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Your Terrifying Retirement Future: Why Millions Risk Sliding Into Poverty As They Age

Low wages, low or no savings, and low Social Security benefits. The future is not bright, especially for women and minorities.

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And there’s a moral argument. And that argument is that we should and can do better than what’s being proposed. And that we are better as a nation when we pull together to move forward to define progress for the world. The fact of the matter is Social Security of one of our great pillars of progress. We created it and we had the foresight to realize that workers could come together to contribute to their own security. And we need to continue to perpetuate it, because that’s what we do as Americans. We are problem solvers and we know how to put together systems that work. And some policy makers have forgotten that.

AlterNet: There’s one more thing I wanted to ask about. One under-appreciated piece of this is how immigration reform would contribute to solving this crisis. Isn’t that right?

Maya Rockeymoore: Yes, that’s correct. First of all, immigrants already contribute a whole heck of a lot of money to Social Security. It’s through undocumented labor and using fake Social Security numbers that do not match. These individuals are paying taxes and they are paying Social Security taxes. And they are primarily Latino in origin and coming from various Latin American countries. And these are individuals who tend to have larger families. We have been talking for the past several decades about the growing imbalance between the number of workers to retirees, and the fact of the matter is we have a nationwide solution staring us straight in the face. We’ve got a population that’s already contributing and eager to contribute more to the American economy. And this is a population that certainly tends to value family. And have larger families. And if we simply recognize this population and do right by them with regards to honoring their contribution to our economy, we can go a significant want toward addressing the issue of Social Security solvency.

And, of course, the other part of that is scrapping the cap [where only the first $117,300 of income is taxed for Social Security] will get us all the way there.

AlterNet: Yes, I’m well aware of that. And as pollster Celinda Lake pointed out, most people are not even aware there’s a cap because they do not earn above six-figures.

Maya Rockeymoore: That’s right. You may have heard me use the term fiscal racism. But it’s also fiscal sexism. And how is it—and I say this tongue-in-cheek—that the policy makers coming up with these austerity proposals, who tend to be overwhelmingly male, and overwhelmingly white, would come up with policies that would just happen to stick it to women and people of color? And low-income people? These are overwhelmingly well-to-do people who think that a family making $150,000 is struggling, and they are just out of touch with the reality of how Americans are living, especially Americans who have come from traditionally disadvantaged populations.

I think that we have to drive home that there are racialized, and gendered, and class implications to the policies that they are proosing and it’s simply unacceptable. What they are proposing will actually exacerbate income inequality in this country.

AlterNet: I noticed that. I wrote a piece that talked about George W. Bush’s former policy director at the Social Security Administration spoke at a Senate hearing and said that we should have a floor—nobody gets less money than the federal poverty level—and the price for that is cutting benefits in the middle. That idea was seen as great progress as it wasn’t just cut-cut-cut. But all of this is so far from what really needs to happen.