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From the category archives: Social Security

Remembering Katrina

“We are public servants first.  No one hesitated to volunteer.  Everyone just started doing what they could to help those in need.  That’s what Social Security is about.  

It’s who we are.”...Social Security Administration Katrina volunteer


When Hurricane Katrina hit landfall the early morning of August 29, 2005, Americans watched in terror as levees breached, thousands of people died in floods and hundreds of thousands of people in in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama lost their homes.  Katrina was yet another reminder just how quickly life’s circumstances can take a turn. One of the great untold stories during these times of national crisis is the Social Security success story. 

“SSA transported 171 volunteer employees from across the nation to join those employees who were still serving the public despite many having lost everything in the storm themselves. SSA quickly established six portable offices in southern Louisiana, in addition to mobile support units charged with providing direct service to those housed in shelters. 

Many New Orleans residents were bussed out of the most affected areas of the city to Houston’s Astrodome, where they had access to a variety of government services, including an onsite Social Security office.

Offices from Dallas to Houston, across Louisiana, and Arkansas opened early, closed late, and remained open over the weekend. Social Security employees worked extended hours in the first few weeks after Katrina, as they ensured those who needed service received it.  SSA employees sent hundreds of care packages to those in shelters and brought toys, coloring books, and clothing to distribute to those visiting Social Security’s offices.”  ...Social Security Matters, SSA Blog

Nearly 200 thousand Americans in Gulf Coast states hit by Katrina receive Social Security. Just as it did after September 11th, Social Security once again provided vital support needed by Americans in a time of crisis.  It’s the insurance workers support throughout their working lives to protect their families in good times and bad...fulfilling its legacy described by President Roosevelt 80 years ago. 

“We can never insure one hundred percent of the population against one hundred percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life, but we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family.”... President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

What If Your Social Security Was Riding the Wall Street Roller Coaster too?

Today might be a good day for a financial exercise...

Chances are if your retirement savings are in a 401K or countless other market-based products, you may have seen what the latest Wall Street downturn has done to your balance. If not, go ahead and bite the bullet and check it.  After you get over the shock, check your Social Securitystatement.  Take some solace in knowing that while your market savings have taken a hit, the good news is your estimated Social Security benefit today is the same it was on Wednesday. 

That’s why Social Security exists.  That’s why it works.  That’s why it’s beyond reason that so many in the GOP still support sending your Social Security to Wall Street and destroying the stable income protection (it’s not an investment) Social Security provides. 

“In June, presidential candidate Jeb Bush said that he thinks the next president will have to try to privatize Social Security. Others have gotten behind the idea as well: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) drafted a plan in 2013 that included partial privatization, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is in favor of using private accounts. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has included privatization in his budget blueprints.

The market drop, and ones before, expose the dangers of such a plan, which usually entails diverting some or all of the money workers contribute to Social Security through their paychecks into private investment accounts.” Think Progress

Governor Mike Huckabee also prefers a privatized Social Security system but says he opposes benefit cuts.  The problem is benefits would have to be cut to create private accountsJohn Kasich has also supported privatizing Social Security.

No doubt, conservatives will remind us that over the long-term the market has been good to us.  Maybe so, but as previous market collapses have shown, retirees don’t have the benefit of the long-term to rebuild savings now lost.  

“Look at successive 45-year periods, as I did for my 2005 book, "The Plot Against Social Security," and you find huge variability. The average worker who invested $1,000 every year in the stock market starting at age 20 in 1954 would have $470,000 when he or she was ready to retire in 1998. But the worker who started just five years later, in 1959, would end up with only $234,000 at age 65--half as much--despite investing exactly the same sum over the same time span. 

Market crashes could destroy a nest egg that took a lifetime to nurture. A near-retiree with, say, a half-million in stock in 2007 had just over $300,000 a year later, following a 37.22% plunge in 2008. Those who held fast managed to recover their losses, but that took five and a half years--and what about those who didn't have the luxury of time?”...Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times

Trading Social Security’s guaranteed benefit for a ride on Wall Street makes no sense for Americans who need to be secure in their retirement.  That’s true whether the market is up or down.  

Social Security Benefits Available Retroactively to Same Sex Couples

The Department of Justice has announced the Social Security Administration will apply the Supreme Court's recent landmark marriage rulingretroactively and process pending spousal benefits claims for same-sex couples who lived in states that did not previously recognize their marriages.  This is terrific news for hundreds of survivors, like NCPSSM member Kathy Murphy, who is a Texas widow denied spousal benefits after the death of her wife.  Lambda Legal represents Kathy and the National Committee in a lawsuit filed last year arguing that denying Social Security benefits to same-sex spouses because they live in states that discriminate against their marriages violates the U.S. Constitution.  Kathy talked to the New York Times about her case:

“She has been unable to collect survivor and death benefits from Social Security since she lost her spouse, Sara Barker, to cancer in 2012. Ms. Murphy retired from her career in publishing in 2011, earlier than she expected, to care for Ms. Barker, who died at 62.

Ms. Murphy finds herself in this predicament largely because her spouse died before the Supreme Court’s monumental ruling in June, Obergefell v. Hodges, which declared that marriage is a fundamental right. That case came after the landmark Windsor decision, in 2013, in which the court ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to federal benefits.

“There is just a feeling of being left at the side of the road,” said Ms. Murphy, 63, who filed her claim for survivor benefits in 2013, shortly after the Windsor ruling. “I get to witness the celebration but I don’t get to experience it.”

