As we celebrate Black History Month, it’s the perfect time to highlight how important Social Security is to the African American community. The National Committee’s policy experts have prepared a new analysis of Social Security and African Americans. Here are some key points:
While Social Security is expected to be only one part of a person's retirement income, many minorities rely on it for more of their income. Because African Americans tend to have lower earnings and less pension coverage than White Americans, Social Security is extremely important for African American retirees. Based on the most recently available data:
- Almost three-fourths (72 percent) of African American beneficiaries rely on Social Security for at least half their income, compared to less than two-thirds (65 percent) of all beneficiaries.
- Almost 50 percent of African American beneficiaries rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income.
- Approximately 37 percent of African American beneficiaries rely on Social Security for all of their income.
Minorities rely more heavily on Social Security due to a lack of other income in retirement. Few elderly minorities receive income from pensions and assets. The greatest disparity is in the receipt of income from assets. Again, based on the most recent data,
- 26 percent of African Americans received income from assets, compared with more than 55 percent of Whites.
- 21 percent of African Americans 65 years old and over reported receiving income from private pensions or annuities, compared to 28 percent of Whites 65 years old and older.
IMPROVING SOCIAL SECURITY IS ESSENTIAL
As we have shown, Social Security is our nation’s most important and effective income security program for American workers, retirees and their families and is even more central to the economic security of African Americans. Maintaining the adequacy of Social Security by improving it to better meet the needs of America’s seniors is essential. Toward that end, the National Committee supports a number of improvements to boost Social Security, including the following:
- Strengthen the COLA.
- Improve the Basic Benefit for all Current and Future Beneficiaries.
- Enhance the Special Minimum Benefit.
- Restore College/Vocational School Student Benefits.
Feel like the 2016 Election is already too combative, frustrating and confusing? How can voters sort the fact from the fiction? We can help.
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As Primary Season Gets Underway, SeniorVote2016
Provides Timely, Comprehensive and Important Resources for Voters
Whose Futures Depend on Social Security & Medicare
The 2016 election for the White House and Congress will be expensive, combative and extremely important for the future of generations of older Americans. Literally millions of American families are impacted by decisions made in Washington on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid yet these issues remain on the back-burner for many political candidates. To help arm voters with the facts, the National Committee has launched SeniorVote2016.org as a one-stop, easy to use source of information on the 2016 campaign.
SeniorVote2016’s Candidate Watch provides easy-to-use interactive graphics showing the candidates’ campaign positions and plans for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid with links to additional interviews and statements about these vital programs. The Reading Room offers details of current legislative proposals which would impact American’s retirement and health security including questions voters can ask candidates about where they stand on issues such as: turning Medicare into a voucher program, cutting Medicare to fund other programs, raising the Social Security retirement age, cutting benefits through adoption of the Chained CPI and creation of a cost of living adjustment for seniors (CPI-E). Visitors to SeniorVote2016 can also Take Action directly from the website by pledging to vote and engaging on social media with other Social Security and Medicare activists.
In addition to the roll out of SeniorVote2016, the National Committee has launched a daily email news digest, providing readers with the latest media coverage on the campaigns and the issues. “Your Morning Read” will have a summary of the important need-to-know stories voters will value as they determine which candidates are most committed to preserving and strengthening America’s most successful programs.
According to the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, in 2012 85 percent of registered voters 65 and older -- the main beneficiaries of Social Security -- cast ballots compared with about half of voters under 35. It should be no surprise then that a recent AARP survey of Iowa voters, Democrat and Republican caucus goers, showed that the vast majority consider Social Security a key campaign issue.
"When polled on the importance of candidates focusing on Social Security, the survey found that more than nine in 10 Iowa caucus goers think it is important for presidential candidates to have a plan for the future of the program. Regardless of age, more than half of all likely caucus goers think this is 'very important.'
“When asked if they have heard enough about the candidates’ plans for the future of Social Security, 51% of Democratic caucus goers said they’d like to know more about Hillary Clinton’s plans, and 38% would like to know more about Bernie Sanders’ plans. Among Republican caucus goers, 45% would like to know more about Donald Trump’s plans, and 41% would like to know more about Ted Cruz’s and Marco Rubio’s plans.”
