Tag Archive: Social Security

Apr 13 2017

Death and Taxes

Donald Trump really wants you to die so he can give his billionaire buddies tax cuts. The failure of the Republican lead congress to come up with a plan to kill the Affordable Care Act really put a crimp in that plan. After their bill couldn’t even make it to the House floor, Trump decided …

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Dec 12 2016

You Can’t Say You Weren’t Warned

As we’ve reported here, the Republicans want to privatize Medicare by issuing vouchers to seniors to buy health insurance on the open market. Emboldened by the election of Donald Trump, who campaigned on not touching Medicare or Social Security, and the nomination of Representative Tom Price (R-GA) to head HHC, the House put forth a …

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Aug 14 2015

Social Security at 80

80 years ago today President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act as a major part of his New Deal. Calls for its privatization started over 30 years ago under Pres. Gerald Ford. We must not let that happen. If anything, it should be expanded as Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) proposed.

Sen. Warren sent an e-mail today reminding us of the vital importance of this program to seniors, the disable and dependent children:

80 years ago today, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law – and it was in large part thanks to a remarkable woman from Massachusetts: Frances Perkins.

Frances Perkins was FDR’s Secretary of Labor – the first woman in US history to hold a cabinet position. Coming out of the Great Depression, she was a chief architect of the New Deal, and we can thank her for the 40-hour workweek, the minimum wage, and unemployment insurance. She was also the head of the Committee on Economic Security, which created the blueprint for Social Security. God bless Frances Perkins.

FDR and Frances Perkins established Social Security because, as FDR said, “It [would] take care of human needs and at the same time provide for the United States an economic structure of vastly greater soundness.” In other words, Social Security would be a win-win: good for our nation’s economy and good for the citizens of our nation.

They knew that Social Security was about economics, but it was also about our values. It’s about who we are as a people, and what kind of country we are determined to build. [..]

80 years later, we need Social Security more than ever. People are hitting their retirement years with less savings and more debt. Pensions are disappearing, being replaced by 401(k) plans that leave retirees at the mercy of the stock market. The squeeze on America’s middle class is now a squeeze on America’s retirees.

Social Security benefits are modest – just $1300 a month, on average – but two-thirds of America’s seniors rely on those checks for the majority of their income. For 15 million seniors, Social Security is all that stands between them and poverty.

Social Security is about independence and dignity. It’s no surprise that 79% of likely voters in last year’s election – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – support increasing Social Security benefits. Every person who represents you in Washington, and every person running for President in 2016, should be talking about protecting and expanding Social Security – not cutting it.  

FDR and Frances Perkins knew that you don’t get what you don’t fight for. So today, I’m fighting hard to make sure we don’t cut a dime of Social Security benefits. I’m fighting to protect and expand Social Security – and I hope you’ll fight alongside me.

Decades after Social Security was established, Frances Perkins told the Social Security Administration:

Social Security is so firmly embedded in the American psychology today that no politician, no political party, no political group could possibly destroy this Act and still maintain our democratic system. It is safe. It is safe forever, and for the everlasting benefit of the people of the United States.

Let’s fight to make good on Frances Perkins’ promise by protecting and expanding Social Security.

Thank you for being a part of this, and a special thanks to Frances Perkins – a tough woman with a vision. Happy birthday, Social Security!

Elizabeth

She asks us to sign her petition to protect and expand Social Security:

Two-thirds of seniors rely on Social Security for the majority of their income in retirement, and for 15 million seniors – 15 million – this is the safety net that keeps them out of poverty. And yet, instead of taking on the retirement crisis, instead of strengthening Social Security, some in Washington are actually fighting to cut benefits.

The absolute last thing we should do in 2015 – at the very moment that Social Security has become the principal lifeline for millions of our seniors to keep their heads above water – is allow the program to begin to be dismantled inch by inch.

Join me today – on the 80th anniversary of Social Security – to take a stand: We believe in protecting and expanding Social Security so our seniors can retire with dignity.

We stand with Sen. Warren. Please sign her petition

Oct 04 2014

How do you fight?

Lately I’ve been getting deluged with emails from politicians like President Obama, various Democratic Party fundraisers and political organizations that go a little like this:

Dear Joe,

Evil Republicans!

Koch Brothers!

The Senate!

I want to fight for you!

Can you help me out with $3, $5, $10 or more?

Really? These folks want to fight for me?

fight

Look Honey, there’s a fella in a thousand dollar suit who wants to fight for me!

