Why young people should support expanding Social Security

I’m one of the youngest Millennials, born in 1995. Every day, I work to organize young people to take back our government by electing leaders who will fight for our future instead of for corporate donors. That includes fighting to expand, never cut, Social Security’s modest benefits.

Wall Street and its allies have spent decades attempting to convince my generation that Social Security won’t be there for us—but that’s not true. In fact, Millennials and Gen Zs will rely on our Social Security system even more than our parents and grandparents do.

As long as people are working, Social Security can pay out benefits. It is true that in about 16 years, if Congress does nothing, Social Security will only be able to pay out about 80 percent of promised benefits. That’s definitely something that needs to be addressed—but it’s not a crisis, and it’s certainly not a reason to scrap the powerful economic security system we’ve built over the past 84 years. Instead, we must address wealth inequality and increase retirement security for all generations by giving our system a tune-up.

ADVERTISEMENT

Rep. John Larson John Barry Larson Retirees should say 'no thanks' to Romney's Social Security plan The Hill's 12:30 Report: All eyes on Pelosi as calls for impeachment grow More Democrats threaten impeachment over Trump's dealings with Ukraine MORE (D-Conn.) and over 200 House Democrats have a plan: the Social Security 2100 Act. The 2100 Act would ensure that young people today get our fully earned benefits when we retire.

The 2100 Act will increase Social Security benefits across the board while switching to a more accurate measure of inflation, ensuring the value of our benefits doesn’t erode. And importantly, it increases the minimum monthly benefit so that we can all retire in dignity.

Even better, the 2100 Act makes millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share into our Social Security system. Currently, wealthy Americans stop paying into Social Security after their first $132,900 in earnings. Millionaires stop paying into Social Security in February of each year, while 95 percent of workers pay in all year long. It’s long past time that the wealthy pay the same rate as the rest of us.

Need more reasons why we must expand Social Security’s modest benefits? Social Security is extremely reliable and efficient. In over 80 years, it’s never missed a payment and less than one percent of total costs go towards overhead. And, Social Security doesn’t add a single penny to the deficit. 

Republicans and right-wing think tanks love to throw out dirty words like “entitlements” to demonize Social Security, but it’s an earned benefit. We pay into Social Security with every paycheck—it’s literally our money.

ADVERTISEMENT

At recent congressional hearings, Republicans claimed that the 2100 Act will hurt millennials due to a small and gradual increase in payroll contributions. This is utterly misleading. Under the 2100 Act, the yearly increase in the contribution rate is just one additional nickel on every hundred dollars earned — a very modest price to protect and expand our earned Social Security benefits and ensure every American can enjoy a fruitful retirement.

If we don’t pass the 2100 Act, young people are going to get over $80,000 less in benefits when we’re retired (a ton of money to miss out on!) Not to mention, Social Security is more than just a retirement program. It also includes disability and survivor benefits, which are hugely important for young people. Over one in four of today's 20-year-olds will become disabled before reaching the age of 67. Imagine that tomorrow, you get hit by a car or fall off a ladder, and become permanently disabled. Social Security disability benefits will be there for you.

Social Security survivor benefits are another essential protection against life’s risks. When a breadwinner dies young, leaving behind a family, Social Security is there for them. That’s one of the reasons that Social Security is our nation’s largest children’s program, benefiting 6.4 million children every year. Expanding, not cutting, Social Security will benefit Americans of all ages.

My generation is saddled with enormous student debt. Many of us are wondering how we will be able to buy a house or have a child, let alone save for retirement. Very few of us will even have enough savings to support our families if we were to die or become disabled. We’re going to need our Social Security benefits.

The United States of America is the wealthiest country in the history of the world. There’s no reason, apart from greed, that any of our current or future seniors, people with disabilities, or surviving loved ones should be living in poverty. We can do better and, because we can, we must.

We have the power to create a better future for ourselves. I urge young people to pressure their representatives to pass the Social Security 2100 Act. We’ll be thanking ourselves later and create a more just society in the process.

Nick Guthman is co-founder and executive director of Blue Future.