Robert M. Ball died last night at the age of 93.
Washington is a town full of public servants and political appointees but Bob Ball was unique. Few in government invest their entire lives toward a single goal but that’s exactly what Bob did. From his youngest days as a Social Security field assistant, to ultimately becoming the Commissioner of Social Security under three Presidents, Ball worked for decades to strengthen America’s social insurance programs for our nation’s elderly, disabled, survivors and their families.
Even in “retirement” Ball served on commissions and advisory boards, including the 1983 Greenspan Commission
. He wrote books and crafted proposals for new Social Security reforms, including a three-point plan
many consider a good blueprint for the future. Just a few months ago he took the Washington Post to task in a Letter to Editor
in October. You just have
to love someone who was still so engaged in an issue that at 93 he felt compelled to rattle off a letter to the Post to correct one of their (all too common) Social Security mistakes.
Our President & CEO, Barbara Kennelly, served on the Ways and Means committee during the 1983 Greenspan Commission and has known Bob Ball for decades. Here are her thoughts:
“It is not an understatement to say that generations of Americans owe their retirement security and wellbeing to Bob Ball’s tireless ommitment to preserve, protect and strengthen Social Security. Not only did he serve as Commissioner of Social Security under three Presidents, he was actively involved in virtually every Social Security development over the past 60 years. His firm belief in social insurance programs, including Medicare, helped to ensure that seniors, the disabled and their families would continue to thrive in spite of health
challenges and financial constraints.
Bob understood the balance between policy and politics. He mentored, educated, and encouraged so many of us, inside and outside of government, to remain committed to strengthen Social Security for future generations. He was one of my personal heroes.
Bob Ball’s voice will be missed but his legacy will continue to motivate us to ensure America’s seniors, survivors and the disabled will not be forgotten in Washington.”
CATEGORY: [Robert Ball], [Social Security]
by Barbara B. Kennelly, NCPSSM President/CEO and Social Security Advisory Board Member
The rush to pass a stimulus package is not reason enough to ignore the millions of American seniors who can help make this stimulus effort a success. We congratulate the Senate Finance Committee for understanding this and working quickly to craft a package that considers all needy Americans, young and old alike. If timely, targeted and temporary really is the goal of this stimulus package, then seniors should not be left out. The Committee is scheduled to meet at 2:30 Wednesday to take up their version of a stimulus proposal.
Older Americans living on a fixed income feel the pressure of high prices and the slowing economy as acutely as anyone, yet the White House-negotiated stimulus package ignores almost half of our nation’s 65-plus population. Many of these seniors are in the direst need and most likely to spend any additional income on necessary resources such as medicine, utilities, food and clothing.
Even so, the Bush Administration acts as if including seniors in this package is a gift rather that what it really is, good economic sense and the perfect example of their stated goals (timely, targeted and temporary).
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Americans over 65 are responsible for 14% of all consumer spending. Seniors are also among the demographic groups most likely to spend any stimulus benefit they receive. The most recent Consumer Expenditure Survey by the Bureau of Economic Analysis says the average household headed by someone over age 65 spent 92% of their annual income, which is higher than any other demographic group with the exception of those under age 25. Seniors spend what they earn, especially as prices continue to rise, because they live on a fixed income.
But it won’t be that simple, of course. The administration is already making it clear it does not want seniors included in this proposal. White House spokesman Tony Fratto called it "political gamesmanship) and we expect to hear more of the same in the President’s State of the Union address tonight.
So much for those 3 T’s.
Here we go again...
Just as we saw in stimulus packages in 2001 and 2003, America’s seniors living on fixed incomes are once again the forgotten constituency. The stimulus plan
negotiated in the House ignores millions of retired Americans who live on their savings, pensions and Social Security and feel the pressure of high prices and the slowing economy as acutely as anyone. These seniors are in the direst need and most likely to spend any additional income on necessary resources such as medicine, utilities, food and clothing. They are literally the demographic poster-child for the stated stimulus goals:Timely
- Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue
says checks could be delivered in 6 weeks, compared to the IRS’s 10-12
- Social Security databases allow easy access to Social Security beneficiaries. Americans 65+
spend 92 percent of their annual income, which is more than any other demographic group with the exception of those under age 25.
-One time checks would be issued to seniors (through Social Security) just as currently planned for workers (through the IRS).
Including retirees in any effort at economic recovery makes good sense yet the administration treats seniors as if they’re just asking for a handout. Consider Treasury Secretary Paulson’s
answer to a reporter’s question about including Social Security beneficiaries. Clearly the Secretary believes stimulus for millions of seniors is merely a “gift”: “
The Christmas season has come and gone. We're not trying to decorate a Christmas tree here”... Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson
The good news is Senate Democrats
have made it clear they have some ideas of their own to strengthen this stimulus package. But seniors will have to make their case
quickly as this package is moving on the fastest track we’ve seen on Capitol Hill in years.
CATEGORY: [Social Security], [stimulus]
Senator John Kerry
(DMA) has sent a letter to his fellow Senate Finance Committee members urging they include seniors living on fixed incomes in the economic stimulus package negotiated in the House. Kerry says:
Seniors owe Senator Kerry a debt of thanks for his willingness to try and reverse a Washington legacy of ignoring millions of American seniors when crafting economic recovery plans.
“As you develop the legislative language of the economic stimulus package, I urge you to structure the rebate so that we do not unfairly penalize millions of seniors who are faced with the same economic strains as young families, but do not have the ability to increase their incomes.” Senator John Kerry (D-MA)
So, now the race to passage begins. The Senate has begun work on its version of the stimulus package and the full House hopes to vote next week. Why the rush? Even if this package stays on the fast-track most don’t expect any of this stimulus to make it to Americans before June. All the more reason, we say...Why leave out seniors, when they could receive their stimulus sooner and, studies show, they will spend it faster?
“The people who need a stimulus check the most will spend it the fastest. Why, then, is the Administration abandoning millions of seniors in an economic stimulus package? Senior households currently spend 92% of their income each year. Many retirees live check to check and would immediately spend any rebate they receive. This should be the first step in any plan to pump billions of dollars into the economy as quickly as possible.” Barbara B. Kennelly, President/CEO The National Commitee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare and Member of the Social Security Advisory Board
CATEGORY: [Social Security], [stimulus]
While Congress and the President start work on legislation to stimulate
our slowing economy, it appears America’s 23 million seniors will once again be overlooked. This, in spite of the undeniable truth that the economic downturn and rising prices have hit older Americans especially hard since many live on a fixed incomes with little ability to increase their earnings.
Once again, legislative proposals are focusing on tying stimulus to tax relief or rebates. However, millions of retirees do not earn enough to require filing a tax return and therefore are not eligible for a tax rebate, yet they are also not poor enough to qualify for low-income programs being considered for increases.
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis
, Americans over 65 are responsible for 14% of all consumer spending. Seniors are also among the demographic groups most
likely to spend any stimulus benefit they receive.
The most recent Consumer Expenditure Survey
by the Bureau of Economic Analysis says the average household headed by someone over age 65 spent 92% of their annual income, which is higher than any other demographic group with the exception of those under age 25. Seniors spend what they earn, especially as prices continue to rise, because they live on a fixed income. Why should America’s fastest growing demographic continually be ignored in these economic recovery measures?
We’ve sent a letter to Congress
today, and will provide testimony to the Senate Finance Committee next week, urging Washington to use Social Security as the vehicle to distribute to American retirees the same stimulus checks being considered for younger Americans.
It’s a boost for seniors and our economic recovery.
CATEGORY: [Social Security], [stimulus]
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