Forty, fifty or even sixty years ago, mention the phrase “working class” and most folks understood that to mean “blue collar” laborers such as a machinist, waitress, plumber, cop, production line worker, or housekeeper. Blue collar workers generally wore a uniform. These were people who left high school with or without a degree and who became employed in skilled and non-skilled lower wage jobs. These laborers were in sharp contrast to the college educated “white collar” professionals such as a plant manager, engineer, lawyer, teacher, scientist, business administrator or dentist.
Fast forward to 2017 the white and blue-collar labels are fading away. Younger generations don’t even use this terminology. Why? Because America’s working class is more frequently defined as anyone who earns a wage regardless of their level of education, what they wear to work or whether they sit at a computer, stand in front of a class or lay flooring in a new home.
While America’s working class is highly diverse in age, occupation and income, they share a common thread: a percentage of their wages (up to $127,200) is contributed each payday towards Social Security and Medicare coverage to help protect them in the event of their retirement, disability or death. For the majority of today’s working class, they correctly view their Social Security and Medicare as earned benefits. And for most, these benefits will constitute the greater part of their health and financial security.
Proposals to change the benefit structure of both programs are coming fast and furiously. Raising the retirement age, reducing the COLA, privatization, cost shifting and means-testing are all ideas that will result in benefit cuts. Soaring healthcare costs driven by high profit insurance, pharmaceutical and hospital corporations are threatening to chip away more of the average Social Security monthly benefit of $1340. Combine that with other basic living expenses such as housing, groceries, fuel and transportation and these proposals can significantly hurt seniors today as well as the future retirement security of America’s working class.
The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare wants to Stop the War on the Working Class by ending the calls for benefit cuts and supporting worker friendly strategies that will protect Social Security and Medicare and improve benefit adequacy.