Monday, September 22, 2008

Social Security and the Economy

Social Security and the Economy

Was your seatbelt fastened last week?  This rollercoaster we have for an economy took us on quite a ride.  Actually, the image of a rollercoaster is not exactly accurate.  It presumes there is a track and there is clearly no track for this ride.  It is wild, unpredictable, and not many of us are having fun.  Also, we don’t know where it ends.

I’m not sure we know the lessons to be drawn yet, but one obvious observation is that the only hope for preventing a complete financial meltdown is the federal government.  Ironic, isn’t?  An administration that has spent seven years pushing deregulation and private market solutions now looks to government and taxpayers to save us from the consequences of those policies.

I’m not unhappy about this solution.  I am hoping it will work.  There will be many lessons to be learned but two are very relevant to women and to OWL.  The first is that our whole economy is so global and so interrelated that “safe” investments aren’t so “safe” when the credit house of cards falls down.  The second is that the approach to many problems must be collective, not individual.  If you have read or listened to the columnists and commentators within the last week who make a living telling you how to have a comfortable retirement, you will have noticed that they have no advice in this market beyond “don’t retire now”.  Little comfort for those already retired or about to be laid off.

The most secure solution for those retired or looking to retire is Social Security – a government-sponsored, guaranteed income program.  Who would have predicted that!!  Well, OWL for one.  While the Bush Administration advocated for individual accounts and the advantages of passing on the account to your heirs if you died young, OWL was concerned about women and men out-living their retirement funds and advocated to keep Social Security a progressive, social insurance program.  It is not polite to say “We told you so” but we did.

OWL has long advocated that an appropriate role for government is to provide universal retirement benefits through a social insurance program.  Preserving, defending, and improving Social Security has been one of OWL’s major issues for the past twenty years.  This past week demonstrates what OWL has maintained all along, that OWL’s agenda is not just good for women, it is good for everyone.

Ellen A. Bruce

President, OWL National Board

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