Social Security: Not Just for Retirees
The rate of return debate diverts attention from the fact that Social Security is much more than just a successful retirement program. Retired workers account for only 29,953,000, 62.8 percent of Social Security’s 47,688,000 beneficiaries. More than 3 million beneficiaries are spouses and minor or disabled children of retired workers, while almost 7 million are survivors of deceased workers. Close to 8 million are disabled workers and their spouses and children. To put a human face on this, several members of the House of Representatives have disclosed that they lost their parents early in life and were brought up with the assistance of Social Security survivor’s benefits. These include two of the five Democrats on the Social Security Subcommittee, Rep. Earl Pomeroy (ND) and REp. Richard Neal (MA). Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Rep. Rush Hold (D-NJ) also received survivors’ benefits.
Since retirees account for only 62.8 percent of Social Security beneficiaries, if one were to accept the notion of comparing rates of return between Social Security Retirement and private accounts, the proper comparison would be with a reduced percentage of net earnings on private accounts in order to allow for the Social Security money used to fund non-retirement benefits.
Source: Washington Weekly, Vol. XXXI, Issue 6, February 2005.
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