Senior Citizens Face Poverty as Obama Wants to Cut Social Security

Fox News, the Tea Party and other right-wingers are obsessed with the fear that undeserving moochers are conniving to steal their hard-earned money. There is another, even more bizarre front in conservatives’ battle to protect the wealthy: attacks on the “deserving” poor.

It’s possible that they aren’t trying to be mean. Conservatives seem to honestly believe that everyone who works hard gets rich, and anyone who isn’t rich isn’t working hard enough. Some of them exhibit no awareness of the growing number of Americans who work but remain poor. Those rich, hard-working capitalists, like Wal-Mart’s Waltons (who, incidentally, didn’t lift a finger to inherit their billions), pay their employees so little that they can’t get by, much less get ahead.

It is mathematically impossible to get rich working a minimum-wage job, and you can forget about even surviving in old age. Since a minimum-wage worker with two children can’t even afford rent, there is no way she can put aside money for retirement.

We have seen what happens when we abandon elderly people who worked hard their whole lives but can’t physically do it anymore. The time was that senior citizens were more likely to be poor than any other Americans. The poverty rate among seniors plunged thanks to Social Security, and they are now guaranteed at least some medical treatment through Medicare. Further evidence that Social Security isn’t a windfall for the indolent: the amount of each recipient’s benefits depends on how much she earned when she was working and how long she worked for. The more she got paid when she was employed, the more she’ll get paid after retirement. What more could Ditto Heads ask for?

It seems eminently fair to me for our country to support people who contributed to society throughout their productive years with their work and their tax payments.

The right wing disagrees, which is one reason they have it in for Social Security. They also insist that cuts to entitlement programs are vital to a healthy economy. That means cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits, ergo more poor senior citizens, and in particular more poor women of color. Women live longer than men, which means they are more likely to outlive their retirement savings. In addition, women are less likely to receive a pension. And if they do receive a pension, its less than what men receive, according to Dan Adcock, policy director of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

Add to that the fact that women of color earn less than white men, men of color and white women, and you have a recipe for desperate poverty.

With conservatives taking aim at Social Security, it would be in the natural order of things for President Obama to protect the benefit program. The man was a community organizer, after all. He is supposed to know what things are really like for the regular folk.

If he ever did know, he has forgotten. He too is calling for lower Social Security benefits, though he would get it done more sneakily, through something called the chained CPI. CPI stands for consumer price index, which tracks the rise and fall of the prices for stuff people buy, like food. When Social Security benefit amounts are adjusted for changes in the cost of living, experts rely on the CPI to figure out how large the adjustment needs to be.

The CPI assumes that people will continue buying the same things even if their prices rise. The chained CPI assumes instead that when a product gets more expensive, people will abandon it in favor of a cheaper substitute. This substitution seems to be unique to meat-eaters judging by the examples I found: if the price of beef rises, people will switch to buying chicken; if the price of hamburger rises, people will switch to steak; and if the price of canned salmon rises, people will switch to canned tuna. Presumably this process carries right on until you have little old ladies comparing prices to find the cheapest can of cat food for their dinner.

That is where Obama is headed. He would permit cost of living increases to Social Security benefits only to reflect increases in the prices of the cheapest products and services.

If no changes are made to the current Social Security benefit structure, the majority of Americans will finish out their lives in poverty, according to Steven Rosenfeld at AlterNet. We need to increase Social Security payments just to keep our senior citizens out of poverty. Yet politicians on both sides of the aisle are gearing up to cut payments.

This isn’t about whether people deserve charity. This is about stiffing people who paid into the Social Security coffers throughout their own working lives to support the generations that came before.

Our government seems to have no qualms about screwing our children out of a livable planet so we can keep guzzling fuel and polluting, and screwing our grandparents out of a decent, dignified, adequately-fed retirement for — I don’t know, to reduce some red numbers on a spreadsheet? To hang onto their own elected offices? The cohort that holds our country’s reins isn’t just the Me Generation — it’s the Screw You Generation.

Photo credit: Thinkstock/iStock


Jim Ven
Jim Ven4 months ago

thanks for the article.

Robert H.
Robert Hamm2 years ago

And as usual Ellen missses the entire point of politcal discorse in Washington. Obama is looking for ANY place to start a negotiation with the right. What he is doing is showing us HE is willing to compromise. What he is showing everyone but sheep like you, is that the Republicans ahve NO INTENTION of bargaining with him at all. And even if They did Rush and hannity would scream NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO at the top of their lungs and the R’s would simply cave and do nothing……….Like thay have for 5 years.

