WASHINGTON (May 26, 1999) -- Changes in Social Security must consider the poor above all, according to a statement issued by the U.S. Bishops' Administrative Board, which directs the actions of the nation's bishops between their two annual sessions.
The statement was published in late May, following the Administrative Board approval of it at its March meeting.
The statement, "A Commitment to All Generations: Social Security and the Common Good," emphasizes the relationship of the principles of Catholic social teaching to the American values expressed through the Social Security program.
"The Social Security program is the largest and one of the most successful social programs in the United States. It provides an effective, dignified way for Americans to honor their responsibility to provide basic income security and medical insurance [through Medicare] for the elderly, persons with disabilities, and their dependents," the statement said.
"Social Security has helped reduce poverty rates for the elderly, from 35 percent in 1959 to less than 11 percent in 1996. It has lifted more than one million children out of poverty each year through the survivors' benefits due them upon the death of a parent, it added.
The statement identifies five key criteria by which reform proposals should be evaluated:
- Changes in Social Security should not put at risk those individuals and families whose resources are already very limited.
- The disability and survivors' portions of the Social Security program should remain linked to the retirement portion to ensure continuity of commitment to workers and their families in cases of disability and death.
- Any changes made in the tax structure should be weighted in favor of the poor. Those with lower incomes should bear less of the total Social Security tax burden than those who are more affluent.
- Benefit inadequacies with respect to the benefits received by some women should be remedied.
- Principles of equity and concern for the common good support bringing employees from all sectors of the economy into the Social Security program.
Editors: The entire statement is available upon request. It also can be found on the Web at www.nccbuscc.org/sdwp/national/commitment.htm.