Wednesday, 11 December 2013
Let's Increase Social Security Benefits
Two or three or four years ago or maybe more (you know how hard it is track time in old age when it starts moving so much faster) I first came across the idea that Social Security benefits should not only not be cut, they should be increased.
Even though I was aware that the traditional three-legged stool of retirement – Social Security, personal savings, employer pension - had been wobbly for a long time and only Social Security was still viable, I didn't believe the political climate was anywhere near ready for such a radical step. In fact, I believed any politician mentioning it would be laughed out of the room.
And that's pretty much what happened back then. No longer.
Earlier this year, Senator Tom Harkin [D – IA] introduced The Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013 which includes three major steps to improve the benefit:
- Increase current payments by about $70 a month
- Change the cost-of-living (COLA) adjustment to more closely track real costs of elders
- Scrap the salary cap
As one of the bill's supporters, Senator Sherrod Brown [D-OH], told Greg Sargent last month,
“There are two fundamental numbers that make this a moral case for Democrats to make...One is that a third of seniors rely on Social Security for virtually their entire income. The other is that more than half of seniors rely on Social Security for significantly more than half their income.”
Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren also supports Harkin's bill as do Senator Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and elders' stalwart Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont).
Just two weeks ago or so, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman jumped on the bandwagon with a stirring column in support of the movement although he is cautious about timing:
”Realistically,” he concluded, “Social Security expansion won’t happen anytime soon. But it’s an idea that deserves to be on the table — and it’s a very good sign that it finally is.”
Maybe sooner than Krugman thinks. Political activist and blogger Jan Adams alerted me to another good sign. Last week, two-term Montana lieutenant-governor John Bohlinger, Jr. announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination in 2014 for Montana's U.S. Senate seat, to succeed the retiring Max Baucus.
Bohlinger is making Social Security expansion a big part of his campaign:
”Current Social Security benefits are puny and we can easily fix that by lifting the cap,” he says. “Let's expand Social Security benefits. It is smart economics and the morally correct action.”
He has made his first campaign video. Take a look:
Bohlinger is a lifelong politician having served three terms in the Montana House of Representatives and two in the Montana State Senate. Over the years, he has run as both a Republican and Democrat.
I don't know enough about Bohlinger or Montana politics to know if he is a viable candidate but as Jan noted in her email, he is someone for us elders to keep our eyes on and to support.
And maybe he is a harbinger of more like him to come.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jackie Harrison: The Recipe