By Sharon Johnson
WeNews senior correspondent
Monday, October 25, 2010
Obama's deficit commission is expected to propose a higher retirement age for Social Security on Dec. 1. Older women's advocates say that will be particularly punishing for low-income women in physically demanding jobs.
(WOMENSENEWS)--The battle over Social Security age limits can be personified as Conservative Republican Alan Simpson versus Ellen A. Bruce, immediate past president of the Washington-based Older Women's League, known as OWL.
Simpson, a former senator of Wyoming and now co-chair of President Barack Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, recently sent OWL a letter calling Social Security "a milk cow with 310 million tits" that warrants changes because Americans are living longer.
To ensure the solvency of Social Security--which is facing a modest long-term fiscal shortfall--the bipartisan, 14-member fiscal commission is expected to recommend on Dec. 1 a gradual increase in the eligibility for full benefits from age 66 to 70.
OWL, with 34 chapters across the nation that advocate for middle-aged and older women, is focused on averting that.
"Opposing the increase in the retirement age is our top priority in 2010, because 1 in 4 older women depends on Social Security for 90 percent of her income," Bruce said in a recent phone interview. "We are going to lobby Congress and the Obama administration full force, pointing out that raising the retirement age is a backhanded way to cut benefits for all retirees, no matter what age they retire."
Bruce says the move will force women in physically demanding jobs to work longer because they have fewer assets for retirement than men.
Cindy Hounsell, president of the Washington-based Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement, known as WISER, is equally opposed to a higher retirement age.
"This proposal is the latest attack on the fraying safety net," said Hounsell, whose nonprofit organization provides financial information to low- and moderate-income women ages 18 to 65. "Social Security is a lifeline for older women, because it has becoming increasingly difficult for the average woman to accumulate sufficient assets for retirement, let alone women in low-paying, physically demanding jobs that don't provide pensions."