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Proposed Social Security Cuts Would Hurt Seniors

April 14, 2011

Social Security info

OK. So the leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives say they won’t propose cuts in Social Security benefits in the current round of negotiations on the 2011 budget. And, at least for now, they say, they won’t suggest gambling with working families’ financial survival by investing the Social Security trust fund—that provides critical support for retirees, disabled Americans, widows and widowers and dependent children—in the stock market. .


Before we breathe a sigh of relief for 54 million Americans who depend upon Social Security, however, we need to pay attention to measures the Republican leadership of Congress believes America needs to stop what they say is “out-of-control government spending.” 

They propose to cut $1.5 billion in funding of Social Security “administrative costs.”

That would cost 3,500 employees of the Social Security Administration their jobs. The agency’s administrator, Michael Astrue, has testified in Washington warning that those cuts could reduce the quality and quantity of customer service at the agency. Other experts say the job cuts, combined with others under consideration, will set back our nation’s economic recovery.

A report from the Democratic staff of the Committee on Ways and Means outlines how the cuts in Social Security services would affect current and future recipients in the states.

For instance, in California, the cuts would mean that Social Security offices would be shut down for four weeks out of the seven months remaining in 2011. Almost 60,000 applications for Social Security benefits (retirement, disability, and survivor) would not be processed. 

More than 18,000 disabled workers would not be able to appeal their benefit denials.  More than 120,000 babies wouldn’t be assigned Social Security numbers. Nearly 350,000 people would call the Social Security office and get no answer.  More than 350 jobs would be lost and the economy would lose $17.7 million. 

Taxpayers would lose savings generated by periodic Social Security Administration reviews of benefit overpayments that would not be conducted due to decreased staffing.

At a recent press conference, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), a member of the bi-partisan Bowles-Simpson debt commission that considered methods to trim the federal deficit, denounced the Social Security cuts.  And Schakowsky blasted a statement by Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) who said that programs like Social Security cannot continue to exist  if Americans want to “keep their vision” of their country. Said Schakowsky:


Polls show that overwhelming numbers of Democrats, Republicans and even Tea Party members support Social Security. These cuts [and Rep. Cantor’s views], coming at the same time that millionaires and billionaires get massive tax breaks, show how out of touch the House leadership is with America’s values.

Also addressing the press conference was Ed Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans.  Coyle said that seniors are repeatedly subjected to scare tactics about the Social Security trust fund soon running out of money, even though most experts agree that there is enough money in the fund to pay all claims through 2037.  Says Coyle:


One thing all pundits agree on is that a few states will be critical to the next presidential election.  And all of those states have large numbers of older voters. Eric Cantor says that Social Security is to blame for the deficit. I thank him for drawing a line in the sand because we will mobilize seniors to stop Congress from balancing the budget on the backs of seniors, the disabled and people who have lost parents at a young age.

The Alliance for Retired Americans has produced several fact sheets on Social Security that can be easily reproduced for distribution in workplaces and communities.

Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user Aric Riley.