We need to keep Social Security strong

Letter to the editor

Posted: Sunday, March 20, 2005

We need to strengthen Social Security for our children and grandchildren. Social Security is one of the most successful programs in our country's history. It ensures that future generations of workers, retirees, and their families have a guaranteed and inflation-proof benefit that can't be outlived. That's pretty hard to beat.

The program is not in crisis. It is not going broke. The trust fund will be large enough to pay 100 percent of promised benefits through 2042 (the Congressional Budget Office uses the figure 2052).

After 2042, if no changes are made, fully 73 percent of promised benefits could still be paid. We have time, starting now, to make sensible changes to strengthen Social Security's long-term solvency, thus ensuring that full benefits can be paid beyond 2042.

AARP opposes the idea of private accounts. Private accounts drain money out of Social Security, which will cut guaranteed benefits. Transitioning to a private account system could cost trillions of dollars. Private accounts are risky. Those who rely on Social Security could be in serious trouble. Private accounts do nothing to resolve Social Security's solvency.

I am the AARP Alaska state president. Does this mean AARP is against all private accounts? We have long championed improvements in private savings vehicles like 401(k) plans and IRAs. But for a secure retirement, we need these savings in addition to Social Security, and definitely not at the program's expense.

AARP supports:

• Diversifying Trust Fund investments to get a higher return.

• Raising the cap on the amount of wages taxed to support Social Security to cover the same share of wages as in the past. That would gradually raise today's cap of $90,000 to approximately $140,000.

These steps alone won't fill the entire future gap, but they are substantial steps forward.

We must strengthen Social Security so it will continue to be the foundation of guaranteed, lifetime retirement benefits now and in the future, for all generations.

Elizabeth Lucas


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