Were these guys fighting for me when they failed to meaningfully address climate change, or when Mr. Obama created and doggedly stuck to his disasterous “all of the above” energy policy? Were these guys fighting for me when they extended yet again the endless war – draining the blood and treasure of America despite the fact that those we are wasting trillions to incinerate pose no imminent threat to the United States? How about when they set up the Catfood Commission and tried to grand bargain away some part of my Social Security benefits? Was “my team” fighting for me when they set up secret trade deals that give corporations vast powers to force their demands on communities and destroy the environment with impunity?

Say, do you remember when Mr. Obama promised repeatedly that his signature accomplishment, Obamacare, would be transparent and negotiated in public on C-Span and then decided that the public didn’t need to see what the choices are? Who was “our team” fighting for when they froze out advocates of a single payer health system and then passed a new law guaranteeing a $100 billion a year subsidy to the insurance industry but leaving millions of Americans uninsured?

How about when a bunch of corrupt bankers crashed our economy, costing average Americans huge amounts of money, robbing state and local budgets of money for citizen services and threw millions of Americans out of work?  Oops, wait a minute…

Feb 26 2014

NRCC Bashing Democrats for Supporting Chained CPI

You can tell it’s an election year, all the hypocrisy comes out of the closet:

After spending weeks subjecting the public to unfounded and widely debunked claims that Obamacare contains a hidden “bailout” for private insurers, Republicans have undertaken a complete reversal, and are attacking Democrats for cutting corporate welfare for insurance companies by too much.

Specifically, they’re attacking the Affordable Care Act’s reduction in overpayments to carriers who participate in Medicare Advantage, reflected in lower payment rates for program providers, which were officially announced late last week. [..]

When confronted, they retreat from pretending to oppose the cuts on the merits, to claiming the real problem is that Democrats used the savings from the cuts to fund Obamacare. But this is a non sequitur. A diversion. The attacks specifically express outrage on behalf of seniors who, Republicans claim, will lose doctors or get stuck with higher premiums specifically as a result of the ACA’s Medicare Advantage cuts.

But remember, Republicans actually support the cuts. All of these supposedly horrible things would happen under their plan, too, regardless of how the savings are spent. So right away it’s clear that the attacks are straightforwardly deceitful.

While some the beltway deficit scolds mourn the death of “entitlement reforms,” the The National Republican Campaign Committee has begun attacking Democrats for supporting Simpson-Bowles:

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) tried a political ju-jitsu on Thursday as it sought to turn former state CFO Alex Sink’s attacks on David Jolly on Social Security against her. Sink, the Democratic candidate, takes on Republican Jolly and Libertarian Lucas Overby in a special congressional election for an open seat in Pinellas County on March 11.

On Thursday, the NRCC bashed Sink for saying she supported Simpson-Bowles.

What digby said:

I have never understood why Democrats who have to run for office are so wedded to the idea that they will be rewarded for being “the adults in the room” and doing the “hard stuff” like cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits but they do. You’d think they’d remember what happened to them in 2010 when the Republicans ran against the Medicare cuts in the health care reforms by portraying them as monsters turning old people into Soylent Green. But they didn’t.

The president may have decided to keep his proposal to cut benefits from his new budget, but it’s quite clear from the talking points that they still very much want to get “credit” for being willing to do it.

Supporting cuts the social safety net, especially in the state of Florida, is not going to fly very well with elderly voters. And, yes, they do vote. So why aren’t Democrats giving the people what they want, an expansion of Social Security and open Medicare to all?  

Dec 11 2013

The 2 Year Budget Deal In 90 Seconds

A two year budget deal was reached yesterday with congressional leaders announcing the deal that would to replace $63 billion in sequester cuts, a very small part of the $180 billion in cuts that will occur over the next two years. The deal will restore defense cuts by funding from a tax on airline travel and cuts to federal pensions. The budget does not include extension of unemployment funds to the millions of workers who are about to lose their benefits the end of December. There will be no changes to Medicare or Social Security but none of the tax loop holes were closed.

As Ezra Klein puts it:

Whether this deal can be a model for future deals is an open question. The core principle of this deal is that Democrats didn’t have to touch entitlements and Republicans didn’t have to touch taxes. But a lot of the policies that made that possible got used up in this deal. It’s not clear that another deal like this would work in 2016.

