08 July 2010

Retiree Leader Sets Deficit Commission Straight on Social Security

Testimony Transcript: Ed Coyle, Executive Director, 
Alliance for Retired Americans
My name is Edward F. Coyle, and I am the Executive Director of the four million-member Alliance for Retired Americans.  We are a grassroots organization of retirees from labor and community-based groups.

Retirees are deeply disturbed by talk coming out of this Commission about cutting Social Security benefits and raising the retirement age.

Social Security is one of America’s greatest success stories.  It has kept generations of seniors out of poverty.  It did not, I repeat did not, cause these deficits.  The fact is that Social Security currently has a surplus of $2.6 trillion. 

The federal government does not fund Social Security - it is a fiscally conservative, self-sufficient program with a dedicated source of revenue. It is an efficient, rock-solid program, with only one percent of funds going to administrative costs.    I challenge the Commission to find a federal program run as efficiently and effectively as Social
, and one that is financially solvent for many years to come.

No one dislikes the federal debt more than today’s retirees.  They do not want it to be the legacy they leave behind to their children and grandchildren.  Is our federal budget deficit too large?  Yes.  Is it Social Security’s fault?  No.

Earlier today you heard from America Speaks.  Retirees are greatly disturbed that they are recommending increasing the retirement age to 69.  Not only would this reduce benefits which, as I said, have nothing to do with the budget deficit, but it would be devastating to American workers, particularly those who work in physically demanding construction and service sector jobs. 

Americans in their late 50s and 60s are already bearing the brunt of layoffs and benefit cuts from the recession.  Raising the retirement age would inflict further hardship among a group of workers who are struggling to keep or find jobs.  Many people this age face health
problems in these years.  Simply put, many workers cannot continue in their jobs until they are nearly 70.

The Alliance for Retired Americans strongly rejects the gloom-and-doom, sky-is-falling predictions that Social Security is going bankrupt.  Not only is this factually untrue, but it is a malicious scare tactic to divert attention away from the root causes of our deficit - unwise tax
and spending decisions by Washington over the past decade.

To further strengthen Social Security’s financial structure, the Alliance for Retired Americans supports raising the payroll tax cap - currently at $106,800 - for the wealthiest Americans.  Right now, someone like Bill Gates is paying the same in Social Security taxes as a
$106,800 worker.  Experts have said that raising the cap to 90 percent of all wages would fill one-third of a projected shortfall over the next 75 years in the Social Security Trust Fund.  This change would only increase taxes on six percent of all workers, but would further
strengthen Social Security benefits for the remaining 94 percent of workers when they retire.

In conclusion, retirees care about more than just themselves.  They worry about their children and grandchildren in these difficult times.  Will they ever get to retire?  And if so, what will be there for them? At a time of rising cynicism toward government, particularly among young people, it is more important than ever that our nation fully honors the
promise of Social Security.

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