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Women and Social Security Alert No. 25

December 2009; New research from IWPR and the Center for American Progress, plus news on Conrad/Gregg Fast Track Commission and an event notice from NASI.


Action Alert

  • Sign and Circulate the Frances Perkins Center Petition: Don't Let Them Steal from Social Security and Medicare

New Research

  • IWPR Releases Two Updated Briefing Papers on Social Security
  • Helping Breadwinners When It Can't Wait: A Progressive Program for Family Leave Insurance

In the News

  • Continued Opposition to Conrad/Gregg Fast Track Commission

Recent Events

  • NASI "Demystifying the Deficit, Social Security, Finances, and Commissions" Briefing



Sign and Circulate the Frances Perkins Center Petition: Don't Let Them Steal from Social Security and Medicare

The Frances Perkins Center asks that you please take a moment to sign, circulate, and publicize this petition against the Conrad/Gregg fast track Social Security/Medicare Commission. The Perkins Center researches and writes about subjects, such as Social Security, that are related to and inspired by Frances Perkins' work. As Secretary of Labor, Perkins was responsible for encouraging FDR to include Social Security as part of the New Deal.

To sign, circulate, and publicize this petition please visit:


IWPR Releases Two New Briefing Papers on Social Security

This January, IWPR will release two newly revised briefing papers on Social Security, Women and Social Security: Benefit Types and Eligibility and Social Security: The Largest Source of Income for Both Women and Men in Retirement.

Women and Social Security: Benefit Types and Eligibility describes how women become eligible for different types of Social Security benefits -- retired worker, disabled worker, and survivor benefits -- as a worker, spouse, or a family member. It also shows how Social Security provides a critical income source for women at different ages as well as for children, by examining data on current beneficiaries. The study is based on data from the Social Security Administration's 2008 Annual Statistical Supplement.

Social Security: The Largest Source of Income for Both Women and Men in Retirement examines major sources of income for older Americans -- earnings, Social Security,pensions, and assets -- by gender and marital status. It shows that after age 65, Social Security is the most common and the largest source of income for both women and men. Over 85 percent of women and men aged 65 and older receive income from Social Security. It also shows that women are much more likely than men to be widowed and live alone, making them highly vulnerable to economic insecurity. Having less access to other sources of income, women rely on Social Security even more than men do. The study is based on data from the 2009 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic (ASEC) Supplement Survey conducted by the Census Bureau.

Helping Breadwinners When It Can't Wait: A Progressive Program for Family Leave Insurance

On December 10, Heather Boushey, Senior Economist at the Center for American Progress, presented her report, Helping Breadwinners When It Can't Wait: A Progressive Program for Family Leave Insurance, at the IWPR Roundtable on Women and The Economy. Boushey explained that the United States is the only developed nation that does not provide workers with access to paid leave for the birth of a child. The United States has also undergone enormous social and economic shifts so that most children now grow up in dual-earner homes. As a result, there is a great unmet demand for access to paid leave. Boushey's report details her proposed Social Security Cares program which uses Social Security to provide access to paid leave by either adding a small increase to the payroll tax (about three-tenths of one percent), lifting the earnings cap beyond its 2009 level of $106,800, or by allowing workers to trade future Social Security benefits for paid time off to provide care during their working years. Boushey believes Social Security is the ideal program for financing paid leave because it already has the bureaucracy needed to finance the system and administer benefits and it already provides benefits to the families of disabled or deceased workers. To read the full report, please visit:


Continued Opposition to the Conrad/Gregg Fast Track Commission

On Tuesday, November 10, the Senate Budget Committee held hearings on legislation proposed by Senators Kent Conrad (ND) and Judd Gregg (NH) to form a bipartisan commission that would focus on reducing the debt by considering all options to address the deficit, including revenues and taxes and mandatory and discretionary spending. As of this writing, the Conrad-Gregg Bill is not expected to be acted upon until February. In the meantime, the President or others may propose other commissions.

On December 8, the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO), a coalition of national not-for-profit organizations focused on the well-being of America's 87 million older adults, sent Senate and House leaders a letter detailing their objections to the proposed Commission. First, the letter notes that the Commission subverts the democratic process by using a fast track process that does not allow members of the Congress the opportunity to debate the recommendations, propose amendments, or consult with constituents. Second, the letter notes that Social Security is not part of the deficit problem or an entitlements crisis since it actually ran a $180 billion surplus last year. Third, the letter focuses on the importance of Social Security as a poverty prevention program that is extremely important during the current recession. The letter was signed by 27 organizations including aging organizations, labor organizations, and women's organizations. As you may recall, former staffers from the National Commission on Social Security reform, or the Greenspan Commission, also circulated a letter voicing similar concerns in November (available at: ).


NASI Demystifying the Deficit, Social Security, Finances and Commissions Briefing

On December 11, 2009, the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) hosted a briefing, "Demystifying the Deficit, Social Security, Finances, and Commissions," to respond to the proposed fast-track commission. The briefing was moderated by Janice Gregory (NASI) and featured remarks by Jim Horney (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities), Nancy Altman (Consultant and former staff, Greenspan Commission), Ashley Carson (OWL), and Eric Kingson (Syracuse University and former staff of the Greenspan Commission and the 1994 Bipartisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform). Dr. Horney explained that costs related to Social Security are not responsible for the current deficits. Instead, current deficits are the result of economic losses due to the current recession and increasing per person healthcare costs which are rising faster than economic growth. Dr. Horney also noted that government revenues are inadequate, largely due to the Bush tax cuts. Ms. Altman focused on the fact that Social Security is incapable of contributing to the federal deficit because Social Security funds are held separately from other funds and the program is not permitted to pay benefits if it lacks the funds for them. Ms. Carson highlighted the importance of Social Security for its beneficiaries. She explained that it serves as a critical anti-poverty program for many older Americans, especially older, single women. She also added that Social Security provides a critical form of life insurance for families who lose a key source of income through the death of a worker. Finally, Dr. Kingson concluded by highlighting the shortcomings of the current commission proposal. He contrasted the fast-track commission proposal with the 1983 Greenspan Commission to show that the current proposal is inadequate in many ways. First, it is anti-democratic because the commission's recommendations must be accepted in an up-or-down vote, without any amendments. The Greenspan Commission's recommendations were not adopted until they passed through the normal legislative process. Second, he believed the fast-track commission is likely to fail because members of Congress will not want to relinquish their power to review and debate legislation. Third, the fast-track commission proposal may derail healthcare reform through its focus on Medicare. Finally, Dr. Kingson believed that allowing this commission to proceed would set the dangerous precedent of attaching legislation to the debt ceiling. For more information on the briefing and to view the presentations, please visit:

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