Archive for earned benefits

Social Security and Medicare: "Distinctly good news"

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keep government out of medicare, social security

My favorite columnist at the Los Angeles Times, Michael Hiltzik (scroll), has written another excellent piece, this time covering the "no-bad-news day" for Social Security and the "distinctly good news" about Medicare. Sorry, GOP. I know I'm rubbing it in after my post about all those upbeat economic news reports that broke today, but hey, a blogger's gotta do what a blogger's gotta do.

Republicans *coughPAULRYANcough* are just dying to privatize us all into oblivion, which would mean cutting earned benefits for those who rely on them. Way to appeal to voters, GOP. It's a good thing we have Michael Hiltzik around to deliver a more even-handed (read: accurate) approach to informing us about the current state of both Social Security and Medicare.

Take it away, Michael:

"[T]he news is essentially that there is no news" in the reports, as Kathy Ruffing of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a leading expert on Social Security, said during a conference call Monday on the Social Security report.

The trustees still estimate that the Social Security trust fund will be exhausted in 2033 -- same as its estimate last year. The range of estimates -- for these things can never be exact -- places the date at some time between 2029 and 2041. Even then, the trustees say, there will still be enough money coming in to the program each year to pay 77% of currently scheduled benefits. And the trustees do, however, suggest that their best-case scenario for economic growth and other demographic and economic factors is brighter this year than it looked in 2013.

As of now, Social Security is in surplus (by $32 billion last year), and is expected to remain so on an annual basis at least through 2019.

Hiltzik goes on to say that the B Word (bankrupt) is more like the BS Word. His exact phrasing was, anyone who challenges the facts has "given up his or her right to be taken seriously as a policy expert." Are you listening, Wannabe President Ryan?

Now how about Medicare? Is there good news there, too? And if so, would it possibly have anything to do with the O Word (Obamacare)? Don't be silly! Oh wait:

As for Medicare, there's distinctly good news. The continuing drop in healthcare expenses has made Medicare healthier -- the estimated date of its trust fund's depletion has been moved out by four years, to 2030. If you're keeping track, that date has been moved off by a total of 13 years since enactment of the Affordable Care Act.

neener nanner tv

Hiltzik also includes a few warnings, so please link over to read the entire column.

He concludes by rightfully calling out Congress for taking a five-week break just when we need them to "pay attention." He's clearly as miffed at them as we are. One can almost hear him throwing his head back and screaming, "Enough!"

Or as I like to call it, the F G Word (Gaaa!).

Not a skit, our actual Congress, gaa! Maddow

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Abby Huntsman, "really, really upset about Social Security," would lead her generation into poverty

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Abby Huntsman The Cycle Social Security

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

"Abby Huntsman is really, really upset about Social Security." That's how Michael Hiltzik begins his Los Angeles Times column today, and he is really, really upset about Abby Huntsman's message. We should be, too. Just watch the video above, and then read Hiltzik's dissection below. As the L.A. Times hard copy title put it, "On the reality of Social Security, she tells it like it isn't."

Michael Hiltzik points out how Abby Huntsman is part of a show (The Cycle on MSNBC) that tries to cater to a younger audience, but that doesn't mean she has to lie to them. And mislead them. And be uninformed and pass misinformation on to them. She rants about Social Security going bankrupt, and that her generation will be left with nothing.

As Hiltzik put it, "Unfortunately, almost everything she said about Social Security in the name of making it "sustainable" for her generation was wrong. Dead wrong... And if her generation believes what she said, it's going to be in deep trouble." He goes on to explain how she exaggerated demographics to make her point. Are we surprised? No, we are not.

Hiltzik:

She concludes: "We might disagree about the prescription for the ailing patient, but doing nothing about it--that will lead to none for all, rather than at least some for us."

Where Huntsman got this idea is a mystery, because no one who understands the program--from progressive supporters of Social Security to its conservative critics--says anything like that.

The most dire projections of the program's future say that "doing nothing about it"--no benefit cuts, no tax increases--will leave the program still able to pay 75%-80% of scheduled benefits. Not "nothing at all." And that 75% to 80% would still be much more per month 75 years from now than retirees get today.

By the way, it's also untrue that President Obama's budget plan makes "no mention of entitlement reform. None," as Huntsman claims. His budget proposes a very damaging cutback in Social Security disability, as we documented here, as well as changes to Medicare payment formulas to save money.

Huntsman has stitched her spiel together out of scraps and tatters of misinformation, of a sort we've heard from the older generation for years. They're no more accurate coming out the mouths of a "millennial." But it's tragic to see that what she's learned from her elders is how to mislead her public.

That Abby Huntsman is allowed to go on MSNBC and substitute talking points for the truth is, indeed, "really really" upsetting. Click here to demand that MSNBC issue an on-air correction.