Social Security has played a key role in Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign as he continues to draw distinctions between his and Hillary Clinton’s plans. Bloomberg reports:
“Sanders wants to keep the cap on taxable income for Social Security at the current $118,500 a year for those earning up to $250,000 annually, and apply the levy on all earnings above that amount. It would mean the top wage earners would pay more to extend the solvency of the program and expand benefits by $1,300 a year for people making less than $16,000, he said. ‘That is my view, to the best of my knowledge, that is not Secretary Clinton’s view,’ Sanders told reporters on Tuesday after a campaign stop in Des Moines
“I think it’s a mistake to go in and say, ‘Here’s what I want to do,’ sort of in effect hand them your negotiating position,” Clinton told the Des Moines Register editorial board earlier this month. “I think it’s smarter to say, ‘Look, I’m never going to go along with your privatization plan. I will not go along with raising the retirement age as the answer to everything that ails Social Security, but I will work with you to try to figure out how we help those people who are most disadvantaged.”
There are also differences between the two leading GOP candidates in Iowa, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz -- at least on the campaign trail, that is. While Trump has supported privatization and raising the retirement age, in Iowa he promises to protect Social Security and Medicare. Cruz, meanwhile, has stated his plans to cut benefits, privatize Social Security, and convert Medicare into CouponCare very clearly.
The caucuses begin at 7 pm Central time with separate Democratic and Republican events taking place in each of 1,681 precincts across the state. The Des Moines Register will be posting results throughout the night.
You don’t have to agree with his politics to acknowledge that President Obama’s final State of the Union address was, as promised, an aspirational and ambitious look forward. The New York Times summed it up this way:
“In a prime-time televised speech that avoided the usual litany of policy prescriptions, Mr. Obama used his final State of the Union address to paint a hopeful portrait of the nation after seven years of his leadership, with a resurgent economy and better standing in the world despite inequality at home and terrorism abroad.
He acknowledged that many Americans feel frightened and shut out of a political and economic system they view as rigged against their interests, even as he offered an implicit rebuke of Republicans who are playing on those insecurities in the race to succeed him.
‘As frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background,’ Mr. Obama said. ‘We can’t afford to go down that path.’ "
In a sweeping speech that touched on issues as diverse as curing cancer to fighting ISIS, retirement security played a small role. However, it did provide the President an opportunity to deliver one of his best one-liners of the night:
“After all, it’s not much of a stretch to say that some of the only people in America who are going to work the same job, in the same place, with a health and retirement package, for 30 years, are sitting in this chamber. For everyone else, especially folks in their forties and fifties, saving for retirement or bouncing back from job loss has gotten a lot tougher.
That’s why Social Security and Medicare are more important than ever; we shouldn’t weaken them, we should strengthen them.”
American families know first-hand what this looming retirement crisis feels like. About half of households age 55 and older have no retirement savings
and a third of current workers aged 55 to 64 are likely to be poor or near-poor
in retirement. Unfortunately, the median retirement account balance
is a puny $3,000 for all working-age households and $12,000 for near-retirement households.
However, just as with the climate change debate, many conservatives continue to deny
the retirement crisis even exists. This too often used head-in-the-sand political approach led the President to challenge his Congressional audience:
“How do we reignite that spirit of innovation to meet our biggest challenges?
Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there. We didn’t argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight, and twelve years later, we were walking on the moon.”
Undoubtedly, acknowledging the economic challenges facing average Americans has to be the first step to find solutions; however, equally important is for citizens to hold their elected officials accountable for saying what they mean and meaning what they say. Too often, candidates promise
to “strengthen” Social Security while on the campaign trail when, in truth, they actually support plans to slash benefits. They promise to protect Social Security and Medicare while actually planning to privatize them.
What does the candidate asking for your vote really mean when he/she promises to “strengthen” Social Security and Medicare? For the majority of Americans
of all political parties, strengthen means no cuts
to benefits. A growing movement also supports boosting benefits
; however, voters can't assume the same of candidates on the campaign trail in 2016.
So, our challenge to all voters is to ask each and every candidate who hopes to come to Washington,“What are your true plans to strengthen Social Security?”
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