Privatizing Social Security Puts Seniors at Risk of Poverty

Maine has the largest proportion of senior citizens by population of any state in the country. For our state, the threat of national cuts or privatization currently being discussed in Washington looms especially large.

These days, it can be pretty hard to decide who’s really looking out for seniors’ best interests and working to protect Social Security. Conservatives are using poll-tested language, which tells candidates and members of Congress to say “preserve” when they actually mean “privatize” and “save” when they mean “slash” in order to confuse the issue and disguise their plans.

They use this language because they know that the American people simply don’t support a plan, their plan, which would privatize Social Security and cut benefits for the most vulnerable – the elderly.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s vision for seniors is very different than most Americans. Their plan for Social Security is privatization.

Rather than the guaranteed benefit Social Security provides, Romney and Ryan are both supporters of replacing Social Security’s guaranteed benefits with private accounts. The privatization of Social Security takes the contributions Americans made throughout their working lifetime and gambles that money on Wall Street. This transfer would drain the Social Security Trust Fund, forcing large cuts in Social Security benefits. Generations of younger Americans will be burdened with trillions of dollars in additional government debt.

One can only imagine what would have happened during this latest economic crisis if Social Security benefits were exposed to the same Wall Street roller coaster that has devastated the savings of millions of middle-class Americans.

Privatization supporters try to lull seniors into a sense of protection by promising not to touch their benefits in exchange for not raising a protest about cuts to benefits for future generations who can “prepare” for it. They use generational warfare, pitting one generation against another, to win our support, but they underestimate the American people's commitment to preserving Social Security for our children and grandchildren who will need this program as much, if not more, than we do.

While many politicians would like to roll back the clock to the days when seniors were on their own, with no guaranteed retirement benefits to count on during difficult times, that’s not what the vast majority of Americans want.

MPA members are working to send a loud and clear message that Maine and America can't go back to the days when seniors lived in poverty because they had no income in their old age. Social Security is an earned benefit paid for by American workers and their families that has served the nation well. This program has survived the test of time, remaining strong during good and bad economic times. It would be devastating to go back to an era where millions of Americans are forced into economic insecurity so that corporations can reap even larger profits and the wealthiest get even larger tax cuts.