Latinos Say No to “Tweaks” to Social Security That Cut Vital Benefits for Vulnerable Seniors

By Leticia Miranda, Senior Policy Advisor, Economic Security Policy, NCLR

In the lead-up to yet another manufactured budget crisis, the president has once again put harmful cuts to Social Security on the table.  Back in December, in his failed attempt to entice House Republicans to agree to more taxes, he offered cuts that would cost $112 billion in benefits to people relying on Social Security over the next ten years.  Survey after survey show that Americans don’t support cutting our Social Security system, so why do our leaders keep trying to gut the foundation of retirement security in America?

The president wants to start using chained CPI as a measurement of inflation, but this measurement is wrong for seniors.  The chained CPI rises more slowly than the normal inflation measure we use now.  It would reduce annual Social Security benefits by $653 at age 75 and by $1,139 at age 85.  The longer one lives, the bigger the cut.  A person surviving to age 95 would lose a cumulative total of $28,000 in benefits over their retirement years.  Moreover, women would be particularly vulnerable because they live longer than men.

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Please listen to four Hispanic seniors we met at our town halls talk about what concerns them regarding Social Security:

The chained CPI would also hit Latino seniors especially hard.  Hispanics receive very low average benefits and live longer than other populations.  For example, in 2008 Hispanic men received an average benefit of $12,213 and Hispanic women received $9,536, which was about $800 below the poverty line.  The chained CPI would reduce the purchasing power these low benefits even further.  And, once again, women would bear the brunt of the loss.  Hispanic women—who have the lowest Social Security benefits among all racial, ethnic, and gender groups—also have the longest life expectancy.

Over half of Latino seniors rely on Social Security for almost all of their income.  If we cut their Social Security benefits, these low-income seniors will have nowhere else to turn.  And what happens then?  One sick, elderly community member who spoke at an NCLR Social Security town hall shared that he lives alone on $750 per month from Social Security; he does not have enough money left over to buy food, so he must rely on food banks to survive.  If we cut benefits further, we will push more seniors into desperate situations like this, forcing them to choose between medicine, rent, and food.

In an era when pensions have been disappearing, housing values have fallen, and 401(k) plans have revealed their riskiness, we should be strengthening our Social Security system, not cutting it.  NCLR opposes using the chained CPI to calculate Social Security cost-of-living-adjustments because this cut will hurt vulnerable Americans, including low-income seniors and the disabled, as well as the 6.5 million child survivors of deceased workers.  A little-known fact is that Social Security provides more benefits to children than any other government program.

Americans would prefer to strengthen Social Security by raising revenue rather than imposing cuts.  In fact, 84% of Americans believe that current Social Security benefits do not provide enough income for retirees, and believe we should consider raising future Social Security benefits in order to provide a more secure retirement for working Americans.

Requiring millionaires and billionaires to pay into the system at the same rate as everyone else would provide enough revenue to make harmful benefit cuts unnecessary and enable benefit increases for the most vulnerable among us.  Revenue would also shore up the system for future generations.

It is unjust to shred the safety net for today or tomorrow’s vulnerable seniors in order to keep taxes low on millionaires and corporations.  We must strengthen the program, but cutting benefits is not the answer.

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