Social security, as we know it, is in jeopardy. In just 13 years, there will only be enough funds to pay for 75 percent of scheduled benefits. That means more than 77 million Americans will be at risk of losing some form of benefits they’ve earned through tax payments throughout their employment history.
Junaid Ahmed, a candidate running to represent Illinois’ 8th Congressional District, believes politicians shouldn’t be waiting to address the issue until it’s too late.
“The problem with social security is rarely talked about amongst politicians nowadays. If we don’t do something about funding this critical program, millions of future retiring Americans will be at risk of falling into poverty,” said Ahmed. “How a country treats its eldery is a true sign of it’s values. Shouldn’t the richest country on the planet ensure all of its citizens can retire with dignity?”
So how can the government protect the future of Social Secruity? Ahmed has a plan.
Is Social Security a Successful Program?
The Social Security Act was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on August 14, 1935, and is one of his most outstanding achievements as president. Besides several provisions for general welfare, Roosevelt’s new Social Security Act (SSA) created a social insurance program designed to pay retired workers aged 65 or older a continuing income after retirement. The creation of the SSA was a land-breaking move at the time, as America was coming out of the Great Depression and getting ready to enter World War II. The existence of a safety net like SSA was a progressive and innovative move.
When Roosevelt signed the SSA, he famously wrote, “We can never insure one-hundred percent of the population against one-hundred percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life, but we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age.”
The program has been, and still is, a huge success. It’s kept millions of Americans out of poverty and is an important safety net for millions of retirees. Nearly 85 years after its inception, 96 percent of people said Social Security was paramount.
But in 1983, changes to the SSA with the Reagan and O’Neill Social Security Deal shifted the burden of financing the service from one generation to the next. The problem is that the U.S.’s birth rate has been on the decline, meaning there are less people working and not enough tax money to pay for the influx of retirees in the coming years.
“You have to remember that inflation has not been tied to the changes made to the program,” Ahmed explained. “Congress has done little to fix this problem. Social Security has been running a deficit for a while.”
As Ahmed explains, for workers paying $3 into the program today, they will likely only see $1 back in future benefits.
“We shouldn’t wait until the clock runs out. We can’t keep kicking the can down the road thinking we’ll get to it later,” said Ahemed. “We need to secure these funds now.”
So How Can We Save It?
Much like Roosevelt’s approach to solving the Great Depression and World War Two, Ahmed tackles this problem head-on and thinks outside the box.
“The fact of the matter is that America is changing. The percentage of Americans who are older is at its highest,” Ahmed explained. “Fewer Americans are having children, so we need to find a way to fund this program. Looking at our broken immigration system is a good start.”
Immigration has been a long-standing contributor to both the system of SSA and economic growth. Immigration across every democratic society in the West is a critical indicator and key variable contributing to economic growth. Ahmed proposes fixing and replacing our broken immigration system with one that works for the American people, immigrants, and especially for older Americans dependent on Social Security. There is a direct link between an influx of immigrants and a lower social security deficit.
“There are several tax loopholes that could be addressed to fix our immigration system as well,” said Ahmed. “It won’t save Social Security alone — that’s where wealth inequality comes into play.”
Wealth inequality and wage inequity are at the highest disparities ever seen in the U.S. As a result, with so much money moving towards the top, Ahmed acknowledges the payroll cap on Social Security is too low.
In 2022, $147,000 was the max that anyone would pay for Social Security. The distribution of wealth favoring the wealthy contributes to the broken Social Security system. According to Ahmed, one step towards resolving that issue is removing that payroll cap so that more affluent Americans are paying more of a fair share of their income.
This solution isn’t just about raising taxes on the wealthy; it’s about saying that less-affluent Americans, lower-wage earners, actually pay a higher percentage of their income into Social Security than wealthier Americans. Ahmed believes that’s a pretty obvious fix.
Running Out of Time
Older Americans turning 65 this year have lived through wars, pandemics, and the rise and fall of democracies. They have helped transform our world in ways their parents would have deemed unimaginable.
Among the lessons we’ve learned throughout this pandemic is how much we take older Americans for granted. Older Americans have disproportionately suffered throughout the pandemic, with many having lost their lives, jobs, and peace of mind when they once expected to enter their “Golden Years.”
“We must honor older Americans’ contributions to our country and fight to save and expand Social Security,” Ahmed proclaimed. “We need to ensure the wealthiest Americans contribute their fair share.”
For the large influx of future American retirees, this midterm election could be more important than they realize.
“Americans must elect leaders willing to fight for the most successful and popular domestic program in history,” said Ahmed.
Junaid Ahmed is a father, husband, small business owner, community activist, and candidate for Illinois’ 8th Congressional District. Ahmed believes that in the wealthiest nation on the planet, everyone should be able to thrive, not just the wealthy. He wants to break the old policies of the past and move the country forward with a values-driven progressive platform of Medicare for All, raising the minimum wage, campaign finance reform, ensuring debt-free higher education, and expanding human rights. While this is the first time Ahmed has run for office, he has on-the-ground political experience volunteering for Democratic campaigns, organizing rallies, and lobbying elected officials to support Medicare for All. His protesting efforts helped spur the Illinois General Assembly to shut down all immigrant detention centers in the state and severely restrict how local law enforcement can collaborate with ICE agents. Ahmed prides himself as a grassroots progressive who wants to put the power of the government back into the hands of everyday people.