What is Social Security?

Social Security provides a foundation income for over 46 million retired seniors and families of wage earners who die or become disabled. The Social Security System was won by the struggle of millions in 1935, the middle of the Great Depression, where millions lost their jobs and millions more lost their life savings in bank failures. Over half of America's elderly lacked sufficient income to be self-supporting. Through massive strikes and demonstrations workers and their families formed a movement that challenged the power of the government, forcing it to enact Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, the right to unions and other deep reforms, which business and government are now trying to take back.

90% of people over age 65 receive Social Security. 66% of beneficiaries receive over half their income from Social Security. Social Security is the only income for nearly 25% of seniors. Without Social Security, 40% of people over 65 would live in poverty. Even today, barely half of all workers have access to retirement plans at work, and employer pensions provide only about 10% of the income of retired Americans.

At the end of 2003, 47 million people received Social Security benefits, including 33 million retired work-ers and their dependents, 7 million survivors of deceased workers, and 8 million disabled workers and their families. It also supports almost 4 million children, making it one of the largest children's programs in the nation.

Monthly retirement benefits average $1,040 for men, just under $800 for women, $860 for disabled work-ers, and $1,835 for surviving spouses with children. Though based on lifetime earnings, benefits are still proportionally biased so low-income workers get a higher percentage of their earnings as benefits. Benefits are also indexed to inflation, unlike most company pensions.

57% of beneficiaries are women, who outlive men by at least four years, who earn 25% less than men for full-time work, who are more likely to have low-wage and part-time jobs, and who are less likely to be in employer pension plans.

14% of Americans die before reaching age 67. Social Security payroll taxes entitle their families to survivor's benefits, providing life insurance protection worth over $400,000.

30% today's 20-year-olds will become disabled before reaching age 67. 38 percent of Social Security benefits go to disabled workers, families of retired or disabled workers, and survivors of deceased work-ers. By contrast, 75% of the private sector workforce has no long-term disability insurance.

Hands Off Social Security:
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