Women Leaders: Strengthen and Protect Social Security

The National Council of Women’s Organizations, a group comprised of women leaders from over 100 organizations, asked President Clinton and Congress to strengthen and preserve important protections for women under the Social Security system at a press conference held Wednesday .

“Social Security is women’s security,” said Susan Bianchi-Sand, Chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations and Executive Director of the National Committee on Pay Equity. “We want to ensure that any proposal that compromises these protections is off the table and that women are at the table when decisions about reform are made.”

In the November elections this year, one in seven women voters described Social Security as their “uppermost” consideration in selecting a candidate, while only one in ten men listed it.

Institute for Women’ Policy Research President Heidi Hartmann stated, “Since women and men have different life experiences and different work experiences, virtually any public policy affects women differently than it affects men. Social Security is no exception.”

A checklist of yes-or-no questions asking whether the reform proposals “keep the heart in social security” developed by the National Council of Women’s Organizations was released at the press conference. The questions were:

Continue to help those with lower lifetime earnings, who are disproportionately women?

Maintain full cost of living adjustments?

Protect and strengthen benefits for wives, widows, and divorced women?

Preserve disability and survivor benefits?

Protect the most disadvantaged women from ‘across the board’ benefit cuts?

Ensure that women’s guaranteed benefits are not reduced by individual account plans that are subject to the uncertainties of the stock market?

Address the care giving and labor force experiences of women?

Further reduce the number of elderly women living in poverty?

In her remarks, FMF President Eleanor Smeal called for serious consideration of the following reforms to improve the treatment of women:

Establishing earning sharing allocating 50% of both spouses’ earnings to each spouse so that each individual pays into the social security system and collects benefits in her or his own right.

Crediting, rather than penalizing, individuals providing child care or elderly care for their families.

Changing distribution of spousal and primary earner benefit to 75% of total benefit for spouse and 75% of total benefit for primary earner. Currently, the primary earner receives 100% and the spouse 50%.

Raising the cap on social security taxes in order to remove the additional tax burden on secondary wage earners.


Feminist Majority - December 3, 1998

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