June Girard: Why are cuts being made to Social Security?


Published: Monday, March 25, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 10:40 p.m.

Our country is not on the verge of bankruptcy. The United States owns a large percentage of all U.S. lands — that includes all the natural resources those lands hold, which equals incredible wealth.

Our deficit is not out of control. In 2009, it was 10 percent of the gross domestic product and it has dropped every year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Today, it is 5.8 percent. That is the fastest deficit reduction in several generations. Yet politicians are now looking to curb the growth of Social Security.

Dr. Francis Townsend (1867-1960) wrote a letter to the Long Beach Press Telegram in 1933 suggesting that the national government retire all who reach the age of 60 on a monthly pension of $20 a month.

He asked, “Where is the money to come from?” He answered, “more taxes, certainly. We have nothing in the world we do not pay taxes to enjoy.”

In his letter, Townsend reminded people not to overlook the fact that they were paying a large portion of the amount required for those pensions in the form of life insurance policies, aid agencies, health care and prisons.

Townsend’s letter led to a petition drive to enact the “Townsend Plan” that gathered millions of signatures. Partly as a result, Franklin Delano Roosevelt proposed his own plan called the Social Security Act. It was signed into law by President Roosevelt on August 14, 1935.

At the beginning, the Social Security Board consisted of three presidential appointments. A critic of Roosevelt, Townsend continued selling the idea of the more generous Townsend Plan, but eventually he was drowned out by the government. By July 1939, the Social Security Board was reorganized as the Social Security Administration (SSA) under the Federal Security Agency.

In the 1950s the SSA became a more generous program computed on quarterly earnings. President Eisenhower abolished the Federal Security Agency in 1953 and created the department of Health Education and Welfare (HEW) and the Social Security Administration was made part of this new agency. HEW was replaced by the Health and Human Services until 1994, when President Clinton made it an independent agency effective March 1995.

No matter what it is called, Townsend’s letter is as accurate today as it was in 1933. In their projections of cost, has anyone considered that over time the growing female work force will make contributions to SSI in their own account and the government can look at dropping some, if not all, of the spousal benefits that now exist?

The pensions, called benefits and now entitlements, are computed on an annual income divided by four and they have been extended to include divorcees (if married for 10 years or more), widows, the physically handicapped, the chronically ill, mothers with dependent children and others who through no fault of their own are unable to work for a living.

Social Security assures us that our elderly and others who cannot fend for themselves will not go hungry or without shelter. Everyone who worked for a living and/or paid into Social Security to receive those benefits pays taxes on them.

I suggest that those whose earnings exceed $250,000 a year and are mentally and physically well, be removed from these benefits, thereby assuring the continuation of support pegged to the cost of living index for those that actually need it.

June Girard lives in Gainesville.

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