social security

Improving Our Safety Net

WITH A LONG history of involvement in the evolution of the Social Security program, Nancy Altman and Eric Kingson are the right analysts to explain the program and demonstrate conclusively that, with careful tending by Congress, Social Security will be there for future generations: a critical part of retirement finances for the vast majority of the American people and, for many, the only retirement support. They argue that Congress should be strengthening and expanding Social Security—and they show how this can be done and the bill paid.

The book makes clear that Social Security is not an entitlement program but a social insurance program with premiums paid through payroll taxes. Its $2.8 trillion trust fund represents the full-faith support of the American people to provide essential insurance coverage for all our people against the universal hazards of death, disability, and old age. It compares how our system stacks up against those of other advanced industrial societies. (We are distinctly less generous to our senior citizens than other developed nations.)

Primarily through the death and disability provisions, Social Security also provides the largest amount of support to children of any federal program, keeping millions of children above the poverty line. Indirect support—helping people not have to bear the full financial burden of caring for elderly parents whose financial independence is assisted through both Social Security and Medicare—increases the number of beneficiaries further.

Darn It!

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Want to Win the War on Poverty? For the Sake of the Most Vulnerable, Let's Work Together

Created by Brandon Hook/Sojourners. Photos: Nolte Lourens/Shutterstock and bikeriderlondon/Shutterstock

The only way to win the “war on poverty” is for liberals and conservatives to make peace — for the sake of the poor. That would be the best way to mark the 50th anniversary of the war on poverty, declared by President Lyndon Johnson in his January 1964 State of the Union address. Making peace means replacing ideologies with solutions that actually solve the problems of poverty. With both Republicans and Democrats speaking out on poverty this week, and the recession slowly receding this should be an opportunity to find the focus, commitment, and strategies that could effectively reduce and ultimately eliminate the shameful facts of poverty in the world’s richest nation.

For any proposal, the basic question must be whether it helps more people and families rise out of poverty and realize their dreams. This means setting aside political self-interest and thinking beyond our too often inflexible ideologies.

Resigning From the AARP

AARP card, via Durham Moose / Flickr

AARP card, via Durham Moose / Flickr

I’m a senior. And I’m mad. In fact, I am resigning from the AARP.

The America Association of Retired People has about 38 million members and is one of the biggest, most influential lobbies in Washington. It has done many good things for older Americans, but in some important ways it is just plain wrong — selfish and guilty of intergenerational injustice.

As Fareed Zakaria pointed out is a 2011 column in Time, the federal government spends about $4 on every senior over 65 and only $1 on every child under 18. “That is a statement about our priorities,” Zakaria rightly says, “favoring consumption over investment, the present over the future, ourselves over our children.” Partly as a result the poverty rate for children (22 percent) is much higher than that for seniors (9.7 percent). 

When Grandma Can’t Eat

Image: OneSmallSquare / Shutterstock.com

Image: OneSmallSquare / Shutterstock.com

As Congress continues to wage a war of political ideology over budget cuts and entitlement programs, they need to remember that these abstract policy debates have real consequences for millions of Americans. 

Deciding between funding programs that feed the hungriest Americans versus giving tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans is not really a choice, at least not when it comes to the demands of the Gospel.

Senator Calls Seniors Concerned About Social Security Cuts 'Greedy Geezers'

If there’s a contest for the title “greedy geezer,” a Social Security recipient living on $14K/year probably isn’t in the top ten…

"…former Sen. Alan Simpson recently referred to a group of seniors concerned about cuts to Social Security as “greedy geezers.” While Simpson characterizes retirees who receive an average annual Social Security benefit of $14,000 as “greedy,” a new issue brief from the Center for Economic and Policy Research shows that simply raising or eliminating the Social Security payroll tax cap would only affect a tiny percentage of workers – the wealthiest in our nation -- while strengthening Social Security. …"

"[Currently,] a worker who makes twice the Social Security wage cap – $220,200 per year – pays Social Security tax on only half of his or her earnings, and one who makes just over 1.1 million dollars per year pays the tax on only about a tenth."

Read full report HERE.

Honor Thy Mothers and Fathers

Elderly couple portrait, Nejron Photo / Shutterstock.com

Elderly couple portrait, Nejron Photo / Shutterstock.com

The face of aging in America isn't a pretty one. Not because the flesh is sagging, but because the nation that once built schools, malls and suburbs for baby boomer families when they were young has turned against its elderly.

Opportunistic politicians seeking to preserve tax benefits for their wealthy patrons assault Medicare as a "socialistic" entitlement serving leeches. They take aim at Social Security as undeserved, even though recipients basically receive funds they themselves contributed over many years of working. 

Banks lure the elderly into credit card debt, then slap on interest rates edging toward 40 percent and then seize property. Banks and some states siphoned off funds intended to ease mortgage stress.

If you take the time to listen, you will hear one horror story after another. People who once shared typical middle-class stories about careers and children's exploits now share dread about losing what little they have left.

The Morning News: Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011

‘Morning Joe’ Crew Mocks Perry’s War On Christmas Ad; Odd Couples: Gingrich Casts Wide Net To Evangelicals, Tea Party And K Street Lobbyists; The Real War On Christmas; GOP Presidential Hopefuls Make Bid For Jewish Vote; Republicans: Save Social Security!; Protesters Arrested In DC After K Street Shutdown; Obama To Congress: Don’t Mix Oil Pipeline, Payroll Tax Cut; Income Gap Stays Wide In District, Narrows In Suburbs.

Did Someone Say "Class Warfare"?

When President Barack Obama laid out his deficit plan Monday, he wasn't just trying to sell a policy. When he pressed for tax hikes on the rich and announced, "This is not class warfare," he was trying to exorcise a demon that has bedeviled the Democratic Party for decades and in the process deprive the Republicans of one of their trustiest weapons. The reaction from the right was swift and sure: "Class warfare!"

Hurricanes, Hype, and Hope

Did anyone else get the feeling, as we watched weather reporters wave their arms frantically in swirling motions across oversized maps of the eastern seaboard -- with their eyes bulging as they pushed out whole paragraphs without a single breath for a period -- that this was all hype?

Last weekend, as Irene passed over town after town in the mid-Atlantic, memories of Katrina did not materialize. By the time Irene huffed over New York City on Sunday morning, and the flood of the century was actually just a really big puddle in Battery Park and a floating lifeguard stand in Long Beach, my fear had transformed into complacency. From there I became cynical. By Sunday afternoon I found myself watching the weatherman's bulging eyes as he repeated the mantra of the day: "It's not as bad as we thought it would be, but it's not over." And I thought: "Boy, they'll do anything for ratings."

But it wasn't all hype.

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