DSWright at FDL News Desk notes:

The Republicans got everything they wanted. They get more cuts while none of their friends in the defense industry get hurt – actually they even got to do some damage to the federal pension system. All that while avoiding another shutdown that killed their poll numbers before the 2014 elections. Christmas came early for the GOP.

The Democratic Party, on the other hand, sold out its own base to help Republicans maintain power. Why? Who knows? The only thing that is clear is this is an awful deal for majority of Americans.

Once again, the majority of Americans get screwed by their elected representatives.  

Nov 19 2013

Retirement in Crisis

Increasingly over the last few months the sensible people of congress have gotten on board with the idea that Social Security should be expanded. With the failure of many 401k’s and inadequate pension funds, many seniors and future retirees are more reliant on Social Security for a substantial part of their retirement plans. Senators Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) have proposed that instead of switching to a “chained” consumer price index that cuts retiree benefits, the nation should adopt CPI-E, which measures the actual cost of living for the elderly and would raise benefits to meet actual needs.

The latest to voice support for this idea is Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren who took to the Senate floor to criticize the Washington Post‘s editorial that said  called expanding Social Security “wrongheaded” and suggested the nation should instead be more concerned about the higher percentage of children living in poverty. Sen. Warren called this the “uglier side” of the debate on Social Security.

Floor Speech by Senator Elizabeth Warren (pdf)

The Retirement Crisis

November 18, 2013

As Prepared for Delivery

(Mr./Madame) President, I rise today to talk about the retirement crisis in this country – a crisis that has received far too little attention, and far too little response, from Washington.

I spent most of my career studying the economic pressures on middle class families – families who worked hard, who played by the rules, but who still found themselves hanging on by their fingernails. Starting in the 1970s, even as workers became more productive, their wages flattened out, while core expenses, things like housing and health care and sending a kid to college, just kept going up.

Working families didn’t ask for a bailout. They rolled up their sleeves and sent both parents into the workforce. But that meant higher childcare costs, a second car, and higher taxes. So they tightened their belts more, cutting spending wherever they could. Adjusted for inflation, families today spend less than they did a generation ago on food, clothing, furniture, appliances, and other flexible purchases. When that still wasn’t enough to cover rising costs, they took on debt credit card debt, college debt, debt just to pay for the necessities. As families became increase singly desperate, unscrupulous financial institutions were all too happy to chain them to financial products that got them into even more trouble — products where fine print and legalese covered up the true costs of credit. These trends are not new, and there have been warning signs for years about what is happening to our middle class. One major consequence of these increasing pressures on working people – a consequence that receives far too little attention – is that the dream of a secure retirement is slowly slipping away.

A generation ago, middle – class families were able to put away enough money during their working years to make it through their later years with dignity. On average, they saved about 11% of their take home pay while working. Many paid off their homes, got rid  of all their debts, and retired with strong pensions from their employers. And where pensions, savings, and investments fell short,

they could rely on Social Security to make up the difference. That was the story a generation ago, but since that time, the retirement landscape has shifted dramatically against our families. Among working families on the verge of retirement, about a third have no retirement savings of any kind, and another third have total savings that are less than their annual income. Many seniors have seen their housing wealth shrink as well. According to AARP, in 2012, one out of every seven older homeowners was paying down a mortgage that was higher than the value of their house.

While President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have expressed their support for cuts to Social Security as part of a budget agreement to trim the deficit, which Social Security does not contribute to, most Democrats wisely have said ruled that out in the current debate talks. We need to make sure that any cuts to the Social Security benefits of our most vulnerable citizens is taken off the table permanently.

 

Nov 07 2013

Rantings of a Frustrated Blogger: Expanding Social Security

As recounted by relapsed blogger David Dayen, intrepid blogger, economist and former college professor Duncan Black, aka Atrios, became frustrated with stagnating wages over the last ten years that have been putting working class families at risk of being unable to sustain their standard of living past retirement.

(I)n late 2012 he embarked on a sustained crusade, on his blog and in a series of columns for USA Today, to inject a single idea into America’s policy discourse: “We need an across-the-board increase in Social Security retirement benefits of 20 percent or more,” he declared in the opening of a column for USA Today. “We need it to happen right now.”

