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OPINION

What Would America Look Like Without Social Security?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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I recently had the opportunity to address a group of patriotic young Americans at the Young Republican National Convention in Dallas, Texas.  I was able to visit with a number of these bright young people, either individually or in small groups, both before and after my talk.

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One of the things that I learned is that many of them do not support our Social Security system, and there were several reasons given for this.  For example, one said that he believes Social Security will go broke long before he reaches retirement age.  Another gentleman said that he could do far better if he were allowed to keep that money and invest it on his own.  

I was able to share my story with them about how Social Security played a crucial role in my own life.  I have been fortunate to live the American dream, having now run a successful business for almost 50 years; however, I did not grow up in wealth.  I grew up in poverty.  My father became disabled early in my life and passed away while I was still in junior high school.  My mother worked hard to support our family, and my brothers and I took on a variety of jobs to pitch in where we could.   Even though we worked hard, I don’t know how we would have made it had it not been for the Social Security survivor benefits that we received.  Because of those benefits, we were able to keep our heads above water.  

If you, like some of those young people, doubt the value of Social Security, I ask that you please consider the following:  

- Social Security provides a sensible way to protect those in need in our society, just as it protected my family when I was young. I use the term “sensible” because the vast majority of benefits paid out go to those who have actually paid into the system.  

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- In addition to the retirement provisions of which everyone is aware, Social Security contains other benefits to those who qualify.  Among these are disability payments to those who can’t work, and death and survivor payments to families of those who pass away, leaving dependents behind.

- Social Security is not going broke, as it is a pay-as-you-go system.  The problem, due to the large number of retiring baby boomers, is that payments going out are now exceeding amounts coming in, and the trust funds are being depleted to make up the difference.  If this shortfall is not fixed before the trust funds run out, all recipients will take an estimated 20% to 30% cut at that time.

- Social Security recipients put a substantial amount of money back into our economy.   In 2022, that figure was over $1.2 trillion, an amount that is likely to grow this year.  Can you imagine what it would mean for our economy if this amount of money stopped flowing?   

Because of the way Social Security is structured, it will be there for younger people when they retire down the line; however, because of the disability and survivor provisions, it can be considered a form of insurance for them now.  I live in an area of Texas susceptible to the threat of hurricanes so everyone in the area pays a lot for home, flood, and business insurance each year to protect themselves against possible loss.  Although none of us like to spend this money, we realize that there will be a benefit if something does happen.  Social Security may be viewed in a similar way for those who have not yet reached retirement age.  

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Another advantage of Social Security for those who are not self-employed, is the match that is paid into the system by your employer.  You receive the full benefit while only making half of the payment.  I agree with those who would make the argument that there are things that could be done to make Social Security more efficient.  It is my hope that efforts to shore up the program for the long-term, in order to prevent the need for future benefit cuts, will also look into ways to make it more effective.  

That said, my experience with Social Security as a child, as well as the experiences of millions of other Americans of all ages, has led me to believe that this program is good for the country.  I don’t want to imagine what an America without Social Security would look like, and it is my hope that you feel the same way.  

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