The Other Social Security Crisis

In the midst of the current debate about President’s Bush’s proposal to change Social Security, here’s an article pointing out another issue nobody’s talking about. Entitled Motherhood: the Real Social Security Crisis, this op-ed piece in the Pasadena Star News cites historical documents that “make it clear that the council that constructed Social Security in the late 1930s purposefully chose to discourage women from working outside the home, to reward married men by giving them a bonus if they had a “dependent’ wife, to encourage men to work by linking benefit levels to years worked and income earned, and to send a message to women that they needed to stay married, since their economic security was tied to their status as a dependent of a wage-earning husband.”

Now, three generations later, according to the article, most married women who are employed make contributions to Social Security but see no benefit from having worked for pay. The article also says that single-earner couples receive 30 percent more in benefits than a couple earning the same amount where each spouse earns half.

The author is Kristin Maschka, the president of an organization called Mothers and More:

Mothers sacrifice earnings in order to care for children and the elderly, leaving them with lower personal savings and lower Social Security benefits. Without Social Security, poverty rates for elderly women would be more than 50 percent.

Before another 65 years pass, we have to take this opportunity to insist on changes to protect the economic security and personal autonomy of women, mothers and anyone who is a nonpaid caregiver.