The proposal was not exactly attuned to the political winds in Washington. Indeed, for anyone inclined to think in terms of counting potential votes in Congress-especially this Congress-the idea of expanding Social Security is the epitome of a political non-starter. Black’s proposal was attuned, however, to a mounting pile of research and demographic data that describes a gathering disaster. The famously large baby boom generation is heading into retirement. Thanks to decades of stagnant wages and the asset collapse of the Great Recession, more than half of American working-class households are at risk of being unable to sustain their standard of living past retirement. To put it even more starkly, according to research by the economists Joelle Saad-Lessler and Teresa Ghilarducci, 49 percent of middle-class workers are on track to be “poor or near poor” after they retire.

There is very little safety net left to break this fall. The labor market for older workers is bleak. Private pensions are largely a thing of the past. Private savings are so far gone that some 25 percent of households with 401(k) and other retirement plans have raided them early to cover expenses, and a growing number of Americans over age 50 find themselves accumulating, not settling, debt. On the whole, 401(k)s have proved a “disaster,” as Black puts it, one that has enriched the financial sector but lashed the country’s retirement security to a volatile stock market-and left 75 percent of Americans nearing retirement age in 2010 with less than $30,000 in their accounts.

What’s left? Social Security. Though it was never meant to be a national retirement system all by itself, that’s increasingly what it has become. For Americans over age 65 in the bottom half of the income distribution, Social Security makes up at least 80 percent of retirement income.

In one of those columns in March of this year, Black used the “three legged stool” metaphor to bolster his argument to expand Social Security:

According to the Pew Research Center, the median household wealth for those aged 65+ is about $170,000. While that sounds like a significant amount of money, as Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research pointed out, this is actually a trivial amount of wealth for people with little or no income other than Social Security benefits. Remember that this figure includes housing wealth. Even if it was a bunch of cash in a bank account, it wouldn’t actually provide for a significant supplement to other retirement income, but the reality is that many people have a house and not much else. [..]

Social Security was envisioned as one leg of a three-legged stool of retirement, along with employer pensions and private savings or insurance (though the metaphor itself was devised after its creation). The problem is that two of those legs have shrunk significantly. This is not a stool one can comfortably sit on. This is not a stool most people will be able to sit on at all. The system, as envisioned, is failing.

We can goad and cajole people into saving. We can provide incentives for people to save for their retirement, and penalize them for raiding those funds before they retire. We can subsidize employer contributions to retirement funds.

But we have been doing all of these things for decades, and they haven’t worked. The majority of people nearing retirement will not have sufficient funds to retire with anything resembling economic security and comfort.

Well our frustrated blogging buddy’s idea is at long last taking root. Two Democratic Senators, Tom Harkin of Iowa and Mark Begich of Alaska, have introduced legislation that not only would expand Social Security but strengthen it.

The Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013 would:

Strengthen Benefits by Reforming the Social Security Benefit Formula: To improve benefits for current and future Social Security beneficiaries, the Act changes the method by which the Social Security Administration calculates Social Security benefits.  This change will boost benefits for all Social Security beneficiaries by approximately $70 per month, but is targeted to help those in the low and middle of the income distribution, for whom Social Security has become an ever greater share of their retirement income.

Ensure that Cost of Living Adjustments Adequately Reflect the Living Expenses of Retirees: The Act changes the way the Social Security Administration calculates the Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA).  To ensure that benefits better reflect cost increases facing seniors, future COLAs will be based on the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E).  Making this change to Social Security is expected to result in higher COLAs, ensuring that seniors are able to better keep up with the rising costs of essential items, like health care.

Improve the Long Term Financial Condition of the Trust Fund: Social Security is not in crisis, but does face a long-term deficit.  To help extend the life of the trust fund the Act phases out the current taxable cap of $113,700 so that payroll taxes apply fairly to every dollar of wages.

The legislation has the support of AFL-CIO, AFSCME, the Alliance for Retired Americans, the National Organization for Women (NOW), the National Education Association, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Strengthen Social Security Coalition, Social Security Works, the United Automobile Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), United Steelworkers, MoveOn.org and others.

The Harkin/Begich bill has now been endorsed by Ohio’s Senator Sherrod Brown (D) who has also introduced legislation that would change the cost Of living formula for Social Security to better reflect seniors’ true expenses:

With the introduction of several proposals that would reduce Social Security benefits for seniors by changing the formula used to calculate annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLA), U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today joined the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) to announce the Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers Act.  The new legislation would change the COLA formula for Social Security to more accurately reflect the expenses of senior citizens. Because of the method by which inflation is calculated, seniors and other Social Security recipients did not receive a COLA in 2010 and 2011, even though the price of prescription drugs, food, energy, and other necessities continued to rise. [..]

