University Dean’s Claim About Social Security Benefits Raises Questions


Let’s start with a simple question.

Are you aware of the fact that America’s Social Security System is an example of “structural injustice”? If it’s true, then I would know about it, for reasons that I will explain later.

Thomas LaVeist is the dean of Tulane University‚Äôs School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. He told Washington Post reporter Akilah Johnston at WaPo’s “Health Equity”, event, on Thursday, that white people have an advantage in life expectancy over blacks, and this gives them a greater amount of Social Security retirement benefit.

Akilah’s beat, incidentally, explores “the effects of racism and social inequalities on health.”

LaVeist did not claim that the Social Security System was “racist”, but he misrepresented its primary purpose.

We have a Social Security policy that was established in 1935. This program was created to address the poverty that many people experienced after retirement.

Hold on to the bus, some facts are about to board.

LaVeist was right in his first statement. Congress passed the Social Security Act of 1935. It was designed to “provide for the general welfare through the establishment of a federal system of old-age benefits as well as unemployment coverage.” Franklin D. Roosevelt signed it into law as part of the New Deal program (wealth distribution). Age 65 was the age at which full retirement benefits were available.

LaVeist continued:

It was designed to help people live longer. Both workers paid the same amount into the Social Security System and retired on the same day.

The White person will live longer on average than the Black, so they will get a different amount out of the system they paid for.

LaVeist neglected to mention an important fact: the average life expectancy at birth in 1935 for men was 59.3; for women, it was 63.9. LaVeist is not referring to the fact that full retirement benefits are no longer available. First, the “bottom line”. The Social Security system is designed to provide benefits for all workers who have outlived their lifespan. It was not intended to be a complete retirement plan.

Here’s where “I will explain later” comes into play.

I have been a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) for over 30 years, specializing in retirement planning. As such, I am familiar with the Social Security System and its many misconceptions. Untold numbers of Americans, white, black, and all shades in between, have the misconception that workers build up their own “SS accounts” from which they can collect benefits at retirement. This belief is false.

Social Security is a system of transfer in which FICA, the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, or “payroll taxes,” are deducted from Form W-2 employees. (This is different than Form 1099 for independent contractors and people who work on their own, but let’s not get into the details here). FICA taxes paid today are used to pay qualified retirees, in addition to Social Security Disability income.

LaVeist did not label the SS as “racist”, but he did state:

This is a great way to show how it works. I’m not saying Social Security is racist. I’m just saying the outcome is unfair because of… health inequities.

The rest of the story is not enough to make it right.

LaVeist, without realizing it, made a part of my argument when he mentioned health inequities.

On July 30, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson enacted Medicare, which was included in the payroll tax. Federal health insurance covers (partly) medical expenses of people 65 and older, disabled people younger than 65, and those with end-stage kidney disease. It is therefore logical that people with less health receive more medical benefits in their lifetime than those who are healthy.

Second bottom line:

LaVeist showed the habit of the left of omitting “the rest” of the story — on top of twisting the truth of course — by omitting relevant facts or information as part of a narrative to support their argument.

Who would have thought it?