Social Security

Why federal programs matter to rural communities

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Why Federal Programs Matter to Rural Counties

Social Security in Rural Counties

Now that the Republicans have passed their major tax cut bill that mainly benefits the rich and that will, by all projections, balloon the debt by a trillion dollars, there is already talk of using the Federal deficit as an excuse to go after critical domestic programs. [i] Perhaps the most dangerous attack may be on Social Security, a program that has been funded by working Americans since 1935. For years Republicans have floated a number of approaches that would end Social Security as an entitlement for older Americans. [ii]

Working Americans have paid into, and relied on, the Social Security program to guarantee themselves a minimal income once they retire. Over the last several decades, many employers have shifted away from guaranteed pension systems to 401Ks that the employee must choose to self-fund (sometimes with employer help) and that are managed by private investment firms.  Without guaranteed pension systems, many older Americans are finding that Social Security is their only source of income upon retirement. This is clearly true in Ohio where almost one in five Ohioans are receiving Social Security and more than 25% of Ohioans over age 65 rely on Social Security as their ONLY source of income.[iii]

In 7 of the 11 rural counties in Congressional District 15, more than 20% of all residents are receiving Social Security (including retirement, survivor, and disability beneficiaries).

Percentage of the population that received Social Security benefits in 2016

US Social Security Administration, OASDI Beneficiaries by State and County 2016, https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/statcomps/oasdi_sc/2016/oh.html

For years now, Republicans have tried to convince us that Social Security is not sustainable. It is true that, as baby boomers reach retirement age, we will need to make adjustments to the funding of Social Security. Like any major program in operation for decades, and serving an ever changing population, adjustments are needed over time. However, the current group of Republicans in Congress would like us to believe that we need to end Social Security as a guaranteed retirement system. This is not true.

Currently there is a cap on the amount of income that is taxed to fund the Social Security Trust Fund. The cap on income that is subject to the tax basically allows wealthy wage earners to avoid the tax after a set amount of income ($128,400 for 2018). We may need to eliminate the cap on the payroll tax that funds Social Security or at least raise the cap significantly. Making such adjustments is a far fairer approach to maintaining Social Security than the Republican plans to reduce benefits, to raise the age of retirement, or to turn the system into a private investment scheme. [iv]

The idea of privatizing the Social Security system is a particularly troubling proposal[v]. Just imagine if retirees, rather than having a guaranteed monthly income from Social Security, had to face a financial crisis like the one in 2008 with all of their funds locked up in privately managed investments. In 2008 many people lost a significant portion of their invested savings. Unlike younger investors, if a retiree loses much of the money they need to live on, there is no time to make up the loss. If Social Security is privatized, in tough economic times, many older Americans might not have enough income for their basic needs. And this after working, and contributing to their country, all their lives.

People need to speak now with their votes or the attacks on Social Security and other Federal programs will continue. Please become informed before it is too late to save the programs on which so many rural residents of Congressional District 15 rely.

References

[i] Goodkind, Nicole, Newsweek, “Republicans Will Cut Social Security and Medicare After Tax Plan Passes, Says Marco Rubio”, http://www.newsweek.com/tax-plan-social-security-medicare-welfare-republicans-rubio-729133

[ii] Altman, Nancy and Benesch, Linda, The Hill, “The Latest Devious Republican Attack on Social Security”, http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/politics/373490-the-latest-devious-republican-attack-on-social-security

[iii] AARP, Social Security Quick Facts, https://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/econ/ss_facts_08_oh.pdf

[iv] PEW Research, “5 Facts about Social Security”, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/08/18/5-facts-about-social-security/

[v] Richtman, Max, CNBC, “Privatization Is Really a Plan to Dismantle Social Security”, https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/26/privatization-is-really-a-plan-to-dismantle-social-security.html

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