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July 13 2011

Women Deserve Better Than Social Security

Carrie L. Lukas

IWF's Sabrina Schaeffer perfectly describes in The Hill today why the feminist Left's love of Social Security is misguided:

Social Security was designed to fit the needs of the 1935 family: namely, a single-earner marriage in which one spouse (usually the husband) was the sole breadwinner. At the time of retirement, the husband would receive 100 percent of his earned benefit, and his spouse received an additional "spousal benefit" of 50 percent of her husband's benefit - even though she did not actually pay Social Security taxes.

This structure, which persists today, favors single-earner families over two-income families. Marriages in which both the husband and wife have to work are often subsidizing wealthier single-earner families. What's more, it disproportionately hurts African-American women, who are less likely to be married than white women.

What about divorce? In 1935, divorce was far less common than it is today. A divorced woman, then and now, must have been married for 10 years in order to receive Social Security benefits based on her former husband's earnings. That may have seemed generous back then, but today millions of women who find themselves in bad marriages are penalized by this policy.

And widows? A woman who loses her husband has a choice to receive the greater of either her husband's benefit or her own. While in 1935 few women might have been contributing outside of the home, the situation is again far different today. Many women will find their income cut dramatically despite years of two spouses contributing to the system.

It's always surprised me that women on the left remain so uniformly committed to Social Security. Edwards and Norton are right to be concerned about the effect of Social Security on women. What they seem to ignore, however, is that women are already suffering under this massive entitlement program.

The solution for women is not more of the same; rather, women need a retirement plan that reflects the changing roles of women and the American family. As in all other areas of life, women would benefit most from the freedom to save and invest in a way that reflects the needs of their family and lifestyle.

Well put.  I'd add that essentially all proposals to reform Social Security exempt current beneficiairies and focus on augmenting benefits for those with lower income (disproportionately women) while curtailing benefits for "rich" seniors.  Those who knee-jerkly oppose any attempt to reform Social Security are either missing the big picture, or are purely playing politics. 

Oh, and it's also worth noting that current law would have beneficiaries hit with an across the board benefit cut of about 30 percent of current benefits once Social Security runs out of money.  Why exactly are we to be scared of changing current law?

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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