Minorities will be the biggest casualties of Social Security battle

Earl Ofari Hutchinson | 7/12/2011, 2:17 p.m.

Two figures tell the devastating impact that any cut in Social Security would have on minorities. Nearly 40 percent of African American recipients rely solely on a Social Security check for their income. One out of three African Americans and Hispanics would sink below the official poverty line without their Social Security payout.

The original idea was that Social Security would strictly be a supplement to the retirement income of older Americans. But as the figures on income and poverty show, that notion has long since been rendered moot. In 2008, only one out of four African Americans got any income from private assets compared to nearly 60 percent of whites. While more than 40 percent of older whites received income from pensions, the figure for blacks was slightly more than thirty percent.

The massive shrinking in public worker employment, the assault on labor union protections, private sector outsourcing and relentless rises in cost of living have sledge-hammered health and pension programs that traditionally were the primary income source for minorities and most workers. Social Security will have to fill even more of the plunging income void for them in the coming years.

It’s not just the aged among minorities that stand to be big losers with any benefit cut or cost of living formula change in Social Security. The burden will also fall heavily on the disabled. African Americans have higher rates of disability and are more likely to receive benefits from the Social Security Disability Insurance program. They have even less chance than able-bodied retirees of supplementing their Social Security benefits with outside income.

The GOP and President Obama will battle over how to slash Social Security. And, as always, the biggest casualties of that battle will be those who rely on Social security the most. And those are minorities.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is a nationally syndicated columnist and an editor at New America Media.