For many years, conservatives opposed to Social Security have created and perpetuated a number of myths regarding our social safety net. Following are just a few of those myths and the non-partisan truth about the program:
Myth 1 – We have to cut Social Security in order to “save” it. The argument goes something like this: We have to cut Social Security benefits in order to avoid cutting benefits. Say what? Like any insurance program, actuary tables must change from time to time. Our government started planning for the baby boom back in the ‘50s, and several changes have been made since. According to most data, the Social Security Administration will be able to pay full benefits until 2037. Without changes, retirees would receive 80 percent of benefits after that. The program only needs some minor “tweaks” such as raising the income cap on contributions as Ronald Reagan did in the 1980s.
Myth 2 – I can do it better myself. This is what we refer to as the “Nanny State Blues.” For years, conservatives who dislike everything associated with our government have promoted the notion that our citizens should take responsibility for their own retirement plans. They believe that, if everyone simply kept the money withheld from their paychecks as FICA contributions, they would enjoy a greater return on investment which resulting in a more comfortable retirement. For a few people that may be true. However, studies have shown that it takes an annual salary of $60,000 or more to save adequate funds for retirement. That means that the majority of our population can’t afford to save for retirement.
Myth 3 – My boss doesn’t like it. Of course not. Most employers are in business to maximize their profits. They don’t like paying employees any more than they have to. The fact is the portion of your Social Security contributions paid by your employer is part of your overall compensation. And for employers, it’s simply one of the costs of doing business.
Myth 4 – Privatization is always better than a government program. Really? Who built our roads? Our schools? Who operates the Postal Service? The military? VA? The government does many things that private business can’t or won’t (at least not for the money available). Social Security insurance is one of them. The Social Security Trust Fund is invested in US Treasury Bills, the safest investment vehicle in the world. Imagine what would have happened if you had planned to retire in 2008 as stock markets crashed. Imagine what happens to those who don’t invest wisely. Do we simply cast them aside when they can no longer work?
Myth 5 – Illegal immigrants receive benefits. This is blatantly untrue. You must be a US citizen in order to receive a legal Social Security identification number. And you must be a citizen in order to receive benefits. However, illegal immigrants who work with a stolen Social Security number do have contributions for FICA and Medicare deducted from their paychecks. That money goes into the trust fund, but the illegals can never receive benefits from it. By some estimates, these unclaimed contributions amount to $70 billion.
Myth 6 – The US and Mexico have a secret agreement for illegals to get Social Security benefits. This is an Internet myth that first began circulating when George W. Bush was President. It wasn’t true then. It’s not true now.
Myth 7 – Social Security is an “entitlement”. Once again, despite conservatives and the media having labeled an entitlement, it’s insurance. You pay the premiums with each paycheck and, if you live long enough, you are “entitled” to receive benefits.