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Keep Retirement Age As Is

date: 
May 9, 2005

Editorial by UMWA President Cecil Roberts published in the May 9, 2005 USA Today: "Keep Retirement Age As Is"

By Cecil E. Roberts
International President, United Mine Workers of America

The idea that raising the age for collecting full Social Security benefits to age 70 or even older should be part of a comprehensive solution to "fixing" Social Security begs two questions: Is Social Security really in trouble? And if it is, what's the best way to solve the problem?

Let's be clear: There is no "crisis" right now in our Social Security system. None.

There is also no question that the system must be strengthened over the long term to deal with funding challenges it will face several decades from now.

America's coal miners do physically demanding and dangerous work. They've given 35, 40, even 45 years of their lives and their health to energizing this nation. Forcing them to continue their toil even longer in exchange for the benefits they've already earned would be a travesty of the highest order. The same can be said for health care workers, steelworkers and other working Americans who work in difficult, exhausting jobs.

The notion of raising the retirement age is especially galling in light of recent proposals to cut Social Security benefits for middle-income Americans by as much as 40%. Taken together, these two proposals send a message to working Americans that, "We're going to make you work longer to collect fewer benefits." This is the kind of twisted logic we've unfortunately come to expect from those in power who shamelessly advocate the transfer of wealth from the working poor and middle classes to the rich.

Our nation has run up huge deficits and borrowed hundreds of billions from the Social Security surplus to pay for tax cuts for the richest Americans-money that could have instead been used to shore up Social Security for the long term. And now middle-income workers are being asked to work years longer and accept far less in benefits. Where's the fairness in that?

Raising the retirement age as part of a solution to Social Security's financial ills is an unnecessary and mean-spirited step when several more reasonable and fair solutions exist-starting with significantly raising the annual earnings cap on an individual's contributions.

Solving Social Security's financial problems on the aging backs of hard-working Americans is just wrong. It's time Congress looked at commonsense solutions that benefit working families, not harm them.

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