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From the category archives: Retirement

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 mission...as it has done for 80 years. 

Older Americans Month

Social Security Numbers to be Removed from Medicare Cards

It was one of the National Committee’s Legislative priorities this year and we’re happy to report that Social Security numbers will now be removed from Medicare cards.  As the incidence of identity theft has risen it’s become clear that imprinting more than 50 million benefit cards with Americans’ Social Security numbers on the front put millions at risk.  That’s why we supported legislation which would require the numbers be removed.

But it doesn’t come without a cost.  The New York Times describes the funding:

Congress provided $320 million over four years to pay for the change. The money will come from Medicare trust funds that are financed with payroll and other taxes and with beneficiary premiums.

In his budget for 2016, Mr. Obama requested $50 million as a down payment “to support the removal of Social Security numbers from Medicare cards” — a step that federal auditors and investigators had been recommending for more than a decade.

More than 4,500 people a day sign up for Medicare. In the coming decade, 18 million more people are expected to qualify, bringing Medicare enrollment to 74 million people by 2025.

Medicare now has up to four years to start issuing new numbers on cards for new beneficiaries and four more years to reissue cards for those already in Medicare. Social Security numbers will be replaced with “a randomly generated Medicare beneficiary identifier.”  The details are still being worked out.

Decades of Bad Social Security & Medicare Proposals Rolled into One – Courtesy of Governor Chris Christie

Hyperbole -- fact twisting and sheer omission -- false truths presented by “courageous truth-tellers.”  None of this is really new to American politics.  However, today New Jersey Governor Chris Christie deployed all of these time-worn propaganda techniques to unveil his plan to cut $1 trillion in benefits (that’s $1,000,000,000,000) from generations of Americans who will depend on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. 

He says it’s all about “fairness.”  However, he proposes not a single dime of new revenue and has no problem with average Americans paying payroll taxes on all of their income while the wealthy do not. 

Apparently, slashing pensions in New Jersey to preserve his no tax pledge simply isn’t enough.  Now he hopes to do the same nationwide.  In spite of his promise to offer the GOP Presidential primary race something new, today’s comments were merely a recitation and doubling-down on the same GOP claims that our nation can’t afford to honor its commitment to America’s workers and future retirees. 

NCPSSM President/CEO, Max Richtman, sums it up this way:

“The Governor’s plan to means-test Social Security, cutting off some Americans and transitioning the program from an earned benefit to welfare has long been the goal of those who oppose social insurance programs. It seems the Governor acknowledges that his flagging Presidential campaign needed a jolt because today’s speech was far more about burnishing Governor Christie’s conservative credentials than offering new proposals that could help America’s workers and retirees. He certainly isn’t showing bold leadership by claiming we must cut middle-class benefits, while protecting tax expenditures benefiting huge corporations and the wealthy.  That’s been the GOP position for a very long time. Today Governor Christie joins a long line of conservative politicians who hope to convince voters they are “courageous truth-tellers” when in truth their goal is to dismantle the very programs which have kept millions from poverty.

The majority of Americans – of all ages, no matter their political party -- opposes cutting already modest benefits and is willing to pay more to boost the program. They understand Social Security and Medicare are not welfare programs nor should they be.  Getting any GOP Presidential candidate to acknowledge that fact takes true political courage. But unfortunately that’s not the ‘red meat’ the GOP’s conservative base expects to hear nor the truth candidates like Governor Christie are willing to tell.”...Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO

While he claims “no one” will talk about cutting benefits like he will, the fact is, the past decade has seen numerous attacks on the programs from Presidents, Presidential commissions, Congressional “Gangs of 6” and too many legislative proposals to even list here.  Senate Governor Christie is merely the latest in a growing list of GOP Presidential candidates who all promote the same “strengthen = slash” approach.  They tout their protection of poorer seniors while proposing benefit cuts, cost sharing and means testing that will impact millions of poor and middle-class beneficiaries.  Each candidate also follows the conservative-crafted playbook which promises current retirees (who consistently vote) will be protected from cuts, instead targeting their children and grandchildren (who aren’t thinking about retirement yet) for even smaller benefits.

 Many GOP Candidates – Same Social Security & Medicare Approach
  • Senator Ted Cruz supports privatizing Social Security, turning Medicare into “Coupon Care”, raising the retirement age and Medicare eligibility age, and cutting Cost of Living Allowances (COLAs).  Each of these proposals would cut benefits well below the current $1,200 average monthly benefit
  •  Senator Rand Paul has called Social Security a Ponzi scheme and supports allowing people to opt out of the program.  He also supports raising the retirement age and Medicare eligibility age, Social Security privatization, and raising seniors’ Medicare premiums and copayments.
  • Senator Marco Rubio supports privatizing Social Security, raising the retirement age and cutting Cost of Living Allowances (COLAs).  He considers current benefits “generous” and supports the GOP/Ryan budget which turns Medicare into “Coupon Care”.

None of these candidates have expressed support for lifting the payroll tax cap so that wealthy Americans pay the same rate as everyone else or proposals addressing income adequacy for millions of beneficiaries of all ages.

Now, that would be a true act of political courage.

 

 

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