June 14, 1999
Tikkun Olam, repair of the world, is a fundamental value embraced by the Jewish people. The American Jewish community has long advocated the principle of collective responsibility and worked to promote equal opportunity, social justice, and support for those in need in our society who are elderly, widowed, orphaned, poor or have disabilities.
Based on these fundamental precepts, the JCPA historically has supported public and private programs that prevent or alleviate poverty. While Social Security was conceived as a universal social benefit, and still functions as such, it is also one of the most effective anti-poverty tools ever created by the federal government. Without Social Security, nearly 50% of the U.S. elderly population would live beneath the poverty line.1 The Social Security system is particularly beneficial to women, especially widows and divorced women, and low-income workers, who receive a higher proportion of their lifetime aggregate earnings in Social Security benefits. The program also provides special benefits to orphans.
Maintaining solvency of the Social Security system is a national priority. Americans have an obligation to ensure that future generations of elderly are not denied the benefits to which earlier generations have been entitled. Moreover, America must continue its commitment to those vulnerable people, including the elderly poor, who rely so heavily on the Social Security system to relieve -them from lives of poverty. Unfortunately, current predictions indicate that without any reform of the Social Security system, the Trust Fund will begin to run a deficit in approximately 15 years; by the year 2034, it is expected that the federal government will only have enough assets in Trust Fund reserves to cover approximately 75% of current Social Security payments.
In light of its longstanding commitment to the viability of government programs that ensure the welfare of the most vulnerable groups in American society, the JCPA set out in the winter and’ spring of 1999 to examine the issue of Social Security reform. Included in this process was a consultation at which experts from across the ideological spectrum presented their differing views on this complex subject.
Based on these deliberations, the JCPA believes the following guiding principles should be reflected in any reform plan adopted by the federal government.