Surveying 20 Million People’s Social Security Safety Net Skip to main content

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Surveying 20 Million People’s Social Security Safety Net


Just as Social Security seems to be running into the red—paying out more dollars than it’s taking in—it also appears the social welfare program has never been more important.  In its 75th year, amid the worst economic crisis since the Great Recession, Social Security is acting as a financial lifeline to America’s most needy citizens.  And without it, the consequences would be dire.

Based on a recent report by The Huffington Post, “If [Social Security] benefits were to be significantly cut, 19.8 million more Americans would be thrust in poverty, according to a recent report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. In addition to supporting the elderly, Social Security is currently keeping more than 1 million children and more than 5 million adults below the age of 65 above the poverty line.”

The report also finds that cuts to Social Security would be especially debilitating for a nation composed of nearly 12% women over the age of 65 who currently live below the poverty line. Without Social Security nearly half of them would have no way to stay afloat. As a result, many of these mature women and millions of other Americans who depend on Social Security are, according to The Huffington Post, “watching closely as a bipartisan commission set up by President Obama mulls over the idea of cutting funds to the program to reduce the deficit. HuffPost's Ryan Grim reported that nearly 85 percent of American adults polled oppose cuts to Social Security, according to a recent survey conducted by GfK Roper, and 72% ‘strongly oppose’ the idea.” Within this AARP survey included a conclusion that flies in the face of conventional wisdom: half of all non-retired adults said that they would be willing to pay higher taxes to ensure that Social Security will be there for them.

Other themes revealed in the survey include:

Strong Desire to Have Social Security Despite Low Confidence in its Future
According to the survey, a strong majority of respondents not too or not at all confident of Social Security’s future as a program agreed that even if they didn’t need it, they’d like to know it’s there. A majority of respondents also agree that without Social Security, their families would be hard hit in the aftermath.

Protecting Social Security Trumps Dealing With the Deficit
Given their desire to have Social Security as a program available in later years, it’s not surprising that half of respondents surveyed would also be willing to pay more taxes to ensure the program’s existence in retirement. This contravenes the wisdom of many a politician’s election-year vote wrangling under the premise of dealing with the deficit at any cost, including cuts in Social Security spending which cover unemployment benefits as well as disability and retirement payments.

Even Younger Americans Support Social Security
According to AARP, “Nine in ten adults under age 30 believe Social Security is an important government program, and over nine in ten want to know it is there when they retire just in case they need it.” In short, while they’re not to confident that it will be there for them when the time comes, younger generations value this 75-year-old social welfare institution as much as the next person.

As The Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim concluded, “The strong support for the program isn't ideological but personal and visceral. Cutting Social Security would bring real pain, survey respondents said. Just shy of two-thirds say that their family would be hit hard if Social Security were cut. Eighty percent of Americans say that Social Security alleviates the financial burden of taking care of parents. Prior to the enactment of Social Security, the elderly consistently drained the savings of their children in their waning days or were shipped off to homes known as ‘poor houses’ -- a phrase that survives today as a cliché disconnected from its original use.”

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