Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)
Ivy also blogs for the Diverse Elders Coalition
Reflections on Social Security from a Young Person
Social Security is so often thought of as a program for the elderly and those who are retired. But as a young person who hopes to be able to retire one day, I am struck by the broad impact of the program to reach nearly every American at every age, every income level, able-bodied as well as differently-abled. More than 6.5 million American children receive family income from Social Security. Specifically, more than 1 million children are kept out of poverty from Social Security benefits. And, unfortunately, a 20-year-old worker has a 3 in 10 chance of becoming disabled before reaching the normal retirement age, making Social Security Disability Income an important asset.
Much of the negative press around Social Security has accused the program of running out of money, paying out poor returns, and being an overall poor investment. In actuality, Social Security is incredibly stable. Social Security is fully financed until 2033, and even if Congress takes no action, Social Security will still be able to pay about 85% of obligations until 2086. If the future still seems uncertain, refer to Social Security’s track record: it has never missed a payment since its inception in 1935, and has consistently paid out benefits on time and in full. Social Security has outlasted wartime turmoil, Wall Street booms and busts, and political fluctuations. But most importantly, Social Security is insurance that has been there to support individual Americans through our personal life events.
This year, my father took early retirement. He came to the United States in the early 1980s as a refugee from Vietnam after years in the re-education camps – prison labor camps operated by the Vietnamese government after the end of the war. Since his arrival and resettlement, he has worked tirelessly to support my mother and I as well as our extended family here and abroad. I am so glad he was able to retire, and I am thankful that he has Social Security to provide him with some measure of economic security – he’s earned it. I have seen how tired my father became in recent years from working at a job that required him to be on his feet and mobile throughout the day. I think about how difficult it would be for him, as well as those who worked in physically demanding and labor intensive jobs, to continue working well into their 60’s.
Because of his early retirement, my father will receive a diminished benefit for the rest of his life relative to if he had retired at the normal retirement age. Social Security benefits are modest enough as it is – the average payment is $1,230. It is frustrating to me to hear arguments to reduce Social Security benefits even further – through any number of changes such as raising the retirement age or adopting a smaller measure of inflation.
These arguments are misguided but also unreflective of our country’s diversity: reductions in benefits would have a disproportionate impact on communities of color and LGBT communities. For refugees and immigrants like my father and diverse communities especially, Social Security is a highly effective anti-poverty program for communities that have historically faced barriers to accessing economic security: In 2009, 56% of unmarried elderly African Americans, 62% of unmarried elderly Hispanics, 48% of unmarried elderly Asian American Pacific Islanders, and 45% of elderly unmarried American Indians relied on Social Security for 90% or more of their income. More details on how Social Security affects communities of color and policy recommendations to strengthen the program can be found in the Diverse Elder’s Coalition recent report, Securing Our Future: Advancing Economic Security for Diverse Elders.
I am confident that Social Security will be there for me when I retire, just like it is supporting my father now, but we need to work now to combat the attacks on the program and continue to ensure that Social Security provides adequate and sufficient support to all Americans. I especially encourage my peers and other young folks to join me in making sure that Social Security stands strong for future generations to come.
CATEGORY: [Aging Issues], [Social Security]
The Congressional Budget Office’s new budget projections show that despite the sky-is-falling crisis calls made by Wall Street backed austerity fanatics like: Fix The Debt, Bowles-Simpson and the rest of the Pete Peterson funded anti-Social Security brigade, our deficit is now the smallest it's been since 2008. And that’s without the so-called “Grand Bargain” this billion dollar lobby claims is absolutely necessary for our nation’s survival. The Daily Intelligencer explains:
It's hard not to see the CBO's projections as the latest in a long series of demoralizing developments for the Simpson-Bowles-led deficit scold movement. Overall, the CBO says that barring unforeseen policy changes, the deficit will shrink to 2.1 percent of GDP in 2015. That's better than the 2.3 percent target Simpson and Bowles originally set out in their 2010 report. And it will happen even without the grand bargain they've so desperately sought.
Neither is the federal debt piling up to unsustainable levels. As the CBO's chart shows, the debt-to-GDP ratio is now projected to peak in 2014 at 76.2 percent, before falling to 70.8 percent in 2018. That's a long way from the now-discredited 90 percent threshold budget scolds have used to scare policymakers, and the projections —combined with record-low interest rates and eerily calm bond markets — should put our concerns about an immediate debt crisis to rest.
Now, it’s really hard to keep a crisis mentality ginned up if the facts keep getting in the way (see also the Reinhart Rogoff debacle). So, as expected, the Wall Streeters have chosen just to ignore what doesn’t fit their frame:
The Campaign to Fix the Debt, which marshals corporate resources to lobby for deficit reduction, said that "the rosier-than-expected near-term projections do not change the fact that rising health care costs, an aging population, Social Security’s looming insolvency, and ever-increasing interest payments will greatly expand the national debt as a share of the economy starting at the end of the current decade." The Hill Newspaper
Again, the true challenge facing this nation is health care costs. Reforms through the Affordable Care Act have helped reduce the deficit and system-wide reforms need to continue, not just in Medicare. Talking about Social Security and Medicare, as if they’re the same program, is a favored ploy of these Wall Streeters; however, it conveniently ignores the fact that there is $2.7 trillion currently in the Social Security trust fund and that figure keeps growing. Economist Jared Bernstein offers some too-little-heard fact-based analysis:
Longer term, even with the recent improvement in the pace of health care costs, we still face pressure from the intersection of our aging demographics and health care spending. To bend those curves at the end of the figure, we’ll need to keep up the pressure on health costs as well as boost our revenues. Cuts alone won’t do it.
It would be nice if policy makers looked at the figure below and recognized that we need less austerity now and more health savings/revs later. But that would mean spraying water on their flaming heads, and that can be kind of uncomfortable.
CATEGORY: [Budget], [entitlement reform], [Medicare], [Social Security], [stimulus]
The month of May is designated as Asian American Heritage Month. In honor of Asian American Pacific Islander heritage, this blog is from Bao Lor at the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center. This post is also posted to the Diverse Elders Coalition blog here.
Life Lessons from a Hmong Grandfather to His Granddaughter
The following is a guest post from SEARAC’s Bao Lor.
“Wake up, kids! It’s 6:30!” my grandpa said as he pulled off the blanket that covered my head. I moved around, pretending to stretch and then curling back into a ball. Through my squinted eyes, I could see that my siblings were still lying next to me. I popped my head up and looked at the alarm clock across the room. It read: 6:10. This was my daily routine growing up. I grew up with my grandparents taking care of me and my siblings since my parents were always so busy working. For as long as I can remember, my grandpa was always the one taking me and my siblings to school every morning, and picking us up every afternoon once school got out. We numbered a total of eight kids at the time who were all attending elementary, middle, and high school. My grandpa always said that once he dropped us all off at school, within an hour or so, he would have to start picking us up again. This was true given the fact that we were in almost every grade level.
I never knew if my grandpa ever grew tired of doing the same thing every day because he never complained about us. Instead, he always dropped us off 30 minutes before the school bell rang and would always be waiting at the same spot to pick us up before school got out. He was never late and always made sure he got all the kids back home safe and sound. He even made sure that we took care of each other once we were at school. “Don’t mess around, and make sure you big kids watch out for the little kids,” he would say every morning when he dropped us off at school.
Because I spent my whole childhood with my grandpa, I got to know and love him very much. I admired the fact that he never gave up on himself. As a refugee from Laos who arrived in the U.S. in 1990, he did his best to quickly adjust to America. He managed to teach himself how to drive, which gave him a whole lot of freedom. And even though he only knew two English words: “yes” and “no,” he managed to find junk yards where he could buy metals and other materials to make his own tools and furniture, putting the blacksmith skills he had brought with him from Laos to good use.
I am thankful that my grandpa taught me to love because he raised all twelve of his grandchildren out of pure love: taking us to school every morning, picking us up from school every afternoon, and making sure that we were safe and sound. He also taught me courage because even though he did not speak any English, he managed to be independent in his own way in America. Growing up, I learned so much from this man and I wished that I could have had more time with him. Now, he is at rest and may his soul be at peace. Mus zoo, kuv yawg. I will always remember all the great memories we shared together. Thank you for everything.
