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Coastal Voices: Social Security is not broken

On Aug. 14, 1935, after much debate and protest, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Social Security legislation into law. More than 75 years later, Social Security has become one of the most successful government programs in history.

Each year, Social Security reliably pays billions in benefits to millions of beneficiaries and delivers on its promise of protecting our seniors who worked hard all their lives. Yet despite its success, some in Washington target Social Security for cheap political games.

The misinformation we are constantly bombarded with — that Social Security is going bankrupt — is wrong. The truth is that even if nothing were done to change the financing of Social Security, the program would pay 100 percent of the same benefits it is currently paying for the next 25 years. No senior is, nor will be losing a dime of his or her benefits.

Even after 2036, if nothing is done, Social Security will pay 77 percent of promised benefits. That is a 23 percent problem that can and will be resolved. Social Security is not broken, not broke, and certainly not bankrupt.

Some folks in Washington, D.C., have proposed radical ideas to reduce Social Security benefits or take money out of Social Security and gamble it on Wall Street. They argue that we should convert Social Security to a system of private accounts in which individuals could invest. This kind of talk is irresponsible, divisive, dishonest and frightening to our seniors.

While I believe that we should provide incentives for individuals to save for their retirement, we must also preserve Social Security benefits as a reliable source of income for our nation’s seniors that will remain unaffected by fluctuations in the stock market. The recent turbulence in the financial markets reminds us that our nation was wise not to go down the path to private accounts for Social Security.

I have always stood up for the promise of Social Security, and I will continue to fight to make sure the program is strong and the benefits are certain. Social Security is not just an important promise to our seniors — it is also vital to our economy. Last year, in California’s 1st Congressional District alone, Social Security delivered more than $1.6 billion into our local communities. That money is spent right here and this helps to create jobs and helps small businesses grow, which broadens our tax base and helps provide a means to further endow Social Security.

Our nation is faced with economic challenges, but like the great challenges our nation has overcome in the past, we can solve our economic challenges by setting aside Washington’s partisan divisions and working together. In the same way, the long-term solvency for Social Security isn’t an economic problem we must overcome; it is a political divide we must bridge. If we put country ahead of politics, and work in a bipartisan manner, then I am confident that we will solve any challenges that Social Security may eventually face.

Every American family has been touched by Social Security. I’m reminded of the importance of Social Security whenever I think about my grandmother, who worked her entire adult life sewing gloves at the Napa glove factory and labeling wine bottles at Inglenook Winery. When she retired, she had a small private pension of $53 per month. It was Social Security that gave her comfort in her golden years. It also provided her with peace of mind in knowing that her children, her grandchildren, and her grandchildren’s children would share the same securities.

Many seniors depend on Social Security to pay the bills and put food on the table. That is why as long as I am a member of Congress, I will work to make sure all of our current and future retirees have that same peace of mind my grandmother enjoyed. Social Security will need only a minor adjustment to remain strong for the next 100 years. Anything you hear to the contrary is incorrect. Social Security is, and will remain, a guaranteed promise for all.

U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson represents California’s 1st Congressional District, which includes Del Norte County.

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