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Social Security and Elder Women

category_bug_politics.gif By mid-afternoon yesterday, I had written most of what I had planned for today's post, but as the hours ticked past, increasing numbers of news and commentary popped into my inbox about the coming attack on Social Security, adding to a minor deluge that had begun last week.

Most were reacting to leaks, suggestions or intimations that in his State of the Union address in January, President Barack Obama, following recommendations from the Bowles-Simpson (catfood) commission report, will call for slashing Social Security. To wit:

Robert Kuttner at Politico:

“The tax deal negotiated by President Barack Obama and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is just the first part of a multistage drama...

“The second part, now being teed up by the White House and key Senate Democrats, is a scheme for the president to embrace much of the Bowles-Simpson plan — including cuts in Social Security. This is to be unveiled, according to well-placed sources, in the president’s State of the Union address.”

Jed Lewison at dailyKos:

“Conservatives like the idea of extending the Social Security payroll tax holiday because it will give them leverage to win Democratic support for long-term cuts to Social Security that they couldn't achieve on their own.”

Roger Hickey at Campaign for America's Future:

“Now the Republicans have identified their next hostage: They're going to threaten to destroy the international financial stability of the United States by refusing to raise the debt ceiling. What are they demanding for ransom? They want President Obama to slash Social Security and Medicare before this next hostage crisis comes to a head in March or April.”

Paul Krugman at The New York Times:

“[T]his is absolutely the wrong place to cut if you’re serious about fiscal issues. It’s where the money isn’t; and in terms of securing Social Security itself, it’s deeply illogical: in order to avoid the possibility of future benefit cuts, we’re cutting future benefits.”

And so on.

Even if the president does not take a whack at Social Security in the State of the Union, you can rely on Congressional Republicans to do so. This comes at a time when a new study released last week reveals that Social Security is crucial to the well-being of elder women.

The report, from the National Academy on an Aging Society, the public policy branch of The Gerontological Society of America (GSA), is titled For Millions of Older Women, Social Security is a Lifeline.

Because the brief costs $40 and the GSA has not responded to my request for a press copy, I am relying on their news release which states:

“Without Social Security, research indicates that about half of women age 65 and older would be living in poverty. With the program in place, the poverty rate for women falls to 12 percent.

"'Older women — especially those who are not married — rely heavily on Social Security, as this research brief makes clear,' said GSA Public Policy Committee Chair Sara Rix, PhD.

“'Relatively modest changes to restore solvency to the Social Security system would ensure that these women and the generations that follow them will be able to depend on their Social Security benefits well into the future.'"

Among the modest proposals to secure the future of Social Security for our children, grandchildren and beyond is to eliminate the salary cap on the payroll tax – something high earners can certainly afford now that Congress has extended their massive tax cut.

Of course, that may not be enough due to the new payroll tax holiday which reduces contributions by 16 percent and which Republicans will undoubtedly try to extend indefinitely. Plus, although no one has mentioned it, I keep wondering how long it will be before employers begin lobbying to reduce their contribution equally.

So you can see how the future of Social Security is already in jeopardy – for women, but certainly a lot of men too if the Republicans prevail in the next Congress.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Lazinsky: It's a Wonderful Life

Comments

Scary stuff, Ronni.

They are weighing what looks good in the short term versus what is needed for the long term and not surprisingly instant gratification wins out. Obama, as a younger man, maybe just doesn't get what SS has meant to Americans. He will never need it and neither will most of those who will vote on this.

For years Americans have been told the younger generation won't get it anyway; so it's not much of a reach to get them to support cutting it further for some short term gain in their paychecks which they will likely spend on imported goods from other countries doing nothing for our own manufacturing base.

Expecting logic though from politics right now is like looking for a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow where the end keeps moving. We call our Congressmen and even though like on the recent tax bill Oregon's voted the way we would have hoped (except the lone Republican), it's not enough to turn this country and I worry about a lot more than SS for where it's heading.

"The Social Security Trust Fund is not social, not secure, and you can't trust it." Allen Sloan, Washington Post, page A14, 12/21/10

Sloan writed that the "excess" money supposedly set aside in the SSTF since 1983 was spent by Dems and Republicans alike to fund other programs (robbing Peter to pay Paul). In turn, the Feds issued what Sloan describes as worthless bonds to the SSTF.

