Everyone who depends on Social Security or Disability payments for their economic survival has heard it by now. Pres. Obama warned last week that he “cannot guarantee” these payments will go out as usual on Aug. 3 if our debt crisis remains unresolved. Unfortunately, many news sources with a political agenda continue to call these checks “entitlements,” when they are in fact earned by their recipients.
If you have ever earned a paycheck or owned a business with employees, you will remember the term FICA, the money taken from your paycheck to fund Social Security. Unlike other public relief programs like Food Stamps and Medicaid, Social Security is funded by the contributions of working people, and returned to them in the form of monthly payments once retirement age is reached. Whatever political terms are used in Washington, the American people have a plainer term for being deprived of money they are legally owed: robbery.
After decades of paying into the program, many Americans ‘” millions of whom are partly or totally dependent on these checks for their survival ‘” have been threatened with the unthinkable because Washington politicians cannot resolve their gridlock. It is time for the American people to demand that our interests be protected first: before the banks and corporations that were bailed out with taxpayer money, before the countries that mean us no good yet accept our foreign aid, before the wasteful pork projects of career politicians.
Although his presidential bid has apparently run out of steam, Newt Gingrich has not run out of ideas. I rarely agree with him, but his recent proposal to protect Social Security is exactly on-target. He has urged lawmakers to draft legislation protecting and guaranteeing Social Security payments, removing the lifeline so vital to millions of Americans from the current political debate. I am urging anyone reading this article to do exactly what I am doing now: contact your representatives and urge them to do just this. Call Washington’s bluff on this threat that has made millions of Americans desperate with fear about meeting their basic needs next month.
Here are three arguments for protecting Social Security recipients from paying the price for decades of mismanagement and corruption. Never mind the basic one: that these checks are earned money, and providing for the elderly, many of whom have fought and sacrificed for this country, is the hallmark of a humane civilization. Politicians are realists, not humanitarians. The reality is that the following scenario may well happen if millions of elderly are left without an income next month:
1. Credit card debt will skyrocket. The elderly with credit cards will be forced to run up increasingly large credit bills to pay for food, shelter, medication, utilities, and transportation. How likely are people to feel obligated to repay this debt, when the issuing banks may have profited hugely from the infamous taxpayer-funded bailout? Defaulted credit cards and bankruptcies will further destabilize our already ailing economy and financial institutions.
2. State and local resources will be overwhelmed. With the majority of states struggling to meet their obligations, a huge influx of the elderly and disabled into their social services nets may well mean financial ruin for many states. When Pres. Reagan’s administration removed over a quarter million disabled from their rolls in the early 1980s, the strain on state governments was so great that governors lobbied Washington for relief. Eventually, the Disability Reform Act of 1984 was passed, protecting the disabled from arbitrary moves that in many cases forced them onto the streets. Social Security recipients now need the same legal protection.
3. The strain on American families with elderly or disabled loved ones will go in many cases from desperate to intolerable. The official number of unemployed may be 9.2 percent on paper, but most Americans outside the Washington Beltway know the actual figure is far higher, when counting the underemployed or those who have given up job-seeking in despair. The climate of anger in our nation is obvious now, but throwing our elderly onto the resources of families already strained to the breaking point will create a climate of social chaos and rage that this country has not seen since the late 1960s.
We cannot afford to have our elderly and disabled threatened like this. They are not being threatened with an unprofitable quarter, a lower stock price, or a dip in political polls. They are being threatened with being deprived of the basic necessities of survival: shelter, food and medicine. It is a shameful thing that millions of Americans who played by the rules and paid into a system meant to protect them have had to face a terrifying prospect in this past week. If Washington can do this, what else can happen?
Stand up for our parents and grandparents. We’ve seen that Congress can move with surprising speed when their interests are affected. Urge your elected representatives to draft emergency legislation to protect Americans dependent on Social Security for their survival.