In recent years there has been a renewed call for an examination of this country's Social Security Program. It has been driven both by legitimate concerns for the strength and stability of the program as it faces the challenge of our nation's changing demographics, longer life expectancy, the "baby boom" generation reaching retirement age and the decreasing number of workers contributing to a Social Security system covering these "baby boomers". It is also shaped by our nation's free market system and recent efforts to "privatize" many government programs, including Social Security. Many of the proposals circulating on Capitol Hill seek to strike a similar balance between fixing the current system and taking a more market-oriented approach.
To keep the current system intact would require choosing among options, such as, a reduction in benefits, an increase in taxes and an acceleration in the already scheduled increase in the retirement age. There is also support for trying to increase the amount of money the Government makes investing the pool of funds it holds to pay future benefits. Some analysts say the Government should invest part of the money in stocks as well as Government bonds.
Another approach calls for reducing the level of payment guaranteed by the Government but putting more of the taxes paid back into the hands of individuals to invest. The more modest of these proposals would allow individuals to allocate some fraction of the money they contribute to Social Security to particular investment vehicles. A radical approach calls for largely replacing the current system with mandatory retirement savings accounts.
USCC/Catholic Charities USA
The concern and support for the Social Security program by the Catholic Church is not new. "As early as 1919, in the "Program of Social Reconstruction", Catholic bishops called for the State to provide comprehensive social insurance to provide protection against old age, disability, and illness. The Church through all the intervening years has been a strong supporter of the Social Security System because it provides precisely this protection". [Statement on Social Security, March 1983, approved by the Administrative Board of the U.S. Catholic Conference]
In the 1983 document, Statement on Social Security, the Administrative Board reaffirmed the Church's support for the Social Security System and highlighted several of the moral principles from the Catholic social tradition which they hoped would shape the public policy debate over Social Security. Because of the pressures of demographics, the market and politics, the nation may soon undertake a similar reexamination of the Social Security System. The debate is likely to be contentious and not always focused on the common good. The 1983 statement noted that "the concept of the common good is an essential element of our social teaching and one that has important implications for the issue of Social Security". They further noted that "in the case of social insurance for the aged, the widowed, and the disabled, we are dealing with a right that is essential for the effective human development of a large segment of our citizen population". The statement concludes that a "humane social policy must include a comprehensive social insurance program that is organized through the public sector" and that the right to social insurance "cannot be adequately protected without the active participation of government".
The 1983 statement, as well as an earlier one, Society and the Aged: Toward Reconciliation, issued in 1976, remain strong statements of the principles which should guide the upcoming public discussion of how to strengthen and preserve the Social Security System.
For more information, contact:
Sharon Daly CCUSA at 703-549-1390X39 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Patricia King USCC at 202-541-3188 or email@example.com