Craig Gima
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

Social Security turned 85 last month amid heightened concern for the popular program’s future, after President Donald Trump proposed a payroll tax holiday which would eliminate the payroll tax that funds Social Security if re-elected.

Trump subsequently said his proposal would not affect the future of Social Security, that the money would be replaced. In a letter to the White House, AARP pressed the president to explain how he would fund Social Security in the absence of a payroll tax and reminded him that about one out four older Americans depends on Social Security for 90% or more of their income.

“Social Security is arguably the most important and successful program in our nation’s history,” AARP Chief Executive Officer Jo Ann Jenkins wrote. “As AARP said in a letter to President Obama in 2012, payroll tax holidays undermine confidence in Social Security and put at risk the program’s dedicated funding stream and the hard-earned benefits of millions of Americans and their families.”

The letter underscores a core commitment of AARP: we will never stop fighting to strengthen Social Security and make sure hard-working Americans get the benefits they’ve earned.

We know that our members overwhelmingly believe in Social Security. We polled Americans about Social Security and found bi-partisan support: 93% of Republicans, 99% of Democrats, and 92% of Independents see Social Security as an important government program. And 56% believe it is even more important for retirees in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Americans also expressed concern for the future of Social Security. Nearly three in five Americans are not confident about Social Security’s future. Confidence in Social Security is generational — 65% of those 65 and older are confident that Social Security will be there. The number drops to 47% of those 50 to 64 and confidence in the program is lowest among 30-to-49-year-olds at only 28%.

Why aren’t Americans secure about the future of Social Security? About 29% don’t trust the government to keep its promises and 26% think the money is running out.

The fact is that as long as people are working and paying taxes into the Social Security Trust, there will be a Social Security program. However, the trust fund is running out of reserve cash; the latest projection is that unless Congress does something to shore up the system, payments will be cut in 2034 and Social Security will be able to pay out only about 79% of promised benefits.

AARP has always said that Congress should put politics aside and that both parties should work together to fully fund Social Security. A bipartisan solution is the best path forward.

Four out of five Americans are counting on Social Security to fund part of their retirement. Protecting Social Security is part of our “Protect Voters 50+” campaign. We want to make sure the candidates tell us their plan to protect Social Security for current and future generations before we cast our ballots in November.

Craig Gima is communications director at AARP Hawai‘i. He is an award-winning multimedia communicator with more than 30 years of experience. A Honolulu native, Gima spent nearly 19 years at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in a variety of reporting, editing and online roles before joining AARP in 2016. Gima graduated cum laude from the University of Southern California.


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