When candidates for the U.S. Presidency talk about cutting Social Security benefits, a lot of women worry. That’s because women suffer from the cumulative negative impact of sex and age discrimination.
.According to the Social Security Administration, a much higher percentage of women who are aged 65 and older live in poverty or near poverty than do men who are aged 65 and older. The median income of individual males aged 65 and older was $29,327 in 2013 compared to $16,301 for individual females. Median means that half had a higher income and half had a lower income.
Women suffer discrimination all of their working lives, starting with a pay disparity in their first jobs that persists throughout their careers. Women suffer from pregnancy discrimination and the failure of the American workplace to accommodate the disproportionate burdens place upon women with children. Finally, women suffer age discrimination at least a decade before many men experience the problem.
The National Women’s Law Center reports that without Social Security, nearly half of women 65 and older would be poor.
In a 2013 study, the National Women’s Law Center found that nearly 2.9 million women aged 65 and older live in poverty compared to 1.3 million men. The poverty rate for older women was 12 percent, compared to 7 percent for older men. That’s almost twice as many women living in poverty than men! Poverty rates were particularly high for older women who are black (20 percent), Hispanic (23 percent) and Native American (21 percent).
So it has not been easy to read a bevy of white male GOP presidential candidates call for cutting Social Security as have Sen. Lindsey Graham and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. They don’t even bother to address the degree to which American women in particular are forced to rely upon these exceedingly modest benefits just to survive.
And it is unsettling when billionaire Jeb Bush calls for raising the retirement age “from 65 to 68 or 70” without acknowledging that many older women cannot find decent paying jobs because of rampant, unaddressed age discrimination. And how many 70-year-old women (and men) could work in a job that requires eight or nine hours of strenuous manual labor (i.e., waitress, house cleaner)?
It was a refreshing change of pace last week when Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders of Vermont observed that “the average Social Security benefit is just $1,328 a month, and more than one-third of our senior citizens rely on Social Security for virtually all of their income.” Sanders said “our job must be to expand benefits, not cut them.”
Democrat Hilary Clinton failed to even mention Social Security and Medicare in her speech announcing her bid for the presidency. However, she has said in the past that Social Security is “not a luxury. It is a necessity for the majority of people who draw from Social Security.”
* BYW, is it possible that Bush doesn’t know the current retirement age for all workers born after 1950 starts at age 66?