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Five Ways Congress can Strengthen Social Security Now without Cutting Benefits

 

Social Security faces a funding shortfall in 2033 which, if not addressed, could result in  across the board benefit cuts of about 23%. While this shortfall does not pose an immediate crisis, there are reasonable changes that Congress should enact to keep Social Security solvent and strengthen it for current and future generations:

 1)           Eliminate the cap on Social Security payroll contributions. In 2014, only wages up to $117,000 will be subject to the Social Security payroll deduction. Lifting the cap will subject all wages to the payroll contribution which will help address the majority of Social Security’s projected funding shortfall.  

2)            Slowly increase the payroll contribution rate by 1/20th of one percent over 20 years. This gradual increase in the rate will significantly strengthen Social Security’s financial condition well into the future.

3)            Treat all salary reduction plans like 401ks. All workers pay Social Security and Medicare taxes  on their contributions to retirement accounts but no payroll taxes are collected from workers flexible spending accounts such as HSAs, transit and dependent care plans. This change will add money to the program.

4)            Increase the basic benefit for all current and future retirees by 5% of the basic benefit (about $55 per month). This modest but meaningful benefit improvement is a long-overdue boost, especially  for low-to-middle income beneficiaries  who rely upon their Social Security benefit  for the majority of their income.  

5)            Provide Social Security credits for caregivers. When computing the Social Security benefit, grant up to five family service years to workers who leave paid employment to provide care to children under the age of 6 or to elderly or disabled family members. This will provide greater parity for women’s benefits which are typically less than men’s due to interruptions to paid employment caused by family caregiving needs.

Meet the CEO’s Who Want to Cut Your Social Security

 

We’ve written before about the billion dollar anti-Social Security lobby, led by Wall Streeter Pete Peterson and his myriad number of astroturf front groups, here, here and here.  These CEO and Wall Street friendly groups are spending a lot of money to convince Congress that grandma and grandpa’s Social Security is to blame for our economic woes rather than talk about the real problem...$1 trillion in corporate loopholes and income inequality which is destroying the middle class.

Hats off to the Institute for Policy Studies and the Center for Effective Government for their new report detailing the truth behind America’s CEO-led campaign against Social Security.  Thanks also to the Huffington Post for this terrific infographic highlighting the report’s key findings:

 

Social Security Infographic

Senator Warren and the Retirement Crisis

It's not very often a speech in Congress is so dead-on that we share it, in its entirety, here.  Yesterday's speech by Senator Elizabeth Warren on America's retirement crisis is a notable exception.  We highly recommend you give it a view:

 

 

Activists Stage White House Demonstration to End Chained CPI Proposal

Cuts to Social Security Will Hurt Seniors, Veterans, People with Disabilities and Children; Shackle Recovering Economy

While some in Washington may have given up on a so-called “grand bargain,” many others including the White House, have left benefit cuts to millions of seniors, veterans and people with disabilities on the budget bargaining table. Contrary to claims by Chained CPI proponents, this change to the annual COLA calculation is not a “technical tweak” but a benefit cut for the oldest and most vulnerable Americans who would be least able to afford it. Additionally, recent research by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare Foundation, in consultation with economist Dean Baker, shows that adoption of the Chained CPI could cut $31 billion in economic output and more than 200,000 jobs nationwide. 

Activists from the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, AARP, NOW, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Generations United, NARFE, Social Security Works and other advocacy groups converged on the White House to tell President Obama “No” to the chained CPI. Protestors with signs illustrating the negative economic impact in each of the nation’s 50 states plus Washington, D.C. rallied along Pennsylvania Avenue and were joined by Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-5) and Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-2).

“The coalition here today is diverse, strong and unified in our opposition to Social Security benefit cuts like those that would come with the Chained CPI.  Groups here today represent not just seniors but also young people, veterans, civilians, people with disabilities and middle class families.  We’re all here together to say the negative impact of the Chained CPI should not be ignored or trivialized any longer.  The White House and others have said this benefit cut is nothing more than a "technical tweak,"...but the truth is it would be a benefit cut imposed on the oldest and most vulnerable Americans who would be least able to afford it.” Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO

Here's a video of activists rallying at the White House. 

 

Do You “Know Your Rights?”

New Education Campaign Informs LGBT Community about Their New Social Security Benefits Eligibility

Hundreds of Northern California same-sex spouses, and elder lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans attended the nation’s first “Know Your Rights” education sessions sponsored by NCPSSM’s foundation and our local partners. The events provided participants vital information about Social Security benefits now available thanks to the Supreme Court’s June 2013 Windsor ruling in the Defense of Marriage Act.

For the first time in its long history, the Social Security Administration is providing benefits to same sex married couples which has important financial implications for millions of LGBT Americans.  The “Know Your Rights” campaign’s goal is to ensure LGBT Americans understand their rights to benefits.

“ ‘Know Your Rights’ is the first outreach program of its kind in the nation and a model for an education campaign potentially reaching millions of LGBT Americans from coast to coast.

The National Committee Foundation is proud to lead this campaign because it’s vital that we get the word out to the LGBT community so that they can begin the process of filing for benefits with the Social Security Administration.”...Carroll L. Estes, Ph.D., National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare Foundation Board Chair

“We were honored to offer a launch pad for the National Committee Foundation’s critically important efforts to help make the Supreme Court’s historic decision effective by expanding the principles of social justice and equal treatment to Social Security.  Over the coming years, millions of same-sex couples will get the federal benefits they have earned, and the human respect they deserve.”...Dr. Thomas Peters, President & CEO, Marin Community Foundation

With the support of a lead grant from the Marin Community Foundation, the Northern California sessions included panel discussions with the Social Security Administration, legal experts, and seniors’ and LGBT advocates.  The outreach sessions in Marin, San Francisco and Sonoma Counties were coordinated with local partners, Spectrum LGBT Center and Openhouse. 

"With marriage for same-sex couples now recognized by one third of the states and the federal government, more and more LGBT Americans have access to benefits and responsibilities we have not had to consider before," said Openhouse Executive Director Seth Kilbourn. "For older same-sex couples, Social Security benefits are particularly important. These kinds of town hall meetings provide critical information about what these benefits mean for LGBT families and how to access them. The "Know Your Rights" outreach effort is a great model that brings the LGBT community together with local leaders and national partners to talk about these issues and begin the dialogue."

"The Social Security Town Halls give LGBT Americans - and LGBT older adults in particular - an opportunity to learn about federal benefits previously denied to them because of the discriminatory policy of offering only married, heterosexual couples and their families this critical financial benefit. It is through robust education and outreach that we will reach these people - so used to being excluded from the system - and encourage them to apply." Paula Pilecki, Spectrum LGBT Center Executive Director

Before the DOMA ruling, a child whose same-sex parent died forfeited as much as $15,000 each year in survivor income, totaling $256,000 before he/she reached age 18.  There are an estimated quarter million children being raised by same-sex couples who can now qualify for Social Security survivors benefits.  When it comes to retirement, same-sex spouses lost, on average, more than $8,000 each year in earned spousal retirement benefits because their marriage was not recognized by the federal government.  The Social Security Administration has urged the LGBT community to file for benefits now, even as new regulations are being finalized.

California, with the largest LGBT population in the country and the largest number of Social Security beneficiaries, was the logical choice for the first series of educational forums and sets the stage for a nationwide outreach effort. You can find more information on the "Know Your Rights" campaign on our foundation’s website.

 


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