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Dennis Rittenmeyer

Dennis Rittenmeyer is chairman of the Northwest Indiana Better Government Committee.

Those of us who are lucky enough to still have our mothers should ponder the question, "What if Social Security did not exist? How would Mother get by if not for Social Security?"

For some of our mothers, Social Security may not be that important. Unfortunately, for most, it is critically important!

Social Security is the financial safety net for millions of Americans. Fortunately, despite comments to the contrary, Social Security is not irreparably broken, but it is ailing. Now is the time to take the steps necessary to fix Social Security's problems on behalf of our children and generations to come.

It has been reported that Social Security's monthly payments are the sole source of income for nearly 40 percent of all retirees. It is also reported that in Indiana, the average Social Security payment is about $1,100 per month, or less than $13,000 per year. These retirees are below the poverty level!

Congress, at the request of the president, recently extended the payroll tax cut. This action, while widely supported by legislators on both sides of the aisle, actually hurt the financial stability of the Social Security system. Although most Americans appreciated the continuation of the payroll tax cut, the long-term cost represents an aggravation of the problem we know already exists.

AARP has advocated two actions which our government can take immediately to help ensure financial stability for our Social Security system. These actions, while significant, will not completely resolve Social Security's long-term structural financial problems. They will, however, demonstrate a commitment to our senior citizens by solving a significant portion of the forthcoming shortfall in Social Security's financial well-being.

We should urge our legislators to actively pursue a resolution to Social Security's worsening financial problem. First, the "retirement" age at which a working American can begin to receive Social Security (retirement, not disability) benefits must be increased to age 67. This increase should take effect in 2020. Second, the cap on Social Security tax payments must be eliminated. This cap is currently set at $120,000. Americans who earn more than $120,000 are not required to pay Social Security tax on income earned above that amount.

Finally, it should be recognized that Social Security income is, in fact, income that will be spent by the retirees who have earned it. Social Security income is used to pay rent, buy groceries, travel and secure other quality-of-life necessities. Therefore, investing in the Social Security system represents a continuing economic stimulus on behalf of all Americans.

The time to act is now, if not for ourselves, then for our young daughters who will be the mothers of the future.

Social Security is a strong, viable, quality-of-life government-managed program. It serves the American people very well and should be preserved and strengthened. These two recommendations should be undertaken immediately.

Dennis Rittenmeyer is chairman of the Northwest Indiana Committee for Better Government. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.

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Porter County Government Reporter

Senior reporter Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.