Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow – Part 3
Time Goes By Commenting Policies

Elder Poverty in the U.S.

President Obama has not withdrawn his stated intention to cut Social Security benefits by using a different method – chained CPI – to measure cost of living increases for the program.

Many others – mainly Republican lawmakers and their zillionnaire campaign supporters – have spent decades working toward privatizing, or better yet, eliminating Social Security.

On Monday, the Kaiser Family Foundation released the results of their state-by-state study of poverty among people age 65 and older. Before I get to that, you need to know how poverty is measured by the government. It's a bit complicated, so I'm grateful to Dylan Matthews writing in the Washington Post.

There is the official poverty rate which does not include the value of, for example, food stamps in its counting, and there is also the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), created by the Census Bureau. Mr. Matthews:

”While the SPM takes transfer payments [e.g. food stamps] into account, it does the same with out-of-pocket medical costs. If you’re an unmarried senior with no dependents, make $15,000 a year, and spend $10,000 of it on medical care, under the official poverty measure you’d most likely not count as poor, as $15,000 is above the 2012 poverty threshold for a single senior ($11,011).

“But under the SPM, you’d count as poor as $15,000 – $10,000 = $5,000, which is below the relevant SPM threshold. And despite having Medicare, many seniors struggle with out-of-pocket medical bills.”

Here is a chart from the Kaiser report showing the income differences between the two measurements (click here to see larger images):


Poverty rates differ dramatically among states. Some examples of both measurements from the Kaiser report:

In DC, about one in four seniors (26%) live in poverty under the supplemental measure, compared to 16 percent under the official measure (see Figure 3 and Figure 4).

In California, one-fifth of seniors (20%) live in poverty under the supplemental measure, compared to 8 percent under the official measure.

Nearly one in five seniors live in poverty in another five states, including Hawaii, Louisiana, and Nevada (19%) and Georgia and New York (18%).

There are maps in the Kaiser report showing the disparity between the official poverty rate and the SPM in every state.

In my state, I contribute time to Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon, a coalition of business and corporate organizations (including Kaiser), about a dozen local non-profits concerned with hunger, and several state government agencies.

For the sake of brevity, I'll quote the PHFO website about their activities:

”We document the extent of hunger, coordinate and publicize existing services, advocate for programs and policies to eliminate hunger. Our goal is to provide family economic stability and food security so that all Oregonians have sufficient means and ready access to an adequate amount of nutritious, quality food.”

Maybe there is such an organization in your state you can look into.

It is preposterous – not to mention an old-fashioned idea, immoral – that in a country where CEOs are commonly paid in the tens of millions of dollars per year and avoid the taxes on it by stashing their money overseas, anyone at all - from infant to elder – is allowed to go hungry.

Moreso that we are quibbling over which - $15,000 or $11,000 - counts as poverty.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: Round and Zaftig


That study blew me away. We become so invisible ...

Great Post - there is something seriously wrong with even the idea that 20 percent of our seniors live on $15,000. Just think about how you would manage on $15,000; now find a way to make some changes in your community.

The disparity between the 1% and the poor is shocking. In a country that is supposed to be the richest in the world we have women and children living in their cars.

I know this post is about elders, but the entire system is out of whack. The chained CPI just exacerbates the problem. Is this a great country, or what?

I totally agree. The entire system has run amok. As I keep saying, it's all about GREED. Whatever happened to the concept of "enough"? The major city near where I live (our modest condo is in a nearby suburb) is a high-tech hub, and there's a boomlet going on in mansions and high-rise luxury condos that cost several $million plus. This is taking place while the schools, public health system, roads, bridges, and other infrastructure continue to decay, and (formerly) middle class families struggle to hold on to their jobs and homes.

What's wrong with this picture? Plenty! Just about everything if you remember the prosperous America of 50 years ago. There's always been some imbalance between the richest Americans and the rest of us, but not since the so-called Gilded Age have we seen anything like today! Tax evasion by cash-rich corporations and ultra-wealthy individuals is rampant, while the Republican Congress cheers them on! (I wouldn't wish a tornado on anyone, but I wonder if Oklahomans who railed against federal aid for Hurricane Sandy survivors are singing the same song today?)

I am dumfounded that in an era of shrinking standards of living, disappearing pension plans, and few being able to save significantly, after essentials, for retirement, that the powers that be would not want to maintain or even strengthen social security. It is scary that President Obama supports chained CPI, but at this point in time, I don't think he'd be able to get it through the senate. My fear, however, is for the future and how these ideas, if floated enough times over time, might eventually become acceptable and eventually passed.

Income inequality in the US and in the world is one of the greatest scandals and dangers existing today and, unfortunately, it is only getting worse.

Unfortunately, I am one of those statistics of under 65 medicare disabled persons that actually lives on $15,000 a year. I 'make' too much to get food stamps or medicaid, so the first few years of my illness cleaned out whatever was left of my savings.

Every year I fill out financial aid forms, medicare savings plan forms, but still have to pay dr co-pays (now $30 for specialist; 2 of my docs waived them for me), and even though I get extra help with my Part D, I still have to pay $2.60, or $5 a Rx, which may sound like a great deal, but I have to take about 20 pills a day - not to mention all the OTC vitamins and health aids I need that I pay for full price.

I know the focus in TV news has been on college debt and lack of work, teenagers who can't find that all important 'first job', and I keep expecting the youth to rise up and take to the streets as we did in my generation. I suppose it got started with the wall street protests but that got squelched soon enough.

Looks like my generation and the one after are going to have to start protesting again to shove what is fair and right in the faces of the politicians and those that look through us.

As per the income disparities in the US, all we have to do is look back to the 20th C. and count the number of countries where revolutions were precipitated by the masses revolting against this very same unjust ratio.

I was shocked to learn that Hawaii rates as one of the states that has a high poverty rate for seniors. The ideology here is that Hawaiians take care of their own, but that does not seem to be the case after all.

And Heaven forbid that we should raise the minimum wage. And all the while so many CEOs of Wall Street Banks get obscene raises/bonuses/perks mainly because they know the right people.

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