By Ron Mori
I have a feeling that all of us are about to hit or have hit the presidential debate wall. The truth is that we’ve only started, and in the coming months, the remaining candidates need to provide more than soundbites on major issues facing all of us. And one issue that stands out is Social Security.
Debate after debate, all I hear from some of the presidential candidates on how to make Social Security financially sound is “blah blah blah.” You can find vague proposals on some of their websites, but in public, they basically duck questions or speak those empty soundbites.
Like everyone else, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders pay into Social Security year after year, and with Democratic and Republican presidential primaries and caucuses taking place on an almost weekly basis, we deserve to know now how the candidates would keep it strong for us, our kids and grandkids.
It’s very important that our community hear from the candidates on this issue. In 2013, the average annual Social Security income received by AAPI men 65 years and older was $15,499, and for women it was $11,748. Among AAPIs receiving Social Security, 31 percent of elderly married couples and 53 percent of unmarried elderly people relied on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income. That’s a lot of reliance on little income!
What’s worse, if our leaders don’t act, future retirees could lose 25 percent of their benefits. I fall right in this category of future retirees, and I don’t like the fact that I could lose 25 percent of my benefits by the time I’m eligible.
That’s why Social Security needs to be updated for the 21st century.
The world has changed a lot in 80 years since Social Security was established. Consider these four changes that Social Security needs to address: First, the average 65 year old today will live seven years longer than when the program started in the 1930s. Second, women are having fewer children, so there are fewer people entering the workforce and paying into Social Security. Third, the role of women has changed dramatically: More women are working, some women never marry and there are more divorces — all things that affect how much they will receive in benefits. Finally, a growing share of earnings is going to those at the top of the pay scale, which means they are exempt from Social Security’s payroll tax.
The only way to make progress is for our national leaders to make Social Security a priority and put serious proposals on the table. And it starts with presidential leadership. Anyone who thinks they’re ready to be president of the United States should be able to tell voters how they’ll keep Social Security strong.
That’s why AARP is pressing every candidate to Take A Stand — and lay out his or her plan to update Social Security so it’s financially sound with adequate benefits.
So far, the candidates have put a number of proposals on the table. Raise the retirement age. Raise the amount of taxable wages. Change the way the yearly cost of living increase is calculated. Improve benefits. But what will these proposals mean for you and your family?
Throughout the election, AARP will urge the candidates to debate their proposals so you know how they will affect you, your kids and generations to come. But we need your help. Join us in sending a clear message to the candidates: Enough of the blah, blah, blahs.
Every candidate needs to Take A Stand and tell the American people, “What’s your plan” for Social Security?
To learn where the candidates stand and send a message to them about Social Security, go to www.2016takeastand.org.
Ron Mori is a board member for the Washington, D.C., JACL chapter, and manager of community, states and national affairs — multicultural leadership for AARP.