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New National Poll Finds 78% of Americans Oppose Raising Social Security’s Retirement Age

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare Foundation has released a new poll on American’s views on Social Security, proposals for raising the retirement age, and cutting benefits. The national telephone poll, conducted June 24-June 30th  by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, shows a growing disconnect between the average American’s economic priorities and those being debated in Washington.  “These poll results aren’t a surprise for those of us who hear from Americans each day that Social Security has been their only lifeline during these tough economic times.  From young and old alike, attitudes about the need to separate Social Security from the deficit debate are clear and should serve as a wake-up call to our nation’s leaders.  Americans want fiscal sanity restored to Washington but they also know that Social Security didn’t cause this crisis and ignoring the promise made to millions of workers who paid into the program their entire working lives is not an option. The American people, of all ages and political persuasions have clearly said borrowing money from Social Security and then proposing benefit cuts because Washington doesn’t want to pay it back is not fiscal responsibility.” ...Barbara B. Kennelly, President/CEO  “Throughout this survey I was surprised at the lack of major differences, including through political demographic groups, where you would expect some differences.  Republicans and Democrats alike understand there is a deficit out there and they don’t think Social Security is the cause of it.” Andrew Smith, Ph.D., Director, University of New Hampshire Survey Center  Poll highlights include: 
  • Only 2% of Americans believe Social Security is a major cause of the deficit with 77% opposing any changes in Social Security as part of a deficit reduction plan.
  • Two out of three Americans (64%) think Social Security provides security and stability to our economy while only 20% see the program as a drain on the economy. 70% believe this recession underscores the critical role Social Security fills for families.
  • Virtually all Americans polled (98%) believe Social Security funds belong to the people who contributed them and their beneficiaries and a majority (71%) say Social Security is a promise made to all generations that should not be broken.
 “Next month, we will celebrate the 75th anniversary of Social Security, a national treasure that has only improved with age,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Co-Chair of the Congressional Seniors Task Force. “The poll released today shows that Social Security is cherished by the vast majority of Americans of all ages. They believe it is critical for their economic well-being and that its essential protections must not be reduced.  I agree. The poll also made clear that the American public knows Social Security is not a contributor to today’s deficits. The program is not in crisis; while we will need to act ensure its solvency throughout this century and beyond, we can do so without making cuts in critical benefits.” Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) is Chairman of the Social Security Subcommittee and warned against efforts to cut or privatize Social Security benefits, “There are those, even in the aftermath of the failed efforts by President Bush to privatize Social Security, who would take those changes right into the benefit structure today with a rationale of long term solvency without looking at other options.  They never fully discuss that we are taking away the legacy of the program for our children.“ Congressman Ron Klein (D-FL), a strong advocate for Social Security who represents over 130,000 seniors in South Florida said, “Social Security is a contract we have with our seniors, and they have lived up to their end of the bargain. It’s essential that we live up to our end. That’s why I am here today to say that I will not stand for any attempts to weaken Social Security benefits for our seniors, or any reckless efforts to balance our nation’s books on the backs of our seniors.”            The poll “U.S. Attitudes Toward Social Security” is now available on the National Committee Foundation’s website.

