for the rich.

Greenspan recently urged Congress to reduce Social Security benefits and raise the retirement age (now 65 to 67 depending on birth year) rather than roll back the tax cuts, which are the main cause of growing budget deficits. While Greenspan turned 78 on March 6, the life expectancy of white males born in 2000 is just 74.9 years. For black males, it's just 68.6 years. For all American men, life expectancy at birth was 61.6 years in 1940, 65.5 in 1950 and 66.8 in 1960.

Keep those life expectancies in mind when you hear calls to raise the retirement age to 70 or higher. And keep in mind the workers in physically debilitating jobs, the growing numbers of workers without health insurance or pensions, and high unemployment and underemployment rates in today's workforce.

Since 1983, the government has collected much more from Social Security taxes than it pays out in benefits in order to build up a surplus for the baby boom retirement.

Contrary to common belief, Social Security benefit payments will not begin to exceed Social Security tax revenue until at least 2018. Trustee projections show that the Social Security trust funds, now about $1.5 trillion, will keep Social Security fully financed until the year 2042--nearly four decades from now. That's using pessimistic economic assumptions. The Social Security outlook has improved over time as reality has beaten past projections.

Most Americans pay more in payroll taxes than income taxes. The Social Security payroll tax takes a bigger share out of low- and middle-income paychecks than high-income ones because earnings above $87,900 are exempt.

Removing this cap would erase most of Social Security's projected future revenue shortfall.

The cost of the tax cuts enacted in 2001-2003 is nearly three times greater than Social Security's projected deficit for the next 75 years. That's according to unpublished new estimates from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which also show that the cost of the tax cuts is larger than the combined projected deficits in Social Security and Medicare.

It's obscene to consider cutting Social Security benefits while giving tax breaks to the rich. The average 2004 tax cut for the richest 1 percent--$59,292--is more than five times greater than the average retired worker's Social Security benefit.

Imagine that your town's wealthiest family throws a lavish party costing many times more than your annual income. You're not invited, but you get the bill. Worse, they plan to throw increasingly lavish parties every year and want you to shortchange your family, cash in your savings and postpone retirement to pay for them. You'd be outraged.

Between 2001 and 2010, tax cuts for the richest 5 percent of Americans will cost $1.7 trillion, reports Citizens for Tax Justice. That's more than the Social Security trust fund assets.

Social Security is popular and politicians who want to kill it can't say that. Instead, they manufacture a "crisis" and offer to fix it with cuts and privatization--a cash cow for Wall Street.

They want you so scared Social Security won’t be there in the future, you'll let them make that a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Don't get duped. Roll back tax cuts for the rich to reduce the budget deficits, not Social Security.

Holly Sklar is coauthor of Raise the Floor: Wages and Policies That Work for All Of Us (www.raisethefloor.org). For reprint permission and other correspondence, contact: hsklar@aol.com. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service © Copyright 2004 Holly Sklar.

Other Articles by Holly Sklar

* Bush's Budgets Make us the Irresponsible Generation
* An Urgent Apollo Project Here on Earth 
* Two Americas Ring in the New Year
* Deadly Tunnel Vision in Iraq
Raw Deal for Workers on Minimum Wage Anniversary

* CEO Pay Still Outrageous

* Working-Class Soldiers, Upper-Class Tax Cuts

* Racial Gaps Still Wide This King Holiday







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