Election 2020 – Social Security

Posted on 10/16/20

Social Security is enormous and complex, paying out $90 billion a month to more than 64 million retirees, people with disabilities and their family members. It's wildly popular, supported by more than 90 percent of U.S. adults across the political spectrum, according to a recent AARP survey. And it's critical to older Americans' financial health, with 4 in 5 of those polled expecting to rely on Social Security during their later years.

Given Social Security's importance, concerns about its current and future state are understandable and widespread.

What's at stake: Ensuring that current and future generations will get the retirement benefits they have earned and rely on.

The issue: About 45 million retired workers and 3.1 million dependents receive Social Security benefits; currently, 1 out of every 3 of these households rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income. Social Security also covers about 6 million survivors of deceased workers and 10 million disabled workers and their dependents.

According to the most recent estimates, the trust funds that help pay for the program will be exhausted by 2035. Without any changes to the system, the program at that point would still be able to pay 79 percent of its current benefits. But that report was based on data before the pandemic. A May report from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania suggests that the trust funds could be exhausted sooner because millions of workers have lost their jobs, so less money is coming into the system.

The players

  • President: The president typically sets the agenda for Social Security, and no legislation can pass without the president's involvement.
  • Senators and members of the House of Representatives: They have the power to enact legislation to adjust Social Security taxes, payouts, ages, oversight and more. Lawmakers last made major changes to the program in 1983.

What older Americans think
In an AARP poll, 91 percent of voters over age 50 said politicians who fail to protect their health and financial security are out of touch. What's more, 93 percent of respondents in the same poll said that to win, candidates must talk about the issues that matter to older voters, including preventing cuts to Social Security.

Where AARP Stands

  • Social Security should be financed and protected not only for current retirees but for generations of Americans to come.
  • Reforms should ensure adequate benefits for those most reliant on Social Security and those who would have trouble postponing retirement.
  • Social Security is a benefit that Americans earn through their working lives, and the program should be financed to ensure long-term adequacy and solvency.

This story is provided by AARP West Virginia. Visit the AARP West Virginia page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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