Archive for earned benefits

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

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Abby Huntsman The Cycle Social Security

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"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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VIDEO: "A democracy of rich people"

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social security warning

Damon A. Silvers is the director of policy and special counsel for the AFL-CIO. Here he is on CNBC, and he killed it:


Silvers:

Right now 55% of Americans fear they're going to be economically insecure in their retirement. That's up from 33% 24 years ago. That's about the last thing we should do for our country is cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits.

CNBC:

Nobody's saying that there's not a good rationale for having these programs in place. Of course they're popular, of course people want to make sure that our citizens are taken care of. But that's almost not the point, because what you've said is that you simply won't negotiate, and you're holding the threat of withholding your support for any Democrats who would even go forward and compromise at all around these measures for decades in the future.

Silvers:

We're being really clear. We're not going to give cover to Democrats who think it's a good idea to take away economic security from our most vulnerable citizens. We're extremely clear about that and we are not embarrassed about it whatsoever. We want a really clear message out there: If you cut Social Security benefits or Medicare benefits to our seniors, to our most vulnerable people in our country, you are going to get no cover from the American labor movement. We're happy to say that all day long. We think the reality is that it is by only treating our most vulnerable people fairly that there's going be any chance of progress on public policy issues facing our country going forward. That's the reality.

CNBC:

Are you as clear on the reality that if you have don't cut entitlement benefits this country may well go bankrupt?

Silvers:

That's frankly not true. That is a lie put forward by billionaires who don't want to pay higher taxes. Social Security is the best funded aspect of our retirement system today, and Medicare's long-term issues are integrated with the long-term issues of our health care system. Neither program is overgenerous. In fact both programs are undergenerous.

The only people who believe what you said are people who are not counting on those programs and who are worried their very large incomes will be taxed. Most people strongly oppose cuts to benefits in Social Security and Medicare. It's simply that most rich people don't. It's very simple.

CNBC:

I'm talking about the people who understand the figures...

Silvers:

You're talking about people who themselves are more afraid of paying higher taxes than they are afraid of being poor in retirement. You're talking about essentially rich people. If you want to have a democracy of rich people, I suppose you're statement is true.

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"If Obama wants to help Social Security, he should start by lifting the cap on taxable earnings."

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grand bargain social security

Today's L.A. Times letters to the editor, because our voices matter:

Re "Obama's entitlement gambit," Opinion, April 10

The current calculation used to determine adjustments to Social Security benefits is based on the cost of living for an urban worker, not a senior. Therefore, it doesn't account for the greater percentage of income the average senior spends on healthcare. Because the cost of healthcare rises faster than other necessities, even the current formula does not adequately protect seniors from inflation.

Switching to the "chained CPI" to determine payouts, as President Obama proposed to do in his 2014 budget, would only make a bad situation worse.

Steve Mehlman

Beaumont

***

This debate over entitlements is about a long-term solution to a long-term problem. Much more important than getting a deal is getting a good solution.

Can we get a good solution now? Of course not. The partisan divide is deep.

If the president is so concerned with his legacy, maybe he should start doing more of the right things, like restoring traditional tax rates on the wealthiest. Today, CEOs and financiers pay much lower effective federal tax rates than doctors. That is socially unsound.

And if Obama wants to help Social Security, he should start by lifting the cap on taxable earnings.

David Greene

San Pedro

***

Doyle McManus suggests the president is doing "the kind of thing a second-term president can do." Later, he says the president's proposal is evidence that he "still yearns for a grand bargain."

The former declaration is an empty explanation, while the latter justification provokes the question: A grand bargain for whom? Certainly not for the elderly and disabled dependent on Social Security.

Ben Miles

Huntington Beach

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White House and Senate Dems Should Eliminate Social Security Tax Cap for the Rich: Stop CPI Scam on Elderly

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social security tax cap

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

[B]ecause the Obama White House has adopted the austerity meme of the Republicans, the option to the cat food chained CPI doesn't get discussed much.  That is because Obama, as is often the case, is accepting the GOP and Wall Street "frame" of the deficