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From the category archives: Max Richtman

Unequal Pay’s Lasting Legacy: Lost Income from Your 1st day at Work until the Day You Die

Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEOMax Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO

It’s certainly not news that American women continue to earn less than men for the same work, typically 79 cents on the dollar.  But what’s less understood is the devastating impact those lost wages have over time.  In fact, over a working woman’s career, that pay gap could accumulate to a half million dollars in lost income and even more for women of color.  A comprehensive analysis of gender pay inequality, released by the Joint Economic Committee’s Democratic staff, shows how the gender pay gap grows over time.  It’s not just an issue for working women because this inequality can also have a compounding and devastating impact on retired women.

The thought of running out of money in retirement keeps 57% of women awake at night. That’s not a surprise when you consider the many combined factors which make retirement especially challenging for American women. Women earn less than men even when doing the same jobs, they more often work part-time or in jobs that do not offer retirement savings plans, and they tend to spend more time out of the workforce as a consequence of their caregiving responsibilities. Women could lose $430,480 in earnings over the course of a 40-year career due to the wage gap alone.  For Latinas the career losses mount to $1,007,080, and for African American women the losses are $877,480. Lower career earnings also translate to fewer savings for many women in retirement. At the same time, their longer lifespan and higher chances of disability means that they will have higher retirement costs, both for everyday expenses and necessary medical care.

These financial obstacles facing older women explain why women are 80% more likely than men to be impoverished at age 65 and over. The median income of women age 65 and older is 44% lower than the median income of men of the same age and that poverty gap widens over time due to decreasing income for women at older ages. Women aged 75 to 79 are three times as likely and those over the age of 80 are twice as likely to live in poverty compared to men. While it’s self-evident that working women must be aware of the unique challenges they could face in retirement, simply understanding these issues won’t be enough to bridge the very real gap created by systemic and demographic forces far beyond their control.  That’s why the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare launched our Eleanor’s Hope initiative.  We’re not only educating but also advocating for legislation that addresses the inequities threatening millions of retired women while also working to elect lawmakers who share our vision of retirement equity for women. 

There are a number of proposals which, if adopted, could significantly level the playing field for women and reduce the threat of poverty in their old age: 

Gender Pay Equity. Eliminating the wage gap that limits women’s earnings is essential to helping our daughters and granddaughters save for their own retirement. Congress should strengthen and reform the “Equal Pay Act” by putting an end to pay secrecy, strengthening workers’ ability to challenge discrimination and bringing equal pay law into line with other civil rights laws.  

Caregiver Credit. Compute the Social Security benefit by giving an annual caregiver credit for each year of caregiving so that total earnings for the year would equal 50 percent of that year’s average annual wage. Caregiving service years would be those in which an individual provides care to children under the age of six or to elderly or disabled family members. Up to five family service years could be granted to any worker.

Improve Survivor Benefits. Increase the benefit paid to a surviving spouse to an amount that is equal to 75 percent of the total combined benefits that were paid to the couple prior to the spouse’s death, capped at the benefit level of a lifelong average earner.

Consumer Price Index for the Elderly. Adopt the Consumer Price Index for The Elderly (CPI-E) for the purpose of determining the amount of the cost-of living adjustment (COLA) adjustment for Social Security benefits. This is especially important for women who tend to receive benefits longer because they live longer.

It’s been more than 50 years since our nation acknowledged and attempted to address, with passage of the Equal Pay Act, the gender wage gap which unfairly targets half of our population with billions in lost wages.   Yet, at the current rate of change, it will take another 40 years to close that gap.   That’s simply not an option for generations of American women who will continue to face the consequences of income inequality from their very first day on the job until they die.  

The Retirement Security Gap Between America’s Rich and Poor Continues to Grow

New GAO Report Provides Startling Details on Disparities and Their Impact 

on Social Security Benefits


Growing disparities in life expectancy between America’s rich and poor are eroding the progressive nature of Social Security. A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, requested by Senator Bernie Sanders, shows that low-income American men will lose 11%-14% of their lifetime Social Security benefits while high-income men will see a 16%-18% benefit boost due to this growing gap.

“This report is especially important when you consider the political push to raise Social Security’s retirement age to reduce benefits.  Forcing average Americans to delay retirement until 70, as suggested by some in Washington, would mean even smaller benefits for lower-income groups.

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare has long opposed increasing the Social Security retirement age as nothing but a cruel cut in benefits, and this GAO report shows exactly how cruel it would be.  Instead of cutting Social Security, Congress should boost benefits so that Social Security can continue to fulfill its promise providing an adequate base of income for America’s seniors.  Our thanks to Senator Sanders for his strong leadership in requesting this important report. It’s a must-read for any candidate who truly cares about keeping America’s promise of retirement security.”...Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO

America’s wealthiest are not only living longer and collecting more Social Security benefits, they are also contributing less to the program than at any time in recent history. In the past, the Social Security tax cap has been set at a level that covered about 90 percent of all earnings. Currently, however, only about 83 percent of earnings are subject to the Social Security payroll tax. This means the wealthy, who’ve benefited from disproportionate wage growth, have also been exempt from paying into Social Security on those gains above the $118,500 cap.

The National Committee supports legislation, including Senator Sanders’ “Social Security Expansion Act”, which would lift the payroll tax cap, boost benefits and adopt a cost of living formula for seniors. 

You can read the GAO report here.

GOP Plans for Medicare? All Slash No Strengthen

The House Ways & Means Subcommittee on Health held a hearing entitled "Preserving and Strengthening Medicare."  Unfortunately, as the ranking member Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) made clear, this hearing actually had virtually nothing to do with preserving and strengthening Medicare:

“This is the first Health Subcommittee hearing of the year, and it could have been an opportunity to have a fresh, constructive conversation about Medicare. Unfortunately, this won’t be the case. It looks like we should expect more of the same from my Republican colleagues this morning – bad ideas repeated incessantly in the hope that the American people eventually fall for them.

