Should Puerto Ricans Give Up Social Security?

Rafael Cox Alomar, the PDP candidate for resident commissioner, remarked in a TV appearance yesterday that Puerto Rico can do without Social Security because there are “sufficient economic resources here in Puerto Rico to attend to our elderly without absolute dependence on programs from the outside,” according to Caribbean Business.

Puerto Ricans pay into Social Security through payroll taxes taken out of their paychecks.  In 2010, Puerto Ricans received back roughly $7.2 billion in Social Security benefits.  There are over 800,000 Social Security recipients in Puerto Rico.

Social Security benefits are widely distributed throughout the island across several demographic groups. Slightly less than half of Puerto Rico’s Social Security recipients are retirees – the program also benefits people with disabilities, children, widows/widowers and spouses.   

Current Resident Commissioner and Cox Alomar opponent Pedro Pierluisi responded to the remarks on Tuesday with surprise, wondering how Cox Alomar thought he could cover the “deep local impact” of  current Social Security payments if they stopped.

“Even more surprising,” said Pierluisi, “is that he calls it a ‘program from outside.’”

Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, and its residents are U.S. citizens who fully contribute to the Social Security system.

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