Women to Obama: Hands Off Social Security

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Susan Fiener(WOMENSENEWS)–Anyone who watched President Barak Obama defend his handling of the economy in the televised town-hall discussion last week might have come away remembering the exchange with the hedge-fund manager. He had the nerve to ask when Obama would stop giving Wall Street "the piñata treatment."

The president’s answer: "If you’re making a billion dollars a year after a very bad financial crisis where 8 million people lost their jobs and small businesses can’t get loans, then you shouldn’t feel put upon."

Obama’s retort drew warm applause, and rightly so. But minutes earlier the president made a remark that should terrify the majority of Americans–especially women.

In responding to a question about closing the federal deficit he said that after you set aside "security spending"–whatever that may mean–the biggest part of the national budget is "entitlements."

Ominously, he specified Social Security as one of those "entitlements," along with Medicare.

Stop right there Mr. President.

‘Women Should be Horrified’

Women in this country should be horrified by your comment for the following reasons:

  1. Women still earn less than men, so their opportunity to save for retirement is more limited.
  2. Only 13 percent of women aged 65 or older currently receive a pension.
  3. Social Security provides 90 percent of the income for 42 percent of women, but only 28 percent of men rely on Social Security for 90 percent of their income.
  4. Women are more likely than men to be single, widowed or divorced in retirement.

Adding up these facts leads to one conclusion: The health and dignity of women over age 65 depends on their continued receipt of monthly Social Security checks.

Moreover, Social Security is not an entitlement program as it’s paid for entirely by payroll taxes. It is an insurance program, not an entitlement. Not one penny of anyone’s Social Security comes out of the federal government’s general fund.

Social Security is, by law, wholly self-financing. It has no legal authority to borrow, so it never has.

If this incredibly successful and direly needed program hasn’t ever borrowed a dime, why is the president and his hand-picked commissioners putting Social Security cuts (and/or increases in the retirement age) in the same sentence as deficit reduction?

Fully Paid Until 2037social security protest

Social Security insurance is fully paid until 2037.

The program began in 1935 and is considered the greatest achievement of Frances Perkins, labor secretary under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the first woman to hold a cabinet level position in the U.S. government.

In every decade of its existence, lawmakers have adjusted its funding formula to ensure its solvency.

President Ronald Reagan, for instance, in the mid-1980s appointed the "Greenspan Commission" (Greenspan later became the chairman of the Federal Reserve, the nation’s central bank), which recommended significant increases in Social Security payroll taxes to ensure the build up of a trust fund to finance baby boomers’ retirements.

The Greenspan Commission was honest; it looked at Social Security and figured out how much was needed to pay future retirees’ benefits. The necessary changes were made, the needed dollars flowed in and the trust fund grew. The fix engineered by the Greenspan Commission worked: the Social Security ‘trust fund’ is valued at $2.54 trillion today. By 2024 its projected value will be $4.2 trillion.

Nothing in the accounting future of the program warrants any major changes.

Enemies of Social Security have juicy private pensions, but few women enjoy this perk.

Social Security is as essential to older Americans today as it was 75 years ago when it was founded. Leave it alone.

Would you like to Comment but not sure how? Visit our help page at http://www.womensenews.org/help-making-comments-womens-enews-stories.

Susan F. Feiner is a professor of women’s studies and economics at the University of Southern Maine. She is co-author of the 2004 book, "Liberating Economics: Feminist Perspectives on Families, Work and Globalization."

For more information:

Older Women’s League:

Frances Perkins Center:

2 thoughts on “Women to Obama: Hands Off Social Security

  1. This is something that has been bothering me too. Not just Obama, but a number of his cabinet, advisers, and members of Congress have been referring to social security as an “entitlement. Madam Speaker, Pelosi’s comments were particularly disconcerting.

    For those of us who have had a significant percentage of our annual earnings taken from our paychecks over the past 30 to 40 years, Social Security has always been represented as a forced, secured savings account for our “Golden Years” To quote former Vice President, Al Gore “It’s in a Locked Box”.

    It seems that some members of this administration are willing to jimmie that lock to pay for truly, unfunded entitlements. And they are willing to do so at the expense of millions of women boomers who are just now reaching the age when we are ready to hand our Social Security Savings Pass book to the ‘First Bank of Government Trust’ only to be told by the Congressional tellers that years of our own deposits have been mandated to pay something else.

    This is violation of our trust. and nothing less than the pillaging of our savings. Call and write the President, your Congressional representatives and the media to demand that the phase entitlement is never used to describe Social Security.

    Forward This Article to every estrogen-bearing boomer you know.

    • After hearing the recent proposals to reduce the federal deficit and President Obama’s remarks claiming it is an “entitlement”, women have every right to be worried. A simple visit to the social security association website and the facts show that women would be disproportionately affected if social security is cut back in the future.

      The article showed that the benefits received through social security comprise a larger amount of a women’s income than that of a male receiving benefits. In 2008, the average annual social security received by women 65 years and older was $11,377, compared to $14,822 for men. However, that amount comprises 50 percent of an unmarried women’s total income compared to only 38 percent of an unmarried mans.

      It’s no secret that women receive less pay than men in the workplace. Since social security is a progressive system in which lower-wage earners receive a higher percentage benefit than higher-wage workers, women would be more affected than men due to the wage gap. The government’s social security website states in 2008 alone that the median earnings of working-age women who worked full-time year round earned $35,000, compared to males making $45,000. Women over 65 are more dependent on social security for their livelihood and well being.

      You can see all the statistics at http://www.ssa.gov/pressoffice/factsheets/women.htm and more. However statistics only mean so much, therefore as an American you must stand up for your rights. As the previous poster user46853 stated, “Call and write the President, your Congressional representatives and the media to demand that the phase entitlement is never used to describe Social Security”.