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Opinion: Social security is vital for everyone

Rory Gamble

In 2019, more 63 million people in the United States collected Social Security benefits.

That equals more than one in every six residents. Older Americans make up about four out of every five beneficiaries, however another one out of every five Social Security beneficiaries receive Disability Insurance (SSDI) or are often young survivors of deceased workers.

For most Americans, we work all of our lives for a foundation of retirement to enjoy in their older years; people who can no longer work; or children who need support as they begin their lives.

Because of that, Social Security insurance must remain viable, healthy and intact to give everyone a foundation for productive, healthy lives.

For decades, the UAW has advocated for Social Security for all working Americans. We have fought for the end-of-career security earned for our brothers and sisters both at the bargaining table and in the halls of Congress, working to define pension plans, Social Security and long-term lifelines for tens of millions of American seniors. 

For the majority of America's elderly, Social Security provides income that they have worked diligently to secure. For about one in four seniors, it provides at least 90% of income, making it the only thing keeping many seniors out of poverty. Social Security is a self-sustaining program. As it stands, if Congress does nothing, Social Security will be solvent until at least 2037. Modest changes, such as simply raising the cap on wages, affecting only high-income earners making over $132,900, would stabilize the fund for decades after 2037. The program needs common-sense solutions that can ensure that it will be solvent for much longer. 

Those with greater wealth are paying a much lower percentage of their income to Social Security than working class Americans, writes Gamble.

Changes can be made to make that happen. Right now, anything over $132,900 is not taxed for Social Security. Those who have greater wealth are paying a much lower percentage of their income to Social Security than working class Americans. 

The current administration promised to oppose cuts to Social Security but over the last three budget cycles has instead called for deep cuts to the system, and the retirement benefits of public sector employees have been a recurring target for the right wing. 

In addition, conservatives in Congress have greatly weakened regulations put in place by the Obama administration to ensure financial advisers — especially those in private sector managing employee paid 401(k)s and pensions — work for their clients’ best interest, rather than their own. 

There are many challenges facing Social Security. Many current proposals to make it secure are the wrong answer, such as:

►Cutting benefits and raising the retirement age 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 would place retirement at the mercy of market swings and Wall Street bankers.

Most Americans do not have enough saved up for retirement, and almost one-third have nothing saved. It’s a good thing Social Security provides the foundation for their retirement income.

At the UAW we believe Americans should oppose any efforts to reduce and/or eliminate Social Security. 

We must let our elected officials know that we oppose proposals to reduce Social Security benefits for future retirees. Whether by letter or phone or in the voting booth, let your own voice be heard.

Social Security secures a foundation for all Americans. All of us need to make sure it is protected for decades to come.

Rory Gamble is the acting president of the UAW.

Labor Voices

Labor Voices columns are written on a rotating basis by United Auto Workers Acting President Rory Gamble, Teamsters President James Hoffa, Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber and Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart.