Wednesday, October 19, 2016
"The right to social security is the right to access and maintain benefits, whether in cash or in kind, without discrimination in order to secure protection, inter alia, from (a) lack of work-related income caused by sickness, disability, maternity, employment injury, unemployment, old age, or death of a family member; (b) unaffordable access to health care; (c) insufficient family support, particularly for children and adult dependents." – Committee on the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment 19
The human right to social security is overlooked in US debate. The topic was absent from the presidential discussion this election season until the final debate. Issues were largely ignored because personality and character flaws have dominated election discussion. More recently funding mechanisms, raising the age of eligibility and privatization have been points of discussion. Continuation of benefits is never assured by either party.
None of the proposals raised by politicians secure human rights for those most in need. A good example is the suggestion of raising the age of eligibility. For those at or near retirement age now, eligibility for full benefits begins at age 66. Some advocate raising that age to 68. The proposed age may be possible for those of us privileged to work in academia and other non-physical positions. But for the mechanic on his feet all day, 66 is a hardship. For those whose ailments develop earlier because of sustained physical work, placing social security benefits further out of reach is a denial of dignity.
Any measure that removes responsibility for government supported financial security risks the financial survival of millions.
There is no shortage of funding sources for Social Security. If the funds collected through payroll were invested for the sole use of payment of benefits, each recipient could collect thousands more a month than is paid now. But the collected funds are used toward the general budget, which presently includes substantial funding of the forever war. That was not the intention when the payroll tax was designed.
The solution to providing for those who are disabled or elderly is simple. The next time a politician or others talk about the "drain" that social security is taking on our domestic budget, we might suggest segregating the social security payroll tax with the dedicated use being supporting those in financial need. Dignity of those in need of financial security is not optional, particularly since those citizens have paid into the system through out their working lives with the expectation of receiving a pension. We have the method of collection and we have the funding. The government needs to make reparations to the depleted fund and prioritize the survival and dignity of those most in need.