These benefits make an enormous difference in the lives of over 60 million beneficiaries. They are, however, extremely modest. Average benefits are less than $16,000 a year. That's quite low by global standards, and particularly sobering number when you consider that one-third of beneficiaries rely on Social Security for all or nearly all of their income.
We are the wealthiest country in the history of the world at the wealthiest moment in our history. Protecting and expanding Social Security is a question of values, not affordability.
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That number is likely to be even higher for future generations of retirees. Traditional pensions are becoming increasingly rare. 401(k)s, which were supposed to replace pensions, are failing working and middle class families. The median retirement account balance is only $3,000 – and for near retirement households, it's only $14,500.
It won't be an easy fight. Wall Street billionaires have opposed Social Security for decades, and they can't keep their greed out of our earned benefits. They've spent millions on a campaign to undermine public confidence in the program and push the claim that we can't afford to maintain, let alone expand, Social Security benefits. Their con is simply to convince people they are going to receive nothing, so that they will accept less than they are owed.That is a lie. We are the wealthiest country in the history of the world at the wealthiest moment in our history. Protecting and expanding Social Security is a question of values, not affordability.Currently, those making over $127,000 (only five percent of all workers) do not contribute to Social Security on any of their income above that amount. Those few Americans lucky enough to make a million dollars a year stop paying into Social Security in February. We could also tax the billions of dollars in unearned income among the richest Americans to expand Social Security. Or we could follow the lead of Thomas Paine who wrote in 1797 that a fair way to fund a system like Social Security was with a dedicated estate tax. There are plenty of options for getting the money to protect and expand Social Security. We just need the political will to make it happen.In other words, politicians need to listen to the American people, who overwhelmingly support protecting and expanding Social Security. Increasingly, the Democratic Party has done just that. The 2016 Democratic platform endorsed Social Security expansion, and several different expansion bills have been introduced in Congress. Over 85 percent of the Democrats in the House and Senate have endorsed expanding Social Security.On the Republican side, Donald Trump broke with party orthodoxy by running on no cuts to Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. This was smart political strategy, given that Republican voters (in contrast to Republican politicians) overwhelmingly oppose Social Security cuts just like Democrats and Independents do. Unfortunately, like so many of Trump's campaign promises, this one has fallen by the wayside now that he's in office.If Democrats are smart, they will hold Trump accountable for that broken promise in 2018 by running hard on protecting and expanding Social Security. Voters know what they want Social Security's future to look like. Now it's time for them to elect politicians who will carry out their vision.
Politicians need to listen to the American people, who overwhelmingly support protecting and expanding Social Security