Lambda Legal reports:

“SSA has not announced when this policy change will be posted and implemented, but we look forward to reviewing the details and working with the agency to ensure that those who had been wrongly denied in the past will not have to wait longer to have their relationships treated with dignity by the federal government.

With this good news, we are hopeful that widows, widowers and retirees, wherever they lived, who need Social Security spousal benefits earned through years of hard work will soon be able to receive them. We urge the SSA to move quickly to right the injustice to same-sex spouses whose marriages were unconstitutionally disrespected and who await Social Security protections." 


What Would FDR Say About Social Security Today?

National Committee grassroots volunteers and members joined President Franklin Roosevelt at the U.S. Capitol today to celebrate Social Security’s 80th anniversary.

FDR talked with visitors, young and old alike, (even some Capitol Hill staff) and reminded everyone of the critical role Social Security plays in the lives of millions of Americans. 

“The test of our progress is not whether we ad more to the abundance of those who have much it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.”  Franklin Delano Roosevelt, January 1937

Visitors shared their own thoughts about Social Security by completing the sentence

 

I love Social Security because...


“It protects my grammy, and it’s there for me if I ever need it!”

“It’s the closest thing my parents will ever have to a pension.”

“It means we get to eat, pay bills, see doctors, and purchase medicines.”

“I can keep living in my house and pay the bills.”

“It keeps my family secure.”


Happy Anniversary Social Security...Here’s to another successful 80 (and more) years!


Populism, Promises and Privatization: Mike Huckabee and Social Security

Former Governor and GOP Presidential hopeful, Mike Huckabee, found out early in the primary race a populist tone combined with a promise not to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits would provide a political opportunity to distinguish himself from the GOP pack who’ve been racing to see who could cut more middle-class benefits faster.

Unfortunately, Huckabee’s Oped in the DesMoines Register today made it abundantly clear that, in spite of his rhetoric, his actually plans for the programs are just more of the same: repeal Obamacare and the billions in benefits and years of solvency that comes with it, privatize the programs, and replace Social Security’s funding with a regressive tax changing the program from an earned benefit into a welfare program.

You have to ask yourself, is this really how a champion of Social Security and Medicare describes these programs?

“Washington confiscates money from every American’s paycheck”

“The government grabs that money”

“Washington has been pick-pocketing us every day of our working lives.”

“Washington put a gun to your head and robbed it from your paycheck.”

NCPSSM President/CEO, Max Richtman reacted to Huckabee’s piece this way:

“While it’s encouraging to see one GOP presidential candidate finally acknowledge that Social Security and Medicare benefits should not be cut (“Don’t Cut Benefits America’s Seniors already paid for” Aug 12, 2015), it’s also clear Governor Huckabee’s reasoning is built on a flawed political premise that Social Security and Medicare were built through federal ‘confiscation’ and ‘pick-pocketing.’

No doubt, this plays well with the candidate’s Tea Party base, especially those who are conflicted in their hatred of government and love for its two largest programs, Social Security and Medicare.  However, it’s clear Huckabee’s views have far more in common with the GOP Presidential pack than the American people who value these programs in their current form, not the privatized preference he supports.  Taxing “illegals, prostitutes, pimps, drug dealers,” to pay for Social Security doesn’t seriously address income adequacy or long-term solvency while repealing Obamacare would steal years of solvency from Medicare and billions in new benefits for seniors. 

The American people, of all ages and parties, support Social Security and Medicare because they work.  Promising to protect benefits, while maligning the very essence of these programs and supporting the same old GOP prescriptions may be a good political strategy but it has little to do with improving the programs for generations of Americans.”...Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO

Not mentioned in his Des Moines Register piece, and only rarely discussed, is the fact the Huckabee also supports various forms of privatization ranging from ending Social Security’s guaranteed monthly benefit in exchange for a lump-sum payment to private accounts for future generations. 

“Instead of signing up for Social Security sometime between the ages of 62 and 70, which is currently the only option for eligible Americans, and receiving a monthly benefits check, Huckabee wants to offer a one-time, lump-sum cash out benefit at age 65 to participants that would be completely free of taxation. Per Huckabee, it would remove the government's ongoing involvement in providing for seniors, and it would potentially allow seniors the opportunity to invest their lump-sum payment in order to achieve inflation-topping returns.”  Motley Fool

Sound familiar?  It should, as it’s the same send-your-Social-Security-to-Wall-Street goal expressed by President George Bush during his failed campaign a decade ago to privatize Social Security – delivered in a slightly different way.  Apparently everything old is new again.

Huckabee also uses Social Security and Medicare, based on his misdiagnosis of the long-term solvency issue, to defend a terribly regressive tax policy -- the Fair Tax -- which rewards the rich and punishes everyone else: 

“Citizens for Tax Justice and the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation have each found that to raise the same amount of revenue as current law, the sales tax rate would have to be about 50 percent.

A study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) found that under the “Fair Tax,” the top 1 percent of taxpayers would receive an average annual tax cut of $225,000. Meanwhile, the plan would increase taxes by about $3,200 on average on the bottom 80 percent of taxpayers. In other words, Huckabee’s tax plan would significantly increase taxes on the overwhelming majority of Americans to pay for huge tax cuts for the very wealthiest Americans.”

Time will tell if seniors will take the “I won’t cut your benefits” bait and ignore the details of Governor Huckabee’s plans for Social Security and Medicare.  As is always the case in every political campaign, the devil is in those details.  

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