The core proposal that my Republican colleagues have offered – to end Medicare as we know it – will have devastating effects on seniors. It will shift costs onto beneficiaries, create more losers than winners, and lead to a death spiral in traditional Medicare.

We all know this.”

NCPSSM President/CEO, Max Richtman, submitted testimony to the Committee and reacted to the day’s proceedings:

“Unfortunately, today’s Congressional hearing on ‘Preserving and Strengthening Medicare’ offered no new ideas and was instead an Orwellian political exercise in which politicians say preserve when they actually mean privatize, and strengthen when they mean slash. 

Republicans in the House envision a future in which millions of seniors will lose their guaranteed Medicare benefits in favor of a privatized CouponCare system in which they receive a government coupon to try and buy private insurance. Millions of seniors in Medicaid will lose their benefits due to block-granting to states without providing the resources to pay for it.  The repeal of the Affordable Care Act will leave tens of millions without insurance and strip benefits from seniors in Medicare.  

The Republican leadership has offered no plans to improve benefits in Medicare or make reforms to reign in the skyrocketing price of drugs and healthcare costs system wide.  Instead, the GOP vision for seniors in Medicare is they must just do more with less. Stagnant wages are grinding away at the middle class’s ability to save for retirement.  Many employers have significantly scaled back or eliminated the traditional retirement benefits offered to their employees.  As a result, current and future retirees simply cannot afford proposals to cut benefits, raise the eligibility age or privatize the program.”...Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO

While the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee promoted destroying traditional Medicare in favor of a fully privatized system during today’s Congressional hearing, their GOP colleagues are moving a budget through Congress that would make that plan reality.

The House budget would cut Social Security and Medicare by $463 billion over 10 years, while cutting Medicaid and other health programs by $1.028 trillion, not including the Affordable Care Act.  The GOP budget protects the wealthiest Americans and big corporations from any tax increases while imposing massive spending cuts on average Americans and their families.

Max Richtman’s full testimony as submitted to the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee is here.  

USA Today Gets it All Wrong on Social Security

Opinion editors at USA Today wrote an editorial today that, unfortunately, read much like the billion dollar anti-entitlement lobby’s standard news release, loaded with crisis rhetoric and a core misunderstanding about how the Social Security Trust Fund is designed.  All to build the case for cutting already modest benefits in Social Security.

The good news is that, unlike many newspapers, USA Today does have a standard policy of offering rebuttals, as they did to our President/CEO, Max Richtman.  You can read USA Today’s call for benefit cuts in their OpEd here

And this is NCPSSM’s rebuttal.  Please take a moment to comment on these articles and share Max’s rebuttal to help journalists understand why strengthening Social Security benefits is so important to working Americans when they retire.


There’s No Reason for Benefit Cuts: Opposing View

Social Security’s impending doom has been foretold since before the first benefit check was ever delivered. The crisis calls are familiar:

“Social Security is bankrupt!”

“The trust fund isn’t real!”

“We have to cut benefits!”

The truth is very different. Social Security remains strong and will be able to pay full benefits until 2034. After that, there will still be enough income coming into the program to pay 79% of all benefits. But with an average monthly benefit of just $1,300, most beneficiaries cannot afford a 21% benefit cut, and that’s why Congress must pass modest reforms, as it has many times before.

Doing nothing is not an option. However, in this hyper-partisan environment where cutting benefits is worn as a bad

ge of courage with little thought to what those cuts actually mean to working Americans, it’s virtually impossible to engage in a meaningful debate.

Raising the retirement age, cutting the cost-of-living adjustment, privatization and means testing are all benefit cut proposals touted by the billion dollar anti-entitlement lobby and its supporters in Congress as the best ways to close Social Security’s shortfall. The American people support an entirely different approach. Poll after poll, including an important public survey by the National Academy of Social Insurance, show that large bipartisan majorities want to improve benefits and are willing to pay more to stabilize and strengthen the program.

There is no reason for Social Security benefit cuts that would force vulnerable Americans to bear an even greater financial burden than they already do. The fiscal woes of this nation are not due to this worker-funded program, which currently has $2.8 trillion in its trust fund.

Numerous proposals languishing in Congress would extend Social Security’s solvency while also improving benefits by lifting the payroll tax cap, adopting a cost-of-living adjustment for the elderly, expanding the minimum benefit and boosting benefits overall. These are reasonable reforms that deserve consideration.

Max Richtman is president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare.

USA Today Permalink here

Voters Say “No Thanks” to Christie’s Plans to Gut Social Security & Medicare


National Committee President/CEO, Max Richtman's reacts to Chris Christie's suspension of his Presidential campaign: 

“New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s political strategy to portray himself as a tough-talking-truth-teller by promising to destroy America’s retirement safety net if elected President came to a predictable conclusion today.  I say it’s predictable because Americans have worked hard to earn their Social Security and Medicare and this campaign shows they simply don’t support Christie’s slash and burn strategy.  Voters, of all political persuasions, agree Social Security and Medicare must be strengthened not cut.  That’s a powerful lesson for the remaining candidates after today’s Christie campaign suspension announcement.

National Committee members and supporters will continue our engagement with Presidential candidates in town halls and forums nationwide with one clear message -- our nation must honor its commitment to America’s workers who’ve contributed to Social Security and Medicare their entire working lives.  Not only do we oppose plans to privatize, means-test and slash benefits, working and retired Americans want candidates who have ideas on how to boost benefits for millions of seniors, survivors, people with disabilities and their families who are struggling just to get by.”...Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO


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