Social Security at 75 -- Keeping the Promise

Next month, America’s most successful and popular government program will mark 75 years of serving millions of workers who’ve retired, become disabled or leave survivors after their death.   Today, more than 50 million people receive Social Security benefits, touching the lives of virtually every American family.    In celebration of this milestone, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare has launched “Social Security at 75 – Keeping the Promise”, a month-long commemoration of the program and people it serves.  Some of our upcoming events include: 
  • Capitol Hill News Conference releasing the results of a new National Committee Foundation poll on American’s views of Social Security, its future and proposals to change the program.
  • Two week radio ad campaign reminding Washington’s leaders of the vital role Social Security plays in Americans’ lives.   
  • Culmination of a National Committee postcard campaign scheduled to deliver nearly 100,000 postcards to the President’s Fiscal Commission Co-Chairs urging them to reject plans to balance our budget with Social Security benefit cuts.  
  • The National Committee joins the Alliance for Retired Americans in co-hosting Social Security birthday parties in towns and cities across the country.  
  • 4 part video series highlighting what Social Security really means for the average American and the real-world implications of cutting benefits, raising the retirement age and other harmful proposals being planned in Washington.
  • The National Committee’s Facebook Community will lead our “Fill in the Blank” campaign. Their answers to the question “Cutting Social Security benefits will mean __________”  will comprise our final anniversary video.  
  • We'll host  guest bloggers throughout the month writing on our theme:  “Social Security at 75 – Keeping the Promise”.  
  • A “Did You Know?” series on Twitter and Facebook will provide important facts and interactive quizzes about Social Security throughout the month.
  • Social Security Anniversary E-cards will be available for supporters, beneficiaries and their families to email to their friends, family, and co-workers to invite others to celebrate the program’s 75 years of success keeping Americans secure. 
 New information and activities will be posted for each day during the celebration on our National Committee website’s “Keeping the Promise” anniversary page.

Tilting at Windmills

For regular readers of the Washington Post, you know just what we mean when we say, “what happened to the Post?”  Whether it’s their policy of publishing articles from advocacy journalists as news or their steady stream of anti-Social Security editorials, it’s clear the Washington Post no longer embraces the values and mission of its glory days.   So that’s how we find ourselves, once again, tilting at windmills.  The Post’s latest we-must-cut-Social Security-to-balance-the-budget editorial was just too much to ignore.  Since you’ll never see Barbara's letter to the editor in print, at least you can read it here: 
The Washington Post has once again confused fiscal opportunism for bravery and sensibility (Sense and Social Security, July 1, 2010).  Raising Social Security’s retirement age – another way of inflicting a benefit cut on people who have paid into Social Security their entire working lives -- places undue financial and employment burdens on workers, especially near-retirees. Cutting Social Security benefits while defending tax cuts we can’t afford, bailouts we can’t pay for and wars with no end is neither brave nor sensible.  Social Security belongs to the American workers who’ve funded it, not Washington politicians who’ve spent decades spending it. Americans of all ages want fiscal responsibility returned to Congress; however, taking money from Social Security while telling American workers they need to stay on the job longer is not fiscal responsibility.   The Post editorial ignores the fundamental fact that the rich are living longer, the poor are not, and whites vastly outlive other racial groups. A white female born today can expect to live to 80.6 years while an African American male can expect to live to be 69.7.  In recent decades, the richest Americans gained five more years of life expectancy, compared with only one year for those at the bottom.  While working until 70 might be a “modest social cost” for the six-figure salaried, largely white writers, think-tankers, and politicians in Washington it’s a much bigger cost for millions of middle and lower income Americans who will not live as long as those making these key retirement age decisions for them.    I hear from seniors every day who’ve lost their jobs in this economy and can’t find another one.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms workers between ages 55 and 64 are unemployed much longer than their younger competition in the workforce as they fight for jobs in short supply.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission saw a 33% increase in the number of age discrimination complaints in the past two years as seniors feel the pressure of aging in the workforce.  For older workers in the elite classes of jobs, it’s easy enough to say-- Americans should just work longer-- but what about everyone else? Will our nation make the investment necessary to prepare for an older workforce?  Would the Washington Post consider that investment brave and sensible governing? Given this current budget environment that seems highly unlikely.  Barbara B. Kennelly, President/CEO, The National Committe to Preserve Social Security and Medicare 

More Donut Hole Checks on the Way

CMS has mailed the second round of $250 one-time checks  to seniors who’ve fallen into the Part D donut hole.  80,000 checks are going out this week and ultimately CMS expects about 4 million seniors will qualify for rebates.  These checks are the first step in efforts to eventually close the donut hole through the new health care reform legislation.  
“The Affordable Care Act starts to close the donut hole this year, giving much-needed relief to millions of seniors. In 2011, the Affordable Care Act takes an additional step for Medicare beneficiaries in the donut hole by providing them with a 50 percent discount on their brand name medications. Every year from 2012 until 2020, the Affordable Care Act will take progressive steps to close the donut hole.”  HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  
Unfortunately, whenever there’s something new in the Medicare program scammers come out of the woodwork. CMS offers this advice: 
“Seniors also need to know that they will just receive their check at their usual address - they don't have to take any extra steps,” said Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Deputy Administrator and Director for the Center for Medicare, Jonathan Blum. “And they should never give out their personal information. If someone asks for your personal Medicare information over the phone who isn't a trusted resource like Medicare, please don't provide it. Seniors or family members should contact us at 1-800-MEDICARE to report any of these types of calls or go to www.stopmedicarefraud.gov to learn more about efforts to fight fraud and scams against seniors.”