Social Security COLAs are calculated using the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).  The CPI-W was chosen as the measure of inflation because it was the only measure available at the time the automatic COLA was established in 1972.  The CPI-W measures changes in the prices of goods and services purchased by those who earn more than half their income from clerical or wage occupations.  However, the CPI-W formula only represents about 32 percent of the U.S. population and does not accurately represent the inflation experience of older Americans. According to the Congressional Research Service, between 1982 and 2009, the cost of living under the CPI-W rose at an average rate of 2.9 percent, while the cost of living for seniors-as measured by an experimental CPI-E-rose at a rate of 3.2 percent.

Brown’s legislation would formalize a Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E). The CPI-E would take into account seniors’ specific consumption habits, including increased prescription drug and energy costs, and would be used to determine the COLA for Social Security benefits.

It is time for President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats start acting like progressives and back both the Harkin/Begich and Brown bill. The president and the Democratic leadership should remove Social Security as a bargaining chip from the faux debt/deficit austerity negotiations and start protecting some of our most vulnerable citizens.

You can support the Strengthen Social Security Act (S.567) by signing this petition

Thanks, Atrios.

Oct 28 2013

Seven Seconds to Save the Social Safety Net

7 Reasons to Take 7 Seconds to Save Social Security and Medicare

by Richard (RJ) Eskow, The Huffington Post

A broad coalition of organizations, including the Campaign for America’s Future and Social Security Works, is joining Sen. Bernie Sanders in a petition drive to resist cuts to Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. It only takes a few moments to sign; it’s that easy. [..]

The threat is very real, and these cuts could take place with very little warning. On a personal note: I signed. I did it because a lot of people would suffer needlessly by the kind of deal they’re cooking up. I did it because I think it’s wrong to allow the privileged and powerful to overrule the will of the people. And frankly, I did it because I’m scared. This deal could be done before most Americans even see it coming.

It’s fast and easy to sign this petition. It only took me seven seconds. Here are seven reasons why you should. [..]

1. Republicans are still demanding “entitlement cuts.”

[..]

2. Some of these cuts are in the President’s budget.

[..]

3. The “chained CPI” is a deep cut to Social Security benefits.

[..]

4. The chained CPI isn’t fair, either.

[..]

5. The cuts to Medicaid and Medicare are both inhumane and cumbersome.

[..]

6. Millennials are already getting a raw deal. This would make it worse.

[..]

7. In a democracy, the people — not corporations are billionaires — are supposed to decide.

Take Action: Defend Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid

Stand with Senator Bernie Sanders and our coalition partners in demanding, “No grand bargain in exchange for cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.”

Bernie is serving on the Budget Conference Committee which will be negotiating a new federal budget over the next few months — and where a deal could be struck to slash Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

As the founder of the Defending Social Security Caucus, Bernie is fighting every day to protect our earned benefits. Stand with Senator Bernie Sanders and a diverse coalition of thousands of fellow progressives now and demand that Congress and the President oppose any grand bargain which cuts Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

Add your name today!

He’s right, depending on how fast you can type and press enter, just seven seconds. So it for yourself and future generations.

Oct 18 2013

No, Harry, Not Even For Revenue Increases

In an interview with Huffington Post after the “cease fire” bill that postponed the latest manufactured debt ceiling/government funding crisis was passed and signed, Senate Majority Leader HArry Reid (D-NV) said this:

“I would like to suggest that maybe the Republicans aren’t too happy with next year’s sequestration. Who does it hurt, non-defense? I get an extra billion dollars this year compared to [last] year. Defense? They lose $23 billion,” Reid said, referring to the Pentagon. “So I would think there should be some people among the Republicans in the House and Senate who would say we should take a look at that.” [..]

Reid also said that he would make sure to protect Social Security against attempts to trade cuts for sequestration relief, calling such a bargain “a stupid trade.”

“That’s no trade. We are going to affect entitlements so we can increase defense spending? Don’t check me for a vote there. I’m not interested in that,” he said.

“It is the most successful social program in the history of the world. The program is not about to go broke, so take it easy on Social Security,” Reid said.

OK. That’s reassuring until he kept talking:

If Republicans want to trim Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, Reid said, they’d have to give on tax revenue in exchange. Asked specifically if the deal must be revenue for entitlements, he said: “Yes, and we call it mandatories.”

No, Harry, not even for revenue increases. Cuts to the social safety net of millions of Americans is NOT a bargaining chip to raise taxes.

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