Social Security:: International
Trade:: Healthcare/ Wealthfare Reform::
Ever since Social Security
was enacted in 1935, American workers have had a different outlook
on their retirement. However, Social Security has become a major
concern throughout the years due to an aging population. The solvency
of the program is in question. As the Ranking Democratic member
of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security, Robert Matsui
was one of the nation's most passionate advocates to save the program
and to fight against the privatization of Social Security Funds.
The Social Security Program,
which began as a program that provided continuing income during
retirement, gradually expanded to cover disabled workers, spouses,
and dependents as well. This program gives workers who pay into
it entitlement to benefits regardless of economic need and provides
benefits to replace income lost due to death, disability or retirement.
It was also designed to achieve certain social goals such as reducing
poverty and providing progressive benefits and also enhance pensions
and personal savings with a minimum floor of income.
Right now about 47.7 million
people are benefitting from this program. The Social Security payroll
tax is 12.4 percent of wages up to $90,000, divided equally between
employers and employees. Workers are entitled to benefits after
paying into the system for a certain amount of time, usually 10
The problem with social security
is that it is not a savings plan and the payroll taxes paid by each
worker are not set aside to finance that worker's retirement. Instead,
Social Security is financed on a pay-as-you-go basis, a social contract
between the workers and retired workers of today. The payroll taxes
paid by today's workers are used to pay benefits for today's retirees
and future workers will pay for future retirees.
The program is in trouble
because the number of workers per benficiary is decreasing. Women
are having fewer children, and people are living longer. A pay-as-you-go
system does not work well when the population is aging, because
the program's revenue cannot keep up with its growing costs. Without
reform, Social Security is not sustainable in the long run. Even
the surpluses today would run out in the future and all the burden
will be on the workers of tomorrow.
Since Matsui also served on
the Social Security Subcommittee in 1983, the last time the program
faced major changes, he was a veteran with Social Security Reform.
Many truly believed that a general was lost in the battle for Social
Security when he passed away.
Critics of Social Security
believe that privatization strengthens Social Security. Matsui,
however, argued that privatization propenents do not support private
accounts in addition to Social Security, but instead support private
accounts instead of Social Security. And replacing Social Security
with private accounts significantly worsens is, corrupting the foundation
of the system and jeopardizing guaranteed retirement benefits for
seniors, disabled workers, and survivors.
President Bush came up with
a plan in 2001 in which one-third of a worker's contributions to
Social Security would be diverted from the trust funds into private
accounts. As a result of this plan, the trust funds would lose almost
$2 trillion in the first 10 years alone. This diversion weakens
the trust funds so significantly that the date by which they are
no longer able to pay full benefits is moved up by more than two
Robert Matsui was determined
to revise Social Security incrementally to ensure its long term
solvency without compromising its fundamental purpose, which was
to reduce or eliminate poverty among America's elderly, persons
with disabilities, and surviving dependents. He believed that all
of these groups are entitled to the certainty and stability of a
guaranteed income that allows them to live with dignity.