Ellen Gaston
Ellen Gaston2 years ago

I am amused by the diarrhea of the mouth diatribe against The Tea Party, Fox News and Republicans beginning this article to find it has nothing to do with the cuts to Social Security Obama wants to make. It would have been more sincere to simply state the facts, then at the end say "By the way, Fox News, The Tea Party and Republicans have nothing to do with this story except the fact that I hate them." I suppose the writer is counting on a readership full of impressionable adolescents or professional college students who think they're smarter than anyone in the room to buy into this b.s. peddled here. The bloggers on this site really should at least make an attempt to appear credible. I am starting to distrust everything on this site, which is a shame. Anybody know of an effective, honest animal welfare petition site that isn't actually a political arm of left-wing fanatics?

Robert H.
Robert Hamm2 years ago

Actually many of us read Steven's post. We even read your John Bircher Bullshit.

Robert H.
Robert Hamm2 years ago

David you are full of crap. You dont like SS then dont collect yours. WE don't care.

David F.
David F.2 years ago

Does anyone actually read Stevens long bloviating post? Doesn’t change the fact that SS is a collapsing Ponzi scheme.

Steven Brewer
Steven Brewer2 years ago

Jim N

You are an idiot if you are talking about Romney's 47% of Americans who he said do not pay taxes but live off the government. That 47% are: half are the minimum wage employees of the Wal-Mart scam employers who force all the taxpayers to subsidize their workers’ pay so they can hide billions in tax havens like the Cayman Islands, a quarter are the senior citizens and the disabled who have paid into the system weekly until they retired or became disabled but do not make enough on SS or SSD to subsist on, another growing segment are our returning heroes wounded in the 1%'s wars but having to wait 3 or more years for their pensions and the lucky ones who made it back "whole" only to find unemployment for veterans 4 or 5 points higher than the general population (so nice the Senate teapublicans put politics before our vets last year when they killed the Veterans' Jobs bill) or who come back to find their homes have been illegally foreclosed upon and another 10% are the long term unemployed thanks to the teapublicans not allowing one jobs bill to come to a vote in the House except their own which the non-partisan CBO marked up all as killing, not creating jobs. These do not include the young active duty who needs SNAP to help make ends meet especially when one spouse is in combat. You probably cheered when $5 billion in SNAP funds were cut but that cut help for about 900,000 active duty, many of whom are in combat now having to worry about feeding their families…

Steven Brewer
Steven Brewer2 years ago

Jim N

It is not a matter of taking from the rich to give to the poor, taxes are what makes societies civilized. Taxes keep our infrastructure in good repair, you know all the things the 1% love to use; like our military, customs, border patrol, all our police agencies and court systems, our education system, our roads, our bridges, our airports, our ports, etc; all these things they love to use; when they send our military into a country to liberate their nationalized oil fields or when they ship/import their products to markets via that infrastructure so they can make obscene profits that they hide overseas so they do not have to pay taxes that would pay their fair share for using that infrastructure. They make obscene profits off the labors of people they pay poverty wages to who have to then get assistance from the government, so that they CAN make obscene profits that they hide offshore so they do not have to pay taxes that would help pay for the government assistance their employees have to get because they do not pay shit and then they have the unmitigated gall to turn around and rant about a mythical 47% who will not work but suck on the government teats. You do know that corporate/wealthy welfare costs the American taxpayer three times what individual government assistance costs, $154 billion last year. But the 1% has you idiots rant on about the 47% who pay no taxes when they are right there holding their hands out for that corporate welfare every year.

Steven Brewer
Steven Brewer2 years ago

Pay attention kiddies this could be important: NOT ONE CENT HAS BEEN BORROWED BY OUR GOVERNMENT FROM SOCIAL SECURITY AND SOCIAL SECURITY HAS NOT ADDED ONE CENT TO THE DEFICIT OR DEBT!!! Social Security payroll taxes are paid into the U.S. Social Security Administration which uses those funds to pay Old-Age, Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance benefits. No function of the government is allowed to carry a surplus, any excess funds are deposited into one of two trust funds the SSA controls; the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) trust fund and the Disability Insurance (DI) trust fund. The trust funds are required by law to be invested in non-marketable securities issued and guaranteed by the "full faith and credit" of the federal government, U.S. Treasury Bonds, by allowing the Treasury to use the funds in exchange for those Bonds. These bonds pay interest on the trust funds assets and if there is a deficit, any interest earned plus surplus funds from previous years are used to pay the benefits. The Trust Funds totaled $2.7 trillion at the end of 2011, $69 billion more than at the end of 2010.

The trust fund represents a legal obligation to Social Security program recipients. The only way recipients would not get paid out of these funds is if a group of idiots tried to hold America hostage for their own selfish ends and shut down the government causing the American government to default on its debt for the first time in 237 years.

Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld2 years ago

Who is defending ceos?