The only good news coming out of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform’s final meeting today was that the co-chairs failed to muster 14 ‘yes’ votes for their misguided proposal, so it will not be presented to the lame-duck Congress for immediate action. This result was due in part to the hard work of NOW members, Social Security advocates and many others whose calls temporarily shut down the congressional switchboard on Tuesday.
However, it is deplorable that 11 of the commission’s 18 members support the co-chairs’ proposed Social Security benefit cuts — including an increase in the retirement age to 69 — which would push hundreds of thousands of middle-class women into poverty.
The commission’s assault on Social Security is wholly unjustified. Social Security has nothing to do with the federal budget deficit, and cutting benefits won’t put a dent in the deficit or the national debt. Nor is there any imminent threat to the system’s solvency. Social Security is solvent today and will remain solvent over the next three decades. Long-term solvency can be guaranteed simply by scrapping the cap on wages subject to the payroll tax.
Finally, the increased life expectancy of rich white men who work in comfortable offices is no reason to raise the retirement age to 69. At least one-third of women between the ages of 58 and 65 work in physically demanding, stressful jobs. If forced to take so-called ‘early’ retirement (at 64 or 65), they would lose anywhere from 15 to 25 percent of their Social Security benefits for the rest of their lives.
Shame on the commission for coming up with a plan that would consign so many hard-working women to such a cruel future. And shame on the commissioners who voted for it.