NAACP Opposes Proposed Changes To Social Security

Bush Administration plan would put African American elderly at risk

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the nation's oldest, largest and most widely-recognized grassroots civil rights organization, strongly opposes any plan that would decrease or in any way jeopardize the guaranteed benefits that America's seniors, disabled or surviving family members currently receive from Social Security.

NAACP Interim President and CEO Dennis Hayes said: "Social Security is the only source of income for 1 in 3 African Americans over the age of 65. Without the guaranteed Social Security benefits they receive today, the poverty rate among older African Americans would more than double, pushing these seniors into squalor and poverty during their most vulnerable years."

As such, the NAACP opposes gambling Social Security benefits on the volatile stock market that has in recent years, left too many seniors with nothing but a government program to sustain them. There is a concern that privatization would result in all Social Security beneficiaries paying more for the administration of the program, and thus receiving less.

Moreover, Hayes said: "President Bush's assertion that Social Security is a bad deal for African Americans because our life expectancy is shorter than whites is misleading because it assumes that blacks will forever die sooner than whites. Rather than privatize Social Security the administration should take steps to improve health care as a means to decrease the black mortality rate. It is also noteworthy that the life expectancy rate for blacks improves if they survive the pathologies that impact on young African Americans, particularly black males." The New York Times reported that African American men who live to 65 generally collect benefits for 14.6 years, just short of the rate of 16.6 years for white men.

The NAACP believes that Social Security remains especially important to African Americans and other racial and ethnic groups as they have traditionally been at the low end of the earning scale over their lifetimes. As a result, Americans of color are less likely to have substantial individual savings and are generally more dependent on Social Security in their retirement years. By contrast, the Bureau of Census reports that less than half of all retirees receive income from pensions.

Proposals to "privatize" Social Security concern the NAACP for several reasons. While the NAACP strongly encourages all Americans at every age and of every racial and ethnic background to invest in the American economy and to save for the future, privatization of one's Social Security benefits would make many seniors even more dependent on the state of the national economy.

Furthermore, Social Security benefits for disabled workers and surviving family members are also imperative to the survival of a high number of African Americans. African Americans between the ages of 50 and 59 are nearly two times as likely as other workers in that age group to become disabled. Additionally, African American children are almost four times more likely to be lifted out of poverty by Social Security benefits than their white counterparts.

Hayes said: "We must take care to see that the impact of any changes in the Social Security system does not fall disproportionately on lower income groups, or on those Americans whose work-life has been physically demanding. Any changes should not make the financing of Social Security any less progressive."

In addition to ensuring the continuity of guaranteed benefits at their current levels, the NAACP will also focus on the need to address issues that have not changed for decades, such as the burial amount given to survivors. Currently, Social Security provides families with $255 to cover burial fees; an amount that has not changed since 1955. At 2005 rates, that is barely enough to cover the flower arrangements.

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its half-million adult and youth members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.

CONTACT: NAACP Office of Communications 410.580.5125

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