Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Could You Live on Social Security?

The following blog was written by Kate White, Executive Director, Elder Law of Michigan

As the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform turns its attention to Social Security, it is vital that Washington doesn’t attempt to impose “responsibility and reform” on the backs of low income families. Social Security is the cornerstone of the safety net in the United States, providing a small income for people with disabilities, children, and older adults. Cuts to Social Security benefits would be disastrous to the people who count on them for housing and food and will dramatically impact local business owners who are paid through Social Security payments. As states and non-profits reduce and eliminate services to all tax payers, low income and middle class Americans stand the most to lose if Social Security benefits are cut. The promise and peril of our society is that the majority of citizens are just a few large unanticipated expenses away from being impoverished.

Social Security is not responsible for the federal budget deficit. In effective tax policy (and failure to settle the federal estate tax), corporate welfare, pork barrel spending, and unaccountable defense expenditures top the list of reasons we face a growing deficit. Before we look to trim spending from citizens’ pockets, Washington needs to walk a mile in the shoes of people who live on only a Social Security check. Like the Congressional Food Stamp Challenge , policy makers should try to live in their districts for a month on only their estimated Social Security payment (if they suddenly had to rely only on Social Security and couldn’t work). Even doing a rough budget of housing, food, utilities, and transportation expenses would be illuminating. A Social Security Challenge would demonstrate to policy makers how modest Social Security is and what a small part of a family’s budget it turns out to be.

1 comment:

Kristen Pavle said...

Great post, Kate. Too frequently there seems to be a huge disconnect between the policy wonks and the people actually affected by the policies.

And with the Elder Economic Security Initiative, and the Elder Economic Security Standard Index, we know that Social Security is simply not enough to cover the cost of living for seniors in the community. But, in Illinois for example, 1 out 5 seniors lives off of Social Security as their only source of income.

Social Security is surely not the answer to our country's budget woes, and we must continue to advocate to strengthen the program, not cut it down!