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Bernie Sanders: You can't fix the economy simply by shredding the safety net

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GOP it's not about you

What oh what would we Progressives do without Bernie Sanders? In today's Los Angeles Times, he wrote an op-ed laying out in very clear detail how to make wise choices about how to fix the economy.

Sanders, thankfully, is a member of a budget panel composed of Democratic, Republican and independent Senate and House members doing what they can, supposedly, to avoid another GOP government shutdown.

Senator Sanders explains how to move forward (as opposed to the same old backward, destructive GOP ideas), and how we managed to go from healthy surpluses to (unnecessary) deficits.

He reminds us that by the end of President Clinton's presidency, we had a a $236-billion surplus, and that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicted a 10-year budget surplus of $5.6 trillion, meaning we could have erased the national debt by 2011.

Too bad Republicans screwed that up.

And of course, they're blaming President Obama for the horrible outcomes of their horrible policies and horrible obstruction. Here's how it really went down:

  • GW Bush's Afghanistan and Iraq wars were not paid for.
  • Those wars cost us up to $6 trillion.
  • Those wars were put on our national credit card.
  • Bush signed Congress's costly prescription drug bill.
  • That costly prescription drug program was not paid for either.
  • Bush and Congress gave big fat tax breaks to the wealthy and big corporations.
  • As a result, revenue went down.
  • The 2008 recession, caused by the deregulation of Wall Street, also caused revenue to drop.
  • Big fat surpluses turned into big fat deficits.

tadaa3Now gather 'round kiddies, because it's Hypocrisy Time!

Yay

Interestingly, today's "deficit hawks" in Congress — Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and other conservative Republicans — voted for those measures that drove up deficits. Now that they're worried about deficits again, they want to dismantle virtually every social program designed to protect working families, the elderly, children, the sick and the poor.

In other words, it's OK to spend trillions on a war we should never have waged in Iraq and to provide huge tax breaks for billionaires and multinational corporations.

booo

Sanders goes on to say that austerity doesn't work, because it clearly hurts those who are already suffering.

Instead of talking about cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, we must end the absurdity of corporations not paying a nickel in federal income taxes. [...]

At a time when we now spend almost as much as the rest of the world combined on defense, we can make judicious cuts in our armed forces without compromising our military capability.

He also thinks it would be a swell idea if Congress members started, you know, listening to the American people, especially because so many polls show that we don't want cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

In fact, according to a recent National Journal poll, 81% do not want to cut Medicare at all, 76% do not want to cut Social Security at all, and 60% do not want to cut Medicaid at all. Other polls make it clear that Americans believe that the wealthiest among us and large corporations must pay their fair share in taxes.

So, Republicans (and even some Dems), how about paying more attention to us, the voters, instead of trying to grab it all for yourselves? It's not about you. It's about all of us. It's about We the People.

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Must-Read: Personal debt that enriches Wall St. -- NOT national debt -- is greatest threat to retirees

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must read

Your Daily Dose of BuzzFlash at Truthout, via my pal Mark Karlin:

Whenever the elected political tools of the oligarchs trash Social Security, they tout 401(k)-type accounts and voluntary retirement savings programs. [...]

...WP article is entitled, "Most Americans accumulating debt faster than they’re saving for retirement":

A majority of Americans with 401(k)-type savings accounts are accumulating debt faster than they are setting aside money for retirement, further undermining the nation’s troubled system for old-age saving, a new report has found....

[...]

So the problem facing even non-Social Security dependent retirees (who have earned their checks by paying into the fund) is due to personal debt not national debt. What people owe money on are non-government expenses such as college, housing, cars, credit cards, etc.  This is private indebtedness that is contributing to a looming personal retirement shortfall of funds.

Ironically, Social Security is one of the few programs that is keeping most seniors from economic impoverishment, as meager as the average monthly check is.  [...]

Since the Reagan era, wages have been relatively stagnant in the United States as debt has risen.  It is indeed this growing personal (again not national) debt that has been a primary source of profit for the banks too big to fail.  Persons who owe large amounts of money are paying off interest at often exorbitant sums (think credit cards) while in many cases barely scratching away at principal.  This is all easy money for banks that are paying out literally .01 % on savings accounts. [...]

So, let this WP article be a mini-lesson on what the oligarchy and their minions on the Hill, such as Paul Ryan, have been up to. Since the Reagan era, they have been promoting policies that increase personal debt while stagnating wages (except for themselves, of course).  In turn, a likely majority of the 99% has to go into debt and borrow money at high interest rates, while those who save receive virtually no interest on their savings.  This, in turn (except for Social Security) limits what they can save for retirement.

Then the financial titans sponsor think tanks and give campaign contributions to blame "entitlements" for all the personal indebtedness which has fueled their profitsSo, if a "grand bargain" of Social Security and Medicare cuts are enacted, the elderly become indebted and poorer, while the Wall Street barons make even a greater profit from increased borrowing as the national debt is lowered in the name of "austerity" (without revenue increases in the form of higher progressive taxes on the rich).

Please read the entire post here.

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