Let's be clear: Social Security has nothing to do with the debate over reducing the deficit or raising the debt ceiling. It does, however, face a long-term solvency problem that must be solved in order to protect current and future beneficiaries. Those are separate issues and should be dealt with as such. Social Security is not in crisis. It has not caused a crisis. Let's not let it become a crisis.
Social Security is without question the country's most important and successful retirement program. It is the foundation of financial security for all of us. Social Security is strong and can pay Americans the benefits they've earned for the next 25 years without making any changes. But we want to make sure that people 75 years from now will still enjoy the peace of mind Social Security provides today. We will lead the fight toward that goal.
Our objective must be making retirement more secure, not hitting arbitrary budget targets. Retirement security has been undermined by the recession, the erosion of defined benefit pensions, rising health care costs and a decline in home values. That makes Social Security's guaranteed benefits more essential than ever.
At AARP, we are prepared to lead a national discussion on strengthening Social Security for 21st-century beneficiaries. We believe reform should be guided by some basic principles:
Social Security should continue to be a lifetime family protection program for all workers that can compensate for lost wages in the event of disability, death or retirement.
Any changes to Social Security should be discussed as part of a broader conversation about how to help Americans prepare for a secure retirement.
If you pay into Social Security, you should receive the benefits you've earned over a lifetime of hard work. It should continue to be progressive and should not be means-tested.
We will provide educational support and advocate for policies to help people save. And we will encourage better pensions and more private savings in addition to — not at the expense of — Social Security. In the worst economic crisis in decades, jeopardizing any part of Social Security with risky private accounts is the last thing we should do.
Over the next several months, we will be engaging all of you — our members and people 50+ — in a serious conversation about the future of Social Security. We want to hear from you about the solvency options, the trade-offs and what they will mean to you and your families.
Our goal is simple even if the solution is not: Strengthen Social Security so that current and future beneficiaries receive the benefits they've earned over a lifetime. Changes to Social Security should be considered only if they make retirement more secure, not less.
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Tell A. Barry Rand what you think. Send him an email at CEO@aarp.org.