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From the monthly archives: October 2008

We are pleased to present below all posts archived in 'October 2008'. If you still can't find what you are looking for, try using the search box.

The Social Security Campaign Dodge

It's become an all-too-common occurrence on the campaign trail this season.  We've seen it in Congressional races nationwide and in the Presidential campaign too...candidates who support Social Security private accounts have tried to redefine privatization in an effort to hide their true intentions for Social Security and its future.  The most recent example is in Senator John McCain's refusal to answer a direct question on private accounts (asked multiple times) by CNN's Wolf Blitzer despite his explicit support of President Bush's privatization proposals:    Let's be really clear about this...the creation of private accounts, which divert funds away from the Social Security Trust Fund to create investment accounts, is privatization.  Private accounts increase retirement risks, cut Social Security benefits, add trillions of dollars to the federal debt, and do nothing to improve Social Security's long-term solvency.  That's why it's misleading for any candidate to profess their opposition to privatization while at the same time supporting the diversion of Social Security payroll taxes to private accounts.  Diverting contributions away from the trust fund to create private investment accounts, even if voluntary, "conservatively" invested or so-called "add-ons" does not change the definition of privatization...even though, proponents of this unpopular philosophy are attempting to convince American voters it does.  So these days, when a candidate tells you he or she opposes privatization and will protect Social Security, you had better make sure they're not playing the Social Security dodge and weave.  If you want to know what a candidate's real intentions are for Social Security, ask them:  Do you support the creation of Social Security private accounts...yes or no?

Social Security Privatization...All Trick...No Treat

Feeling Spooked by the stock market?  Scared to death by your latest investment report?  All of this ghastly economic news inspired this National Committee Halloween video. If you'd like more details about private accounts we have numerous position papers and analysis pieces on our website.  You can also see all of our National Committee videos on our YouTube channel.

2009 Social Security COLA

SSA announced today that benefits for about 55 million Americans on Social Security will go up 5.8%...the highest cost of living increase we've seen since 1982. 
"Given this economy, the Social Security COLA is a lone piece of good news for seniors. Social Security's COLA is absolutely essential to keep America's seniors out of poverty. For 20% of seniors, Social Security is their only income...and getting by month-to-month has become so much harder as healthcare costs skyrocket, fuels costs soar and their investments and home values plummet.  For too many seniors, this average $63 per month will probably already be spent before it arrives. "   Barbara B. Kennelly, President/CEO, The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare
SSA also announced that the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax will increase next year to $106,800, up from $102,000 this year. Both changes go into effect in January.  For more on the COLA details, The Associated Press and the Pittsburgh Post Gazette had good coverage this morning.

Drinking the Anti-Entitlement Kool-Aid

Do you ever catch yourself yelling at the television?  Well, that's just what we were doing on debate night.  Since this was the 3rd in the scheduled Presidential/Vice Presidential debates and there had been no discussion of Social Security and Medicare up to then, our ears really perked up when an audience member finally asked a question about America's retirees. Now, the answers to this question were far from satisfying but then came Tom Brokaw's entitlement question...built on a flawed assumption, biased personal assessment and a flat-out incorrect assertion that Social Security is somehow broken....and that as he said "everyone agrees"... "Since the rules are pretty loose here, I'm going to add my own to this one. Instead of having a discussion, let me ask you as a coda to that. Would you give Congress a date certain to reform Social Security and Medicare within two years after you take office? Because in a bipartisan way, everyone agrees, that's a big ticking time bomb that will eat us up maybe even more than the mortgage crisis." You can also watch it here:   Say what??!!! That's when our conversation with the television began in earnest.  There is also a similar conversation underway now at Angry Bear. Economist Dean Baker says if Social Security was a private corporation it could sue for such nonsense and the Sojourner blog reminds everyone of those pesky facts about Social Security. But clearly, we need to say it once again too...Social Security is not Bankrupt...period. Beneficiaries will receive full benefits at least until 2041.  Even then, if absolutely nothing is changed, (and no one believes that will happen) beneficiaries would receive 75% of benefits.  Even that unacceptable cut is better than what retirees would face under a privatized Social Security program.    Ticking time bombs, tsunamis, greedy geezers...this is the language of partisans opposed to preserving Social Security and Medicare for future generations.  It's certainly not language or the approach we'd expect to hear experienced and independent journalists use in a Presidential debate.

Rough Economy Means Even Rougher Retirement

There have been a large number of articles, reports, and Congressional testimony this week on the current economic crisis and its impact on seniors. Here is a quick summary of the best of the best:  Americans' retirement plans have lost as much as $2 trillion in the past 15 months - about 20 percent of their value according to Congressional Budget Office Director Peter Orszag.   Orszag summarizes his testimony before the House Education and Labor on his blog and you can watch the full hearing here.    Of course, seniors aren't alone in feeling the serious effects of this economic crisis but if you're a retiree depending on your savings and investments to supplement your monthly Social Security just to get by your financial resources during this economic downturn are severely limited.   For some it seems the all-too-common choice to make ends meet has been to cut their healthcare.  The Chicago Tribune's coverage begins:   
They are splitting pills or deciding not to refill prescriptions. They're missing doctors' appointments, skipping needed dental work, canceling home-care services.
And more seniors are crossing into poverty.  The Boston Globe reports senior advocates in Massachusetts are sounding an alarm: 
Since February 2007, the number of food-stamp recipients has increased by 39 percent, from 50,291 to 69,765 senior citizens, according to the state Department of Transitional Assistance. From January to September, the number of elderly food stamp recipients increased from 59,941 to 69,765. Statewide, there are about 856,000 people older than 65.
Even before the economic downturn, older Americans began working longer. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports twenty-nine percent of people in their late 60s were working in 2006, up from 18 percent in 1985. While the number of workers who are 55 and older is expected to increase at more than five times the rate of the overall work force over the next decade...finding jobs for seniors in this economy is especially difficult.  Craig Copeland, a senior research associate with Employee Benefit Research Institute told the Milwaukee Journal: 
"In general, it is hard for retirees to come back into the work force after they leave, particularly for those that have been out for more than about two years, as things change in the work force rather rapidly."
Copeland also noted that some employers are unwilling to hire older workers, and the types of jobs available to older workers are limited. But, he said, these factors are changing as the types of jobs in the economy are changing and the need for workers with specific skills and experience is growing."
It's clear we must tackle the economics of aging and longevity head-on remembering that America's seniors are a national resource not the economic drain depicted by those who are always looking for ways to cut Social Security and Medicare.  One last link on this issue is to a summary of Dr. Robert Butler's book, The Longevity Revolution.
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