TO:
  Members of the U.S. Congress
FROM:
  Kay J. Maxwell, President
RE:
  Social Security

The League of Women Voters is deeply concerned over proposals to privatize the Social Security system. We believe that any Congressional debate must address the broad social needs the system now meets, the long-term future of the system and the financial risks that privatization could place on individuals and on government.

In the 1930s, the League of Women Voters supported passage of the Social Security Act. Fifty years later, in a study of the fiscal policy of the United States, League members determined that the federal government has a role in funding and providing for old-age, survivors, disability and health insurance. For such insurance programs, participation should be mandatory and coverage should be universal.

Social Security is one of the most successful social welfare programs of the 20th Century – one that has contributed to unprecedented economic growth and the stability of the U.S. economy. It has been the primary safety net for older workers and their spouses. Before Social Security, one in three senior citizens lived in poverty. Today that number is one in ten. In addition, disability and survivors’ benefits under Social Security have provided for millions of American families. We must recognize that Social Security is not merely a retirement program – it is a social insurance program with broad effect.

Concerns have been raised that Social Security is in crisis and that Congress needs to act now. The League of Women Voters believes that both the perceived crisis and the proposed solutions need to be thoroughly examined and debated. We believe there is sufficient time to do so. The long-term challenges do not manifest themselves until the year 2042. Even then, Social Security has 70 percent of needed funds. Diverting money from the Social Security trust fund into private accounts could hasten the insolvency of the fund. The results could include a substantial increase in the deficit and significant cuts in some or all of Social Security’s retirement, disability and survivors benefits.

If Congress determines that changes in Social Security are needed, there are reasonable, moderate adjustments that can achieve solvency and fiscal soundness. But it is key that we have a full, national debate before making major changes in the system that has served so many Americans so well.