The president of AARP spoke last night to a crowd of Iowans and Nebraskans, taking aim at plans to take money from the Social Security system. Marie Smith says the system is not in crisis, with funding in place to pay current benefits for 38 years. But Smith claims of a crisis just over the horizon are being used to spur reform efforts in the upcoming session of congress. Any proposed changes should strengthen Social Security, not erode its essential protections, she says, adding it’s been the nation’s only guaranteed source of retirement income for years, and we owe it to ourselves and to future generations to fight for it. Smith says it wouldn’t be a bad idea to start bolstering the system now… but she warns against reforms touted by President Bush and others: to replace a portion of Social Security with private, individual savings accounts. She says the accounts would be funded with money taken out of social security and that AARP calls them “carve-out accounts,” because they’d carve out a piece of your guaranteed social security benefit. Supporters of the personal savings accounts say they would give younger workers more control over their retirement savings and higher return on their investments. Smith retorts that Social Security is inflation-protected and provides secure, life-time benefits, which “Carve-outs” would not. Smith says if you lived to be 100, Social Security would be there for you, whereas it’s quite possible to outlive your “Carve-Out” account, or find its value chipped away by inflation, just when healthcare costs or other expenses may increase. Smith noted that Social Security is more than retirement checks — it also provides disability and survivors’ benefits, which she says are more important than ever to young families whose employers are cutting back on benefits. Smith spoke to a crowd of about 350 in Omaha.
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