Social Security and the Fiscal Commission

The President's Fiscal Commission has set aside today as the day they'll hear from the "public".  Of course, that's the public as defined by Washington which is largely advocacy and interest groups.  The event is being streamed online here. Our President/CEO, Barbara Kennelly, speaks to the panel today and has focused her remarks on the quest to cut Social Security.
Thank you for inviting me to be here today.  I will be limiting my remarks to Social Security.    You are faced with the difficult mission of finding ways to reduce the deficit.  On behalf of the 3 million members and supporters of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare – and millions of other Americans who support Social Security – I am here to urge you:  while you are considering your macro-economics and deficit numbers – please do not lose sight of the millions of individual people whose quality of life depends on every decision you make affecting Social Security.   Many of my points are sometimes forgotten in the face of today’s fiscal crisis.  -          More than 9 out of 10 American workers participate in Social Security – thus changes you make in the program will affect virtually every person in this country -          Today, 52 million Americans receive benefits from Social Security – and many rely heavily on these benefits for their income   Social Security today creates a stable, basic income for all families when the primary breadwinner is no longer able to work because of age, disability or death.  Social Security allows the elderly to live out their lives in dignity, with a basic benefit that reflects the contributions they make to the program during their working years.      But despite its importance to the American people, Social Security is not a generous program and the vast majority of seniors are not wealthy.  They are average Americans who worked hard all their lives.        -          Their median income in retirement is just $18,000 -          The average Social Security retirement benefit is only $13,800 a year - $11,000 for women.  -          And about 40% of the average senior’s Social Security check goes to health care out-of-pocket costs, even with Medicare  Most importantly, Social Security will be just as critical to younger generations of workers as it is to today’s retirees.  If anything, young people’s financial world could be more chaotic than their parents:  -          Jobs with traditional pensions are a thing of the past -          Only about ½ of today’s workforce has access to any kind of retirement plan through their employer, and -          The value of the largest retirement asset millions of workers own was destroyed when the housing bubble burst. What many of today’s workers have is their Social Security – and there simply isn’t much room to reduce their benefits.    I was in Congress in 1983 during the last major Social Security reform.  We made a number of changes designed to fund the benefits of the baby boomers when they began retiring in the early 2000s.    That reform was immensely successful – it extended the programs’ solvency for over half a century.  And the surplus we built was invested in the safest asset possible – Special Issue Treasury Bonds backed by the full faith and credit of the United States.  I know it is customary for some today to disparage the Trust Funds as if they don’t exist.  But those bonds are no different than any other debt instrument issued by the United States government, and I find it incomprehensible that Congress might someday agree to pay back our foreign neighbors before honoring the debt it owes to the American people.    I understand the drive to reduce the deficit – frankly, I’m as appalled by $1.4 Trillion in red ink this year as you are.  But Social Security did not contribute one thin dime to the deficit – it should not be used as a piggy bank to fix the mistakes of the past.   The American people do not support cutting Social Security in order to reduce the deficit.  American workers rightfully see Social Security as their money – not the governments’.  It represents their hard-earned dollars that came out of each and every paycheck throughout their working lives.  They are even willing to pay more to strengthen the program for their children and grandchildren.   They flat-out reject the notion that you can strengthen Social Security by cutting it.    Americans want fiscal sanity returned to Washington, but they don’t believe it should be accomplished by cutting Social Security.    Social Security benefit cuts are the last place you should be looking for deficit reduction, not the first place.   Thank you. 



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