Claude Pepper helped lead efforts to strengthen Social Security and to create the Medicare, and Medicaid programs. Senator Pepper was dedicated to achieving a society, where every child, every elder, and those in between would benefit from health and income security, and the opportunity to contribute fully to their families and their country.The nation needs to remember what Claude Pepper never forgot—that a strong social security system expresses and reinforces a free and prosperous nation by providing an essential pillar of economic security for all. Social Security’s contribution to the economic well-being of older Americans is demonstrated by the fact over two-thirds of all retirees depend on Social Security for 50% of their income; this percentage is 75% for female retirees and 77% for minority retirees (Wu, 2001).
The significance of Social Security to the economic well-being of current retirees is also evident in the fact the median share of income from Social Security for those ages 65 and older is 67%, and for those ages 75 and older, it rises to 77%. For single women ages 65-plus, the share is 84%, for African Americans 82%, and for Hispanics 84%. Among single women age 75-plus, 39% rely on Social Security for 90% of their incomes and 73% for 50% or more of their income (Ettlinger & Chapman, 2005).Social Security will be at least as important for the economic well-being of future retirees as it is for those currently retired. In fact, the decline of defined benefits private pensions among future retirees is likely to make future retirees even more dependent on Social Security and Medicare than current retirees making it increasingly important to maintain and possibly improve current benefit levels in the future.