Elizabeth Warren: Every American Has the Right to Retire with Dignity—Why We Must Expand Social Security

From  Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/elizabeth-warren-its-right-every-american-retire-dignity-why-we-must-expand-social-security

“The national debate about social security is starting in the wrong place.”

By Elizabeth Warren
December 29, 2013

For a generation now, working families have been squeezed by stagnant wages and rising costs for housing, health care, and college. Even as families have cut back on expenses for things like food, clothing, furniture, and appliances, it hasn’t always been enough; many have been forced to take on more and more debt just to pay for necessities.

One major consequence of these increasing pressures on working people is that the dream of a secure retirement is slowly slipping away. Families haven’t been able to save as much as they used to, and only 18 percent of private-sector workers have defined benefit pensions today compared with 35 percent two decades ago. Forty-four million workers have no workplace retirement savings plan.

With less savings and weaker private retirement protection, retirees depend more than ever on the safety and reliability of Social Security. Social Security also protects retirees’ spouses and children, disabled workers, and family members who survive the death of the family’s earner. Whenever I visit senior centers in places like Malden and Medford, I hear from retirees about how much they rely on Social Security benefits to make ends meet. Here in Middlesex County alone, 236,275 people receive Social Security benefits.

Social Security works; no one runs out of benefits and the guaranteed payments don’t rise and fall with the stock market. Two-thirds of seniors rely on it for the majority of their income in retirement, and for 14 million seniors, this is the safety net that keeps them out of poverty. And yet, instead of taking on the retirement crisis, instead of strengthening Social Security, some in Washington are actually fighting to cut benefits.

The most recent discussion about cutting benefits has focused on something called the chained CPI. Supporters of the chained CPI say that it’s a more accurate way of measuring cost of living increases for seniors. That statement is simply not true. Chained CPI falls short of the actual increases in costs that seniors face, pure and simple. Chained CPI is just a fancy way of saying “cut benefits.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has developed a measure of the real impact of inflation on seniors, called the CPI-E. If we adopted CPI-E today, it would generally increase benefits for our retirees, not cut them.

This is just one example of how the national debate about Social Security is starting in the wrong place. The fact is that today, Social Security has a $2.7 trillion surplus. If we do nothing, Social Security will be safe for the next 20 years and even after that will continue to pay most benefits through the end of the century. With some modest adjustments, we can keep the system solvent for many more years, and could even increase benefits.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/elizabeth-warren-its-right-every-american-retire-dignity-why-we-must-expand-social-security

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