Letters to the Editor

Hispanics must aid in Social Security’s preservation

As the Social Security website says, “Social Security is neutral in respect to race or ethnicity.”

True, Hispanics are treated no differently than anyone else, but we have a special interest in the future of the program. The Hispanic community has hard work and perseverance embedded in our culture, yet in many cases, we struggle to make ends meet. Hispanics are less likely to have jobs with pensions and retirement with assets to cushion old age.

That is why Hispanics have a strong interest in Social Security being around for generations of Hispanic-Americans. But if we don’t reform the program, the program could face severe cuts.

The numbers are stark and not in dispute. Beginning in 2010, Social Security started paying out more money to recipients than it took in. That trend isn’t going to change because of our aging population. When Social Security began in 1940, there were 160 workers for every retiree. That number is now three and will be two in 2030, when the trust fund is predicted to run out.

I founded the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce largely in response to the incredible growth of the Hispanic population. Many of my close friends immigrated to the United States for better opportunities for themselves and their children. How can we leave this problem to our children as our legacy?

The solution isn’t complicated. By easing in modest changes now, we can assure the program will continue for generations. And if we do nothing, recipients would face a 23 percent cut in benefits within 20 years. Such a large reduction would create an incredible hardship on the most vulnerable.

Because Hispanics have higher life expectancies and tend to have lower median earnings, they rely more heavily on Social Security’s retirement benefits.

As the percentage of the Hispanic population grows, the number of Hispanic families paying into Social Security has risen. All this gives Hispanics an interest in the long-term financial health of the program.

There are many bipartisan policy solutions to fix the insolvency problem, which is why I’m amazed that nothing has been done. One possible solution was included in recent legislation — the Social Security Commission Act of 2014 — that would create a bipartisan commission to find solutions to preserve Social Security. If members of Congress don’t like that idea, they should come up with another. But doing nothing is just pushing the problems down the road, requiring more drastic action later.

Hispanics are accustomed to rolling up our sleeves and tackling a problem for the benefit of the future. It’s time that Congress does the same.

Julio Fuentes, president and CEO, Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Lake Worth

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