Thursday, 17 May 2012
Fixing (Not Destroying) Social Security
As reported here two days ago, a bunch of rich, white men (and two or three equally privileged women) met in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday resulting in a bit more media attention than I had expected.
What they reported, mostly, was House Speaker John Boehner's threat to shut down the government later this year over the debt ceiling if Republicans don't get the budget cuts they want (remember the government default battle from last year?).
Of course, those cuts involve Social Security, Medicare and safety net programs that have never been more crucial than during our extended recession/depression. If you want to know more about the Fiscal Summit, check out Richard Eskow's story.
CRUCIAL NEW SOCIAL SECURITY REPORT
What the media failed to cover was last Friday's Congressional briefing on a significant new report about the need to modernize Social Security. Did you know...
• Even with Social Security, 12 percent of women live in poverty
• Even with Social Security, 15 percent of widows live in poverty
• Even with Social Security, 26.1 percent of African-American women and 21.4 percent of Hispanic women 75 and older live in poverty
• In 2010, 46 percent of elder unmarried women overall and 58 percent of unmarried elder women of color rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their total income
• In 2009, the average annual Social Security income for a retired man was $15,620; for women, $12,155.
These statistics are from a new, 22-page report, Breaking the Social Security Glass Ceiling: A Proposal to Modernize Women's Benefits [pdf] that you can read here.
It is a joint project of The Institute for Women's Policy Research, The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) and the National Organization for Women Foundation.
REPORT IS NOT FOR WOMEN ONLY
Don't be fooled by the title of the report and all those repetitions of the word, women. Although there is a great deal of disparity between men's and women's benefits that needs rectifying, this report is equally important for men. Among the report's proposals for change:
• Provide Social Security credits for caregivers whose workforce participation is interrupted, often for many years
• Strengthen the cost of living adjustment (COLA) by switching from the CPI index to the more accurate for elders CPI-E index.
• Restore benefits to students of deceased working parents up to age 22 (instead of current 18) to help families get their kids through college
• Full benefits for same-sex married couples and partners
These are a few highlights. I urge you to read the report which is clearly written and with much more information than I have room for here including additional research, background and proposals with details of each along with options for funding the proposed changes and resolving the minor Social Security shortfall.
Or, you could watch a video of last week's briefing on the report, packed with information from Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), National Organization for Women Foundation President Terry O’Neill, Institute for Women's Policy Research President Dr. Heidi Hartman and Institute for Health and Aging at the University of California Founding Director Dr. Carroll Estes.
These are all smart, accomplished women who are on our – elders' – side, something Peter G. Peterson and most Republicans in Congress are definitely not.
NCPSSM COUNTERING PETER G. PETERSON
NCPSSM President/CEO Max Richtman is also on our side and he showed up, with Senator Bernie Sanders and others on Tuesday, at the demonstration against Peterson's Fiscal Summit. In his remarks at the rally, Richtman said in part:
”Pete Peterson, the sponsor of this summit, is spending one billion dollars to promote the false and dangerous choice that to save Social Security and Medicare we have to destroy these vital systems through privatization and huge benefit cuts.
“Unfortunately, all too many members of Congress believe in the false choice of trading tax increases for cuts in Social Security and Medicare benefits.
“What is happening behind us today is a cynical attempt at manipulating the American public into believing that the only choices to fix Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are to:
“1. Cut benefits, and
“2. Repeat choice #1”
You can read the rest of his speech here.
RICHTMAN'S MESSAGE FOR TGB READERS
Although public polls continue to agree that a gigantic majority of Americans of all ages and political leanings oppose cutting Social Security in any way, Congress only talks about cuts.
That's because the majority of Americans aren't giving millions of dollars to Congress members. But we – you and I and our neighbors and friends – have another kind of power. I reached out to the NCPSSM and Max Richtman emailed this message for us and all elders:
"It’s no accident older Americans remain those most likely to vote. After all, they’ve probably seen it all politically over the years and they also have the power of conviction.
"However, I hear from seniors all the time that often life provides too many roadblocks for real political engagement outside the ballot box. Whether it’s limited transportation, health, or even finances I’m always asked, 'What can I do even if I can’t storm City Hall anymore?'
"My answer is simple - engage. Write or call your Congressman in Washington – often. Write a letter to the editor. There is still power in grassroots mobilization and with the internet, net roots mobilization.
"Do everything you can to get to your local Congressional Town Hall meetings. Believe me, your Congressional members are being told each and every day the only way to fix our fiscal mess is to cut middle-class benefits.
"They have been bombarded with a billion dollar fiscal hawk lobbying and PR campaign to ensure ‘no good crisis goes to waste.' These folks see this economic nightmare as a once in a lifetime opportunity to shift blame from what truly ails our nation to phony crisis calls about programs they’ve targeted for decades.
"Believe me, you and your neighbors will be the only ones to remind your Member of Congress that all these plans to cut Social Security and Medicare may sound good to politicos who don’t need them but out in the real world where people are still suffering in this economy, cutting already modest benefits simply isn’t an option.
"Even if you’ve never written to Washington, do it now. If you’ve never called Capitol Hill or the White House, now’s the time. If you have the means to contribute to an organization that can put your donations to work for you, this is the election year to do it.
"I believe the future of Social Security and Medicare could very well be decided this November and in the lame duck session of Congress that follows."
HOW TO ENGAGE CONGRESS AND THE MEDIA
The threat to Social Security and Medicare in the current political climate is real and serious. I have asked you to take action in the past and now I'm asking you to read Max Richtman's message to us carefully and to follow up.
There are many websites that make it easy to contact your Congressional representatives and the White House and if you use them, please do so again now. But I'm talking about the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare today, so here are their links:
• Members of Congress email addresses
• Your local newspapers (click the word “media” in the header and then enter your Zip Code for a list of papers with contact information
• When you contact Congress and media about this Social Security report, include the link to it
If you keep a blog, write about this yourself and spread the word to your readers. Feel free to use anything from my post – just be sure to include the links to the report and other media you quote.
The NCPSSM is working hard for us against enormous monetary odds. You can help do a lot of good for all generations of elders - if you can afford it - with a donation or by joining the organization (just $12). Do that here. (Disclosure: The NCPSSM gave me a “Media Excellence Award” in 2008 for this blog.)
Remember the old joke about “vote early and often”? Call and write your Congress members and your Congressional candidates EARLY AND OFTEN, especially this year. Get your relatives and friends to do it too.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Night Sounds