May is Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. I wrote this post to honor an elder and the AAPI hero in my life. Read more stories about grandparent wisdom (and submit your own!) at www.searac.tumblr.com.
CATEGORY: [Aging Issues], [Retirement]
Contrary to the headlines and soundbites coming from America’s newsrooms, Social Security and Medicare aren’t to blame for our nation’s fiscal woes or our deficit. In fact, without these vital programs our economy would be in even worse shape and millions more American families would be threatened with economic insecurity. Why do so many journalists and news/talk-show hosts ignore the facts in favor of one-sided propaganda? Why won’t they allow all sides to weigh in on these important issues? Whatever the reasons, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare believes the public deserves more balanced research and discussion. The truth about our nation’s most successful and revered programs deserves EQUAL TIME.
Our new project, EQUAL TIME, will bust through the myths and misleading statements in the news about Social Security and Medicare. We will find and correct the factual errors and politically charged perspectives. We’ll use social media like Facebook and Twitter to inform the reporters, pundits and anchors when they’ve been the subject of an EQUAL TIME correction. In this way, we hope to influence the mainstream media to use facts, not fiction, in their coverage of these important programs.
Here's a look at our first Equal Time analysis:
An online form will also provide an easy way for advocates and citizens nationwide to submit news stories in which the media got it wrong and NCPSSM will track it down to provide the truth about Social Security and Medicare.
CATEGORY: [Medicare], [Social Security]
Each year Salary.com provides an interesting look into the uncompensated work performed by American mothers who are often their families’ CEO, driver, cook, housekeeper, psychologist, and daycare provider.
“Obviously this is all in good fun and in no way 100% scientific, but for the 13th consecutive year we're doing our small part to show everyone how important mothers are by calculating what they would be paid if they actually received a salary for all of their hard work.” Salary.com
Salary.com also provides a tool to help you break down, in dollars and cents, the value of work which is generally ignored by government, employers and other official institutions that calculate productivity.
Here are some basics found in this year’s survey:
· Stay-at-home moms work an average of 94 hours per week for a total estimated "mom salary" of $113,586 a year. That figure is slightly more than last year. The average salary for stay-at-home moms – calculated based on what they would be paid if they were compensated for their work – rose by $624.
This survey provides a lighthearted perspective on an issue with real economic and policy implications for American families. What happens to the millions of American women who worked in the home (not in a traditional job) when they retire? How about those women who quit jobs to become full-time caregivers for a family member? Unfortunately, far too many women face economic insecurity in their retirement.
For too long, the real world challenges facing millions of American retirees have been ignored in favor of a single-minded quest by many in Washington to use Social Security and Medicare benefit cuts to reduce the deficit. However, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare believes our focus should be on passage of initiatives to ensure Social Security benefits are adequate for all Americans, particularly for women. The poverty rate for senior women and widows is 50% higher than other retirees 65 and older, yet even as we celebrate this Mother's Day, this benefit inequity is largely ignored and millions of American mothers, grandmothers, and widows pay the price.
The NCPSSM Foundation, working with the National Organization for Women Foundation and the Institute for Women's Policy Research, has examined the challenges facing America’s elderly women and their families and offered several forward-thinking proposals to modernize benefits. The culmination of our research is a report called “Breaking the Social Security Glass Ceiling.”
Some highlights of our proposals include:
• Improving Survivor Benefits. Women living alone often are forced into poverty because of benefit reductions stemming from the death of a spouse. Providing a widow or widower with 75 percent of the couple's combined benefit treats one-earner and two-earner couples more fairly and reduces the likelihood of leaving the survivor in poverty.
• Providing Social Security Credits for Caregivers. We recommend imputed earnings for up to five family service years be granted to a worker who leaves or reduces his/her participation in the work force to provide care to children under the age of six or to elderly family members.
This Mother’s Day the National Committee would like to suggest a gift of economic security for our moms. Of course, this isn’t something you can wrap with a bow but it’s something we should all demand that Congress address for current and future generations of retirees.
CATEGORY: [Aging Issues], [Retirement], [Social Security]
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