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The Next Sentence on Social Security

by Niki Cvitkovich, published


If there is one positive element of the recent blame game over who created the Frankenstein monster that is sequester, it is that is has sparked a conversation about public opinion towards social programs like Social Security and Medicare. This is a conversation that must be had, not just in terms of the sequester and not just in terms of what these programs mean to our current economic situation. We need to talk about these programs in terms of solvency – what will our leaders do to make sure that our generation receives ALL of the benefits for which we are currently paying.

During the 2012 presidential debate at the University of Denver, President Obama and Governor Romney were asked about their positions on the state of Social Security. President Obama answered, "I suspect that on Social Security, [Governor Romney and I] have got a somewhat similar position." Governor Romney answered, "Neither the President or I are proposing any changes for current retirees or near retirees to Social Security or Medicare." Well, that's a relief - if you're a current or near retiree.

As a member of that future generation I would like to hear the next sentence. I want to know how the president and both parties are going to ensure that I see a return on my investment into the program. I want to know how my elected leaders plan on keeping Social Security's promise to my generation.

Social Security is a social contract that has been ensuring that America's seniors don't die in poverty. Every working American pays a portion of their income to the Social Security fund, which is used to support seniors over the age of 65 and the disabled. Most people don't realize that current payees are paying for current retirees. We pay our share (not just because failing to do so would be illegal but) because we understand that it is our responsibility to support the generations that proceeded us just as they supported the generations who proceeded them.

Social Security works because of this understanding. However, demographics are changing. The Baby Boomers are about to retire and our generation isn't getting any bigger. According to 2012 Annual Trustees Report, if no changes are made to the program, the fund will only be able to pay out 75% of allotted benefits as early as 2033. We can’t wait until then to come up with a solution. We must start the dialogue now.

I understand this is a tough issue to care about right now. A majority of recent college grads are unemployed or underemployed. It's hard to think about retirement when you're barely making ends meet trying to move out of your parents’ house and start your own life. But if we don't force our leaders to take action now we will suffer for it in the future, just like we are currently suffering from actions taken by our leaders over the last two decades.

So, what is the next sentence Mr. President, Senator, Congresswoman? What are you going to do to make sure that my generation receives the same level of support as we are currently providing for our parents and grandparents? Don't talk to me as a future recipient; talk to me as a current paying member. Tell me how you are going to protect my investment. Tell me how you are going to ensure my generation doesn't die in poverty. Give me the next sentence.

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