Ammo: Social Security Needs Fixing, but is Far From Insolvent


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What is Ammo?

Ammo — More than Words — Facts!

Your Tool to Discuss the Issues with Co-Workers, Family, Friends

Back in the day, before electronic communication changed the world, UAW members normally found out about issues that affect working people by word of mouth in their plants and reading the newspaper.

To help them, they also had a little pamphlet the International distributed to local unions called Ammo, which was circulated on the plant or workshop floor by union activists. Ammo’s purpose was to offer facts on issues critical to working people in a nonpartisan way. Ammo generally examined issues like retirement security, health care, trade, jobs, taxes, labor rights and others to help members determine which elected officials and candidates had their back — and which ones did not.

More importantly, Ammo was a learning tool designed to educate members about the finer points of policy in an easily digestible format. It was in part designed to combat the mountains of misinformation put out by conservative groups that seek to destroy the labor movement and put the interests of the wealthy above those of the average American worker.

Ammo went away for a time, but is now coming back. True to the technological revolution, it won’t be in print form. Rather, it will soon come to you via electronic means.

Here are just a few of the topics in front of Congress that we’ll be discussing in the coming months: health care, retirement security, trade, jobs, taxes, labor/workers.

You’ve heard it from right-wing conservatives in Congress who ultimately want to dismantle Social Security, the federal retirement income program that 171 million Americans pay into all through their working lives. Their argument goes like this:

“Social Security is in real trouble. Unless we drastically cut benefits and raise the retirement age, the program will be insolvent by (pick a year).”

But is Social Security in that much distress? The experts at the Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA) and the American Association of Retired People (AARP), and industry experts say it just ain’t so.

Organizations working for retirees understand the challenges facing Social Security. As it stands, if Congress does nothing, Social Security will be solvent until at least 2037. Modest changes, such as raising the cap on wages subject to the Social Security tax — capped at $127,200 for 2017 — would stabilize the fund for decades after 2037.

However, proposals offered by the right wing would make the program less stable, not more. Cutting benefits and raising retirement age is the wrong answer as it would force many seniors into poverty, unable to pay for food and other necessities. Turning Social Security into risky private investment accounts such as 401(k)s that will be at the mercy of market swings and Wall Street bankers won’t provide older Americans with the kind of retirement security they need when they hit their golden years. Consider what happened to private individual investment accounts during the Great Recession: Millions of Americans still haven’t recovered what they lost. Most Americans do not have enough saved up for retirement, and almost one third have nothing saved at all. It’s a good thing Social Security provides the foundation for their retirement income.

During the 2016 presidential election, candidate Donald Trump repeatedly promised to veto any legislation that cuts Social Security. Unfortunately, the people President Trump picked to run the Department of Health and Human Services (former Congressman Tom Price) and the Office of Management and Budget (former Congressman Mick Mulvaney), don’t feel that way.

“Both nominees have made statements about the need to ‘reform’ Medicare and Social Security, including supporting or proposing privatization and raising the retirement age,” Richard Fiesta, executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans told Congress during their confirmation hearings in March. “These are in direct conflict with President Trump’s repeated promises not to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.”

We need to oppose any efforts to reduce and/or eliminate Social Security. Reform of Social Security starts with a reaffirmation to the core values of the program: to provide a means of support for retirement-age Americans and the disabled who need it.

We need President Trump to keep his promise to America’s senior citizens and the disabled.

Facts About Social Security

Nearly 171 million workers contribute to Social Security through payroll taxes.

Nearly 61 million people receive monthly Social Security benefits:
  • 44.2 million receive retirement benefits
  • 6.0 million receive survivors’ benefits
  • 10.6 million receive disability benefits
Average 2017 Monthly Social Security Benefit:
  • A retired worker: $1,360
  • A retired couple: $2,260
  • Disabled worker: $1,171
  • Disabled worker with spouse and child: $1,996
  • Widow or widower: $1,300
  • Young widow or widower with two children: $2,695
  • Maximum Monthly Social Security Benefit: $2,687 (for worker retir-ing at Full Retirement Age).
  • Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for 2017: 0.3%
2017 Social Security & Medicare Contribution Amounts

Social Security: 6.2% for both workers and employers. This contribution is paid on earnings up to $127,200.

2017 Social Security Eligibility

Full Retirement Age: 66 (Slowly rises to 67 beginning in 2017. The retirement age will be fixed at age 67 for those reaching age 62 after 2022.

Early Retirement Age: 62 (Taking early retirement can reduce Social Security benefits up to 30 percent.)

Sources: Alliance for Retired Americans and the American Association of Retired Persons

Feature image, “saving and retirement” at top by 401(K) 2012, via Creative Commons Share-a-Like 2.0

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