( – promoted by lowkell)
“Why should I care about everyone else? They don’t care about me.”
It has been impossible for these words echoed in a Woodbridge senior home to not resonate with me. As part of a summer Social Security outreach program I have spoken to hundreds of seniors in the Northern Virginia area about the future of Social Security. Most of the seniors I speak with still believe, despite what is going on in Washington, that we are a country that takes care of its seniors. Still, there are some seniors, such as a woman I recently met in a Woodbridge senior home, who embrace fierce cynicism when discussing Social Security. As I urged her to speak up and voice her concerns regarding Social Security, she fought back vehemently. Why should she care about future generations receiving their benefits? Why should she care about raising the retirement age? Why should she care that politicians are bargaining with a program that is so vital to her livelihood? In her opinion this is nothing new.
Now that Congress has passed a bill that will raise the debt ceiling and cut spending, the grueling process of determining which programs and agencies to cut has begun. This is caused me to wonder, will our politicians’ decision-making validate this senior’s claim that her follow citizens don’t care? Will our country’s seniors and most vulnerable families suffer simply because their politicians are not looking out for their best interests?
Senator Warner has made it clear that he is willing to put Social Security on the table as part of deficit reduction negotiations. Including Social Security in the future debt-ceiling bill spending cuts will harm seniors and will provide little deficit relief considering Social Security does not contribute a single penny to the deficit.
Too often Social Security is presented as a “broken” program. In reality, the program is not only stable but is also the foundation of the economic well being of millions of Americans. Furthermore, Social Security is founded on the promise that if individuals pay their share of funds into the program, they will be guaranteed to its benefits. It’s a commitment to individuals and their families that has transposed numerous generations. And it is a commitment that we simply cannot afford to break. America is not, and should not be, a country where each individual is only looking out for him or herself. Rather it’s a country that continues to endorse values of unity and equality.
Social Security belongs to the people, not to politicians in Washington who would prefer to cut senior’s benefits rather than raise taxes on the wealthy. Even more alarming, it would validate the cynicism statement I heard in the Woodbridge senior home that “no one cares” about seniors. If our politicians in Washington make cuts to Social Security, they will be defaulting on an enduring promise made to millions of people every day. We simply cannot allow this to happen.
Stephanie Mitchell is an intern with the Virginia Organizing Social Security summer program. This summer in the Fredericksburg area, you can find Stephanie giving daily presentations on the future of Social Security.