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From the category archives: Retirement

2016 Determines the Future of Social Security & Medicare

There is a lot at stake in the 2016 election because the differences between candidates’ plans for ‪#‎SocialSecurity‬‪#‎Medicare‬ and Medicaid are stark.  Seniors' votes will make a difference so please help us advocate, educate and keep the candidates accountable for their positions on America's most successful programs!

It’s Inequality, Stupid. Why Income Inequality, the Longevity Gap and Social Security are All Connected

One of the favored political tropes repeated often by the billion-dollar anti-Social Security lobby and its supporters in Congress as a justification to cut Social Security is:  “Americans are living longer so they should just work longer.”  That’s usually followed up with a personal anecdote like “Everyone I know plans to keep working into their 70’s.”  Maybe that’s true for hedge-fund billionaires like Pete Peterson and politicians like Alan Simpson.  Rich, white men live longer, healthier lives and no doubt it’s easier to consider working until 70 if the boardroom or committee room is where you spend your work day.

However, for the rest of America the “you can work until your 70” claim is built on the lie that “Americans are living longer.”  Multiple studies have shown the opposite to be true.  All Americans are definitely not living long. Yet another report from the National Academy of Science this week reports:  

“Men at the top of the economic ladder saw an eight-year increase in life expectancy, while men at the bottom saw virtually no change.” 

No change. 

According to researchers, an increasing gap in life expectancy between the wealthy and the working class has come – and may even be caused by -- the growing inequality of wealth and income in America. If you can afford the best healthcare, work in high income careers requiring less physical labor and have a higher education allowing you to navigate America’s complicated healthcare system, is it any surprise you might live longer?  As more income goes to the richest Americans, our middle-class is shrinking leaving even more people vulnerable.

Teresa Ghilarducci is a labor economist who directs the Retirement Equity lab at The New School. She sums it up this way:

“The idea that everyone should work longer since everyone is living longer is one used to justify policy proposals such as cutting Social Security benefits. But that idea is a misleading oversimplification.

The Retirement Equity Lab at The New School (a project I direct) has pointed out that the growing class and racial gaps have dire implications for retirement policies. A cut to Social Security benefits—which raising the retirement age, an oft-suggested proposal, essentially is—would induce people without means to work in old age. This would produce an unseemly form of inequality: The people who live the longest will be able to retire, and the people who have to work longer will be the same people who are losing at longevity. The poorer will work and the richer will play in old age, a class divide we’ve already seen in the 19th and early 20th centuries. If post-work benefits are not shored up, this disparity will only get worse.”

Same-Sex Marriage Ruling Will End Social Security Discrimination for Families Nationwide

Today’s historic Supreme Court ruling touches the lives of millions of Americans and their families in many ways.  It ends the discriminatory patchwork of laws that has given some same-sex partners legal rights that were denied to their neighbors in other states.  It will also impact access to federal benefits like Social Security.  For those Americans who rely on Social Security for retirement, disability, spousal and survivor benefits this ruling finally clears the way for the universal and fair distribution of benefits to all who have earned them.

The basic tenet of Social Security is that if you contribute to the system throughout your working life, you and your family will receive those earned benefits in retirement, death or disability. Unfortunately for many same-sex couples and their families that important principle has been ignored as some states refused to recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples.  Today’s Supreme Court decision finally rights that wrong and clears the way for same-sex couples to access the hard-earned spousal and survivor benefits they’ve paid for just like every other American.

The National Committee has led the way in the fight to end this denial of Social Security benefits to deserving spouses. We’re proud of the role we have played with the Social Security Administration and others as part of our “Know Your Rights” project in helping same-sex couples exercise their legal right to benefits as their marriages were recognized in various states.  We now urge the Social Security Administration to move quickly to ensure all Americans nationwide can access the spousal benefits they have earned.”...Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO

GOP Priorities for Social Security are Clear

Congress is proposing a freeze on funding for the already strapped Social Security Administration at last year’s levels.  The SSA administrative budget has already fallen by over 10 percent since 2010 after adjusting for inflation.  The GOP’s 2016 SSA Appropriation ignores inflation and the fact that ten thousand Americans are turning 65 each day.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities details what these budget cuts mean for a program that touches the lives of virtually every American family: 

Since 2010, SSA has lost over 6,000 employees, nearly 10 percent of its staff. As a result, SSA's service is suffering:  

  • Reduced field office hours.
  • Increased wait times for appointments. 
  • Longer hold times. 
  • Cutbacks in Social Security Statements. 
  • Backlogged Disability Insurance claims.
  • Delays in processing earnings reports.

Logically, you’re probably wondering how is an agency serving a growing number of Americans (and it’s not like the baby boomer generation is a surprise) be expected to do its job with no resources?   The answer lies in the long-held “starve the beast” and “drown-the-government” conservative strategy still being practiced, decades later, by GOP leaders in Congress.

“I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”  Grover Norquist

Social Security is well-managed with small administrative costs.  However, underfunding popular programs that conservatives can’t outright abolish or dismantle (if they hope to keep their seats in Congress, anyway) continues to be used as a political strategy to weaken Social Security.  This underfunding has now been going on long enough that Social Security services provided to average Americans have been cut to the bone.

Who ultimately pays the price for this political strategy?  Average American families who have contributed their entire working lives to Social Security and have a reasonable expectation that the SSA would be funded by Congress to successfully fulfill its it has done for 80 years. 

Older Americans Month

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