Monday, 23 April 2012
There has been plenty of reporting on the increasing inequality of wealth distribution between the top one percent of the population and the 99 percent of the rest of us.
The disparity is breathtaking. By most measurements, the top .01 percent of the population earn an average of something like $27 million per household per year while the average of everyone else is $31,244. Whether it is measuring income, accumulated wealth or whatever, this is the kind of chart we're accustomed to seeing these days:
A zillion words have been written about why such inequality is corrosive to society. Or not, if you subscribe to the right wing philosophy of wealth, trickle-down and job creation. We are sure to hear a lot more from both sides leading up to election day in November. But I'm not here to add to the cacophony today; I'm just setting the stage a bit.
A few facts:
According to the Social Security Administration, people 65 and older in the middle level of income distribution receive about 66 percent of their income from Social Security. For those in the lowest income level, Social Security is just under 85 percent of their income.
For 22.5 percent of married beneficiaries in 2010, Social Security was 90 percent or more of income. That percent held true for 46.1 percent of non-married beneficiaries that year. So says the Social Security Administration [pdf].
The current average Social Security benefit is $1230 per month or $14,760 annually. According to the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, the U.S. ranks fifth from the bottom among 30 countries with advanced economies in generosity of benefits for average earners.
Under a new measure of poverty, the Census Bureau [pdf] reports that in 2010, 15.9 percent of elders – one-sixth (!) - lived under the poverty line.
To bring this back to the inequality of wealth distribution, I wonder how much higher average Social Security benefits would be today if, during the past 30 years, salaries had not been stagnant?
With all this, presidential candidate Mitt Romney and just about every Republican in Congress wants to cut Social Security benefits via some means and President Barack Obama has revealed that he can be wobbly on the subject.
So I'm sitting here on a Sunday afternoon curious about Time Goes By readers, wondering how well we all get by. What percentage of our incomes derive from Social Security and how difficult is it to match our money to monthly requirements.
For me, Social Security provides 86.3 percent income. Because I have no mortgage, my fixed expenses are low and although I'm not fanatical about it, I watch the outgo carefully and never spend more than I can pay cash for.
What I've noticed in the past year, however, is a dramatic increase in the cost of food. I can't swear to it, but it feels like I am spending twice as much now on groceries.
I eat almost no meat and I usually buy the least expensive fish. But produce is now astronomical so I have begun substituting less costly frozen vegetables and fruit. Because they are frozen within 24 hours of picking, they are often more nutritious than fresh.
Anyway, as always when I ask personal questions on this blog, you are welcome to reply anonymously. An email address is still required in the comment form but it is never published.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lia Hirtz: Adelaida