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Everyone Deserves to Retire in Dignity: Let’s Strengthen Social Security and Medicare

Everyone Deserves to Retire in Dignity: Let’s Strengthen Social Security and Medicare

Written by Jackie Tortora, AFL-CIO

Here’s a stat that might surprise you: Nearly half of our nation’s 41 million seniors are economically vulnerable, meaning their income is less than two times the supplemental poverty threshold.

Benefit cuts to Social Security and Medicare would severely impact these seniors’ ability to afford health care, food and other basic living necessities, according to a new Economic Policy Institute (EPI) study.

The older you are, the more economically vulnerable you get. Women, Latinos and African Americans also are also less likely to have enough to get by in old age. EPI reports if Paul Ryan’s Medicare proposal, a.k.a. “coupon care,” was passed, nearly 3.5 million more seniors would be economically insecure.

The “chained” CPI proposal for calculating Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) also would heighten economic troubles for seniors:

For example, a switch to the “chained” CPI would boost the share of 70- to 75-year-olds below two times the supplemental poverty threshold by 1.2 percentage points, resulting in 132,000 more economically vulnerable seniors.

If policymakers truly want a more accurate formula for Social Security COLAs, Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) have introduced a proposal that includes the CPI-E (Elderly Index), a formula that better reflects what seniors spend money on (health care, housing, etc.).

Instead of pulling the rug out from under our nation’s seniors who have paid for these earned benefits throughout their working lives, it’s time to discuss improving Medicare and increasing Social Security benefits.

The AFL-CIO Executive Council, in March 2012, called for building on the success of Social Security to address the retirement crisis:

While Social Security is an obvious solution to the crisis, its current benefit levels are too modest. Social Security’s income replacement rate is one of the lowest of all the industrialized countries. To compensate for the decline of traditional pensions and the loss of retirement savings, Social Security retirement benefits must be increased across the board, which would be especially meaningful for low-income seniors. In addition, Social Security COLAs need to take into account the higher health care costs faced by seniors. Finally, too many employers look for ways around making their contributions to Social Security through labeling their workers as independent contractors.

Echoing the sentiment of the AFL-CIO, Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik called for expanding Social Security benefits in a column this week:

There’s no trick to making Social Security more relevant to more Americans. Benefits should be increased, especially for those whose lifetime annual earnings have averaged $50,000 or so (roughly two-thirds of all beneficiaries). The benefits for women who have spent most of their working-age lives as caregivers by raising a family or tending to aged parents should be augmented through a “caregiver credit” that recognizes their contribution. You know all those politicians who go on the stump or on TV to praise family and motherhood? This is a chance to put their votes where their mouths are.

How to pay for that? No trick to that, either: Raise the payroll tax cap, or even better, scrap it. The most common objection to this solution to Social Security’s fiscal issues is that it would raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans to, well, “unsustainable” levels.

A National Academy of Social Insurance report from January showed that America’s working families emphatically rejected benefit cuts to Social Security and supported policies that would close the future modest funding gap by scrapping the tax cap.

Working families are calling on Congress to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from benefit cuts (i.e., raising the retirement age and the “chained” CPI), repeal the sequester and close tax loopholes for corporations and the wealthiest 2%.

This post was originally published by the AFL-CIO.


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5:57PM PDT on Jun 14, 2013

TO: Julie D. _____ TRUE DAT

_____ I kept hearing that during the elections _____ rebuild our infrastructure

_____ lots of jobs in renewable energy.

Out here we haven't seen anything except potholes patched & crumbling bridges of death being rebuilt. ( NOT MANY JOBS AT ALL )

& where ARE those wind farms that they kept showing us pictures of ??

I'm outta here _____ I smell cat poop that needs to be scooped ... shew wee !!!

5:44PM PDT on Jun 14, 2013


5:43PM PDT on Jun 14, 2013

TO: Mary B. ______ VERY WELL SAID ! ! !

I WAS able to save in a 401k plan when I was YOUNGER, but lost 1/3 of it on and after 9/11.

GOOD 'OL CHARLES SCHWAB just let my account BLEED OUT until I called them & asked WHY am I calling you when YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE CALLING ME ! ? !

( probably because they were too busy pulling their money out of the market )

here's a quote from their website " Schwab has a 40-year history of innovation and industry-leading change for the good of all investors. Our passion and purpose are what truly set us apart. "

pfffffft …..__________ Tax breaks for those who lost their savings after 9/11 ??? NONE.

5:42PM PDT on Jun 14, 2013

Then I had to live on the rest of it when companies starting merging & moving.

Folks were losing their jobs left & right.

Now, I'm disabled & on SS
..... Busted my hump for 30 years & wearing clothes so old that they are fraying.

Do I get funny looks ? YES. _____ Do I care ? NO. I MEAN YES.

Do I feel good when I split my pills because they ARE NEW MEDICINES to improve my illness & the insurance company refuses to pay for the NEW meds?

NO I do not. ____ I feel sicker.

Word to the wise kids ..__...__.. I pray that you will be able to stash a nest egg for the future.

Count on the price of everything to go up at least 100% ( & that’s being moderate )

DO NOT PUT IT INTO a 401K & unless you are rich.

5:41PM PDT on Jun 14, 2013


5:40PM PDT on Jun 14, 2013


Word to the wise kids ..__...__.. I pray that you will be able to stash a nest egg for the future.

Count on the price of everything to go up at least 100% ( & that’s being moderate )

DO NOT PUT IT INTO a 401K & unless you are rich.


5:35PM PDT on Jun 14, 2013

TO: Bill and Katie D. _____ so very true.

Get it now while we are still alive.

Otherwise they will work us into an early grave.

My mama used to tell me that during the Great Depression, my Grand Daddy would say:

"Eat hardy children, the Depression's coming ! "

Sooooooooo ______ Get it now while it's still there.

5:25PM PDT on Jun 14, 2013

TO Ken W. _____ you got that right

______ Elderly Genocide ___ could be right around the corner.

7:39AM PDT on Jun 13, 2013

We boomers were also told that SS would not be there for us when we were young so this plan to save for our own retirement and trust Wall Street has been being pushed for a long time. The job creaters haven't created enough jobs to keep everybody employed so many have no income to live on, let alone enough to save.

7:31AM PDT on Jun 13, 2013

Who are these two thirds who earned an average annual income of $50,000 over their life times?
In 1974, 6 years after I graduated high school, minimum wage was about$2.00 an hour.For a 40 hour work week, that's only a little over $4000 a year.Any body making even $30,000 a year would have been considered very highly paid.Do the young people today really have any idea how little money people made, while expenses for SS recipients kept going up? We were not paying in for ourselves, we were paying in for the care of our grandparents and eventually our own parents.How has this fact become lost? Those who made more than just enough to make'ends meet' might have been able to save something for their own retirement, but most of us simply were not paid enough to do that. The young people working today are those who are paying for our retirement, and they are making more money than we ever did, while their expenses have also gone up.Unfortunately, the low end SS payment is a little over $500. When my mother died at age 96 a few years ago, her check was about $320. So when some one says 'the average' SS check is over $1000 a month, they're adding in a lot of people who are getting way more than the majority of us, so yes, this really needs to increase. Last year, I got an $8. per month increase.The time for talking is long past, the young people need to be told the truth and understand that we [boomers] were also told that SS would not be there for us when we got old so this plan to '

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