Julie with a B

Monday, May 09, 2005
Social Security and women
Social security is a safety net for many of the less-abled of our society. Disabled individuals - children and adults, the children of workers who die, and also the elderly.

"Two-thirds of elderly Americans rely on Social Security for at least half their income. Four in 10 of the elderly have no other income or virtually none. . . . . In 1959, about 35% of elderly Americans lived in poverty. Today only about 10% do, according the the Social Security Administration."

"Mothers sacrifice earnings in order to care for children and the elderly leaving them with lower personal savings and lower Social Secrutiy benefits. Yet without Social Security, poverty rates for elderly women would be more than 50%.

When we talk of changing Social Security we should look at which parts of society these changes will affect. Currently "Most married women who are employed at some point in their lives make contributions to Social Security but see no net benefit for having worked for pay. They will claim the larger spousal benefit based on their husband's higher earnings, a benefit due to them regardless whether they were ever employed.
A single-earner couple, by contrast, receives over 30 percent more in benefits than a dual-earner couple that earns the same amount.
The higher earner in the marriage, still nearly always the husband, controls the bulk of the Social Security benefits and the bulk of the private retirement assets both during the marriage and after a divorce.
Perhaps most troubling, we reward mothers, and anyone who gives up earnings in order to care for others, with financial dependency and increased risk of poverty in old age."

Many women work for a period of time, then interrupt their work life to raise children, and then again to care for elderly parents. While they may earn a fairly good wage during their work life, because of these interruptions, they don't end their work years at as high a wage as men in similar positions do. They are more often in the middle -wage earner category, that under Bush's progressive proposal would receive cuts.

We can address these issues by not adopting a progressive program and by "earnings sharing".
"There is also a proposal for "earnings sharing" that would equally divide total household contributions--to both Social Security and private accounts. This would give each partner true ownership of his or her half.
We can design a comprehensive retirement system in which couples can choose to share paid work in the way that works best for them without rewarding or penalizing any of those choices.
Such a system would honor the marriage promise by ensuring that control and ownership of retirement assets and benefits acquired during a marriage are shared equally by spouses while they are married and after a divorce, and in which Social Security benefit levels are related to all contributing work, whether it's paid employment or the unpaid work of caring for family members."

So lets take the time to create a bi-partisan discussion of what would be the best for everyone concerned.

"Without Social Security, poverty rates for elderly women would be more than 50%." Think about that. Think about how this would affect your mom.


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