President Obama has not withdrawn his stated intention to cut Social Security benefits by using a different method – chained CPI – to measure cost of living increases for the program.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