Peter Tibbles' Trip to Oregon – Part 2

Fixing (Not Destroying) Social Security

category_bug_politics.gif 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.

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.

NCPSSM Social Security Report 2012

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.

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 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.

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."

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


Ohio has already been cutting benefits to elders. Mine's dropped significantly. Groceries are becoming a luxury item and I'm scared.

Thank you for your extensive research and for the links to take action. I really appreciate you for being the leader in this battle to preserve Social Security and Medicare.

I will borrow some of your information and put it on my blog, along with the links you provided. Although most of my followers read your blog there might be a lurker or two that I can reach.

Hooray for you Ronni!!! This blog is right on!

It will be forwarded to 30 email's in my "Share Group"..

Thank you for all that you do for all of us!


Thank you, Ronni. I'm close to being burned out on the political process and the system, but if I have a spark left, I'll try to find it to support this cause and, of course, to vote. I did a lot of writing and calling during the last major election and just look where it got us! I'm not blaming President Obama--he's doing the best he can. There's no question that McCain would have done a lot worse, especially with Sarah nipping at his heels.

Still, the democratic system itself has been seriously corrupted, and I'm not sure that a truly honest election will occur again in my lifetime. When the highest court in the land decrees that a corporation is the same as a person, there's big trouble right here in River City and the USA!

I'm overdue to write something on my blog about Social Security so this report will serve as a basis for a new post in the near future.

Also, I have been a paying member of NCPSSM since you first brought this organization to my attention about a year ago. The minimal amount I pay each month is well worth the return we all get from NCPSSM.

Thank you ,Ronni, for taking the time and energy to research all of this information for us.

I used to have a boss who would take a 2,000 page book of Government regulations and throw it on my desk and say," "Read this and tell me what it says."

I would go through that book and select rules and regs that applied to our business. Then I would type him out the list that only pertained to us.It was quite a chore!

Well, Ronni, that's what you do for us. You slog through all the government crap until you come to an issue that is of interest to us and then you pour it on.You let us know exactly what we should be concerned about and what we should write our Congress people about.

What is left to say except....Thanks a million!

I don't think a single individual can do anything at all, Ronni, I have contacted my Democratic senators regarding SS/M and other issues and all I got in return was form letters. One of my senators has been pushing for a balanced budget amendment and the other (probably both of them) is a cat food commission supporter. And, yes, they include themselves under the "D" column. The only thing politicians listen to is money and who here has enough millions to bribe them, which is what campaign contributions are no matter what the supreme court says or does.

I'll gladly donate to the NCPPSSM, however.

May I suggest that you start a link under your TGB features column for your SS/M blogs so that we can refer to them from time to time to refresh our talking points.

Two of the easiest ways I've found to keep in touch with my representatives in Washington are and

You can compose a single letter to all your representatives and the president and send it with a single click. You can track bills and how your representatives are voting on them. Lots of good information on both sites.

And of course all your representatives maintain their own websites and send out newsletters to subscribers and constituents.

We may not march on City Hall anymore, but we can make a lot of noise from our keyboards and telephones.

I know a few of those women you're talking about and they DO need more support. But the reality is that the poverty rate is actually LOWER among seniors than it is for many other groups. And so, despite the fact that it would cost me some comforts, I really think we should focus more on supporting our children -- their health, their education, their well-being -- who are suffering more than we are in this super recession and have to compete in a more competitive world. I'm definitely in favor of fixing (and not destroying) SS; but I also think we can't forget about our children and grandchildren.

Old versus young, in terms of helping out, is not an either/or proposition and such thinking can lead to what some people call generational war. No one here is "forgetting" anyone else.

Not everyone can do everything. There are organizations that seek to improve the situation of the young. There are organizations that seek to improve the situation of veterans. There are organizations that seek to improve the situation of public employees, of minorities, of climate change, of everything else that needs attention in our world.

This blog's concern is elders. It does not mean there is not concern for the needs of all the others in the world. It just means this is the area TGB chooses to address.

Others, of course, choose different goals. It's how everything gets done.

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