The argument from fiscal conservatives is this: why should the taxpayer spend more to fund this boondoggle, where behind the scenes policy makers treat the fund like a cash cow?

Social Security is a 'pay-go' system and always has been despite the efforts made in the 1980s to "set aside" funds for the boomers, and subsequent spin from some policy-makers (i.e., SS payments have always been made from current tax receipts, and lately the general fund).

As long as the government keeps its committment to seniors, SS should survive.

To extend the life of the program for future senior, some things are inevitable such as a change in the age of retirement. I am not sure what other Simpson-Bowles Commision recommendations will be incorporated, but a rise in the age of retirement as well as 'means testing" are almost certainties.

Thank you for keeping us abreast of this topic Ronnie. Seniors may have to make some noise to help policymakers remember to keep their word, especially to the elderly frail seniors, most of whom, but not all, are women.

"is to eliminate the salary cap on the payroll tax – something high earners can certainly afford now that Congress has extended their massive tax cut."

And why not? Good idea in my opinion.
I knew the one year "holiday" from SS tax would be the first wedge in the wall to try and drown SS in the "Bath tub" as Grover Norrquist says he wants to do with all government social programs.
(Norquist favors dramatically reducing the size of the government.[13] He has been noted for his widely quoted quip: "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub."[31]"

Why do "THEY" always pick on the most vulnerable in our society like elders and school children I wonder.

The money wasted on the tax breaks for the very wealthy and these no win wars we keep fighting could have paid for everything.

Don't get me started this afternoon. I can feel my blood boiling already.

Social Security can be preserved, but only if we are prepared to raise holy hell -- especially about "compromises" that won't hit most of us who read here because they will be phased in for younger people.

At root, Social Security is an element in the nation's commitment that the government derives it's legitimacy from "promoting the general welfare." (That's from the preamble to the Constitution explaining why we need one.) Legitimacy comes not from prosecuting dumb wars or ensuring the well being of rich people, but from government action to ensure the "general welfare." This is a fight for the soul of our country as well as for necessities for many elders.

I probably shouldn't admit it but, I'm already at poverty level there are a lot of other elders here who have lower income than I do. (Our unemployment rate is 12%) This is insane. I'm afraid --
very afraid. I have a new Teabagger millionaire congressman who owns some crappy nursing homes where elders died from neglect and one was murdered. Do you honestly think I'm going to write to someone with his track record?

We older women are being cowed into submission. We are afraid to be militant, because then people would say we aren't "nice" and would withdraw their love and support. So that's why we get walked all over. We are smart, know stuff, and need to fight back against the affronts and the threats to our very survival, of which this attack on social security is a part.

This whole Soc. Sec. business is a disgrace. Incredibly to me is the fact more people of all generations aren't speaking out or enraged by what is happening. No one will know what is lost until it's gone. I think more individuals with even modest levels of income are going to be impacted than many of them realize. I do not anticipate going unscathed. I really am distressed at what this can mean for my young adult children and grandchildren.

As if this isn't enough, I also think many States are headed for a financial unraveling. What this may mean for pensions remains to be seen -- some changes ware needed, but others may add to the woes for some.

Health care issues are far from resolved and are likely to be compromised with little hope of reining in the pharm. and insurers in the future.

Bipartisanship and compromise are vital for our system to succeed but there has to be honest open straightforward negotiation and debate. We haven't have that. Too many people have other agendas and I don't believe truly care about the good of the population as a whole.

What do you think of this writer's opinion?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/20/AR2010122004764.html

Alan Sloan

Keep up the good work! Your articles are right on the money.

The SS payroll tax cut is supposed to expire in a year. The time to raise holy hell will be when and if Obama "compromises" again and renews the cut. OR, if he adopts some of the recommendations made by the cat food commission, at least one of which would affect those of us who are already drawing benefits, e.g., changing the cpi index to a "chained" cpi. Don't ask me what it is, but it would reduce the benefits we would otherwise get from the current index.

The only changes to SS that I will accept without raising Cain would be to raise the wage limit for payroll taxes.

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