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Obama’s willingness to cut Social Security benefits cuts deep into the Latino community

LatinaLista — The pressure for President Obama to resolve the debate between Republicans and Democrats over whether or not to raise the debt ceiling is reaching the desperate stage.

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It must be, if as reported by The Washington Post last night, that President Obama is now willing to consider cuts to Social Security.

Why the GOP, and now some Democrats, see cuts to Social Security a fairer compromise than rolling back the tax cuts for the wealthy of this nation just doesn’t make sense.

If anything, it underscores three things — how little politicians understand or care about the role Social Security plays in Latino household budgets; how past and ongoing discrimination against Latinos put them in the position to depend on Social Security benefits in their retirement years; and how it makes Latino elders the ones with the most to lose in such a “compromise.”

The press office of the Social Security Administration has a fact sheet on its website titled Social Security Is Important to Hispanics.

It explains exactly why Latinos depend on Social Security:

The Social Security system is progressive in that lower-wage earners receive a higher percentage benefit than higher-wage earners do. The system returns a greater percentage of pre-retirement earnings to a lower-wage worker than to a higher-wage worker. Hispanics who are low-wage workers receive back more benefits in relation to past earnings than do high-wage earners.

Hispanics benefit from the guaranteed benefit that is annually adjusted for inflation. With longer life expectancies, elderly Hispanics will live more years in retirement and benefit from Social Security’s cost-of-living protections.

In 2008, among Hispanics receiving Social Security, 38 percent of elderly married couples and 62 percent of elderly unmarried persons relied on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income.

Among the cuts President Obama is considering to Social Security, one of them has to do with the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). From the second point taken from the Social Security factsheet, that would be devastating to Latino seniors who have longer life expectancies and who also rely on Social Security for 90 percent of their retirement income.

But it’s not their fault that they have become dependent on a system that is now being vilified with every disdainful reference made by politicians describing it as only an “entitlement program.”

Had there not been rampant discrimination in the labor force, either institutionalized or otherwise, that prevented Latinos and Latinas from either being hired in the first place or promoted to higher paying jobs, their reliance on Social Security would not be so great.

Had there not been such an inequality in the educational system that held the majority of Latino students back from achieving their potential, the reliance on Social Security would not be so great.

There should be no shame, implied or otherwise, directed at any Latino or Latina senior collecting Social Security because their monthly check symbolizes the hard work they did, and the pride they took in doing it.

If President Obama carries through with his intention to cut Social Security benefits in such a way that it will imperil the lives of Latino seniors, it will be a sad day for a community who believed in change, voted for it and now find themselves the victims of it.

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