Bellefonte, PA – At a press conference today in Centre County, Pennsylvanians United to Protect Social Security, along with Ni-Ta-Nee NOW and other members of the Pennsylvanians United coalition, released a report that illustrates how much rural and farming communities would suffer under the Bush/Santorum privatization plan.
Because Social Security plays a more significant role in the overall income of rural communities than it does in non-rural communities, the $205,632 reduction in retirement benefits facing a typical Pennsylvanian under the Bush/Santorum plan would hit rural families harder.
"Rural families work hard to earn a secure retirement, and the Bush/Santorum plan puts their retirement security in jeopardy," said Lauren Townsend, Executive Director of Citizens for Consumer Justice. "Social Security is a crucial guaranteed benefit for rural communities and it should not be gambled on the stock market. This report shows how important it is that we take privatization off the table."
According to the report by the Institute for America’s Future, there are 23 counties in Pennsylvania that are considered to be rural. Among those counties, total personal income was fully $18,151,376,000 in 2003, the most recent county-specific information available. Individuals with Social Security income in these counties cumulatively received $1,594,581,000 in Social Security benefits – or 8.8 percent of total personal income.
While non-rural communities rely on Social Security income, their reliance on the program is not as great. There are 44 non-rural counties in Pennsylvania with a total personal income of $376,609,395,000 (again, as of 2003, the most recent year such data was available). Individuals in these counties received $23,342,259,000 in Social Security benefits in 2003 – or 6.2 percent of total personal income.
Clearly, rural communities are relying on Social Security benefits more heavily than non-rural communities. Rural Pennsylvanians tend to be older and tend to use survivor or disability benefits more frequently as a result of the risks associated with farming.
The Institute for America’s Future further investigated the impact of the Bush/Santorum plan on rural women, specifically.
According to the report, as a group, senior women in rural communities have a more difficult time making ends meet than most other Americans. Nationally, 15 percent of rural women over the age of 60 are poor. By comparison, 11 percent of rural men over the age of 60 are poor. In addition, among rural seniors over the age of 85 with an income of less than $10,000 per year, 80 percent are women. As a result, rural women are less likely to be able to afford the Bush/Santorum benefit cuts.
"A greater number of rural women rely on Social Security benefits to survive than just about any other group," said Joanne Tosti-Vasey, Treasurer of Pennsylvania NOW and a member of Pennsylvanians United. "Privatizing Social Security and cutting retirement, survivor, and disability benefits would be a devastating blow to these women. It’s not fair and it’s not right. We’re standing up today to say NO to privatization and benefit cuts."
Speaking at the press conference today was Centre County resident Mary Angert who comes from a rural, working family. Angert spoke of the challenges facing rural, farming families.
"When I was growing up, my family wasn’t any different than the other rural working families we knew," said Angert. "We worked hard every day to put food on the table and make ends meet. But eventually there came a time when it just wasn’t enough. Thanks to the Social Security safety net, we were able to make it through. For my family, like so many rural families, Social Security was and continues to be an insurance policy against poverty and desperation. We have to do everything in our power to protect it and defeat any effort to privatize it."
Pennsylvanians United to Protect Social Security is a non-partisan coalition of organizations committed to opposing Social Security benefit cuts for the middle class and any effort to privatize Social Security. Coalition members include: Action Alliance of Senior Citizens of Greater Philadelphia, AFSCME Council 13, Bethel AME Church of Lancaster, Citizens for Consumer Justice, Coalition of Labor Union Women, Philadelphia Chapter, Delco Action Seniors, Delaware County Progressives, Institute for the Study of Civic Values, IUP Labor Education Center, Lake Erie Alliance for Democracy, National Council of Jewish Women-PA, National Organization of Women, Philadelphia Chapter, Ni-Ta-Nee NOW, PennPIRG, Pennsylvania ACORN, Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, Pennsylvania Alliance of Retired Americans, Pennsylvania Council of Churches, Pennsylvania NOW, Pennsylvania Womens Law Project, Philadelphia Area Coalition to Defend Social Security, Philadelphia Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, Philly VietNam Vets Against the War, Third World Coalition, Urban League of Lancaster, VoteBluePA, WomenVotePA, and Women’s Way.
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NOTE: This report was released in Centre County today. For a copy of the report, please go to: http://emailimages.ctsg.com/caf/ssreport_rural_pa.pdf.