Today we are wishing a happy 80th birthday to Social Security, one of the foremost accomplishments of the last century in providing Americans with a secure retirement. Formed in the wake of the Great Depression, Social Security helps Americans who work hard and play by the rules have a chance at a modest and secure retirement.
Unfortunately, not all politicians think Americans should have this chance. Instead of asking how we can provide more retirement security to working families, especially the estimated 50 million who have no retirement plan at work, some politicians and Wall Street interests want to manipulate the system in their favor.
In June, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush called for the privatization of Social Security (he also thinks we should make Americans work longer hours and more years before retiring). Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul--who are also vying for the Republican presidential nomination--also support privatizing Social Security and raising the retirement age.
Wall Street and the politicians who do its bidding have been just as zealous about attacking the retirement security of workers, who do not receive Social Security. You read that right. Millions of Americans--like teachers, nurses, firefighters, social workers, and other public employees--are not eligible for Social Security benefits. In 15 states, the only vehicle these working people have for retirement savings is a defined benefit pension.
The same greedy, Wall-Street interests that have tried to privatize Social Security are at work trying to dismantle public employee pensions. Take John Arnold, for example. As an Enron trader, Arnold earned an $8 million bonus as the company's collapse decimated $1.5 billion in public pension assets. Arnold turned his $8 million golden parachute into billions as a Wall Street hedge fund manager. Now, he advocates for policies that gut pensions for public employees; policies that are costly for taxpayers and that reduce benefits for workers while earning a fortune for Wall Street bankers.
We've seen Arnold-bankrolled attacks on pensions from California to Missouri to Kentucky. In these states, along with 12 others, public employees have only their pension to depend on for retirement.
As we celebrate 80 years of Social Security, we must continue to stand up against Wall Street interests who want to privatize social security, force older Americans to work longer, gut pensions for public employees, and continue to manipulate our government to only benefit the wealthiest in our country. The dream, that for 80 years Social Security has helped Americans realize, is that we ALL deserve a dignified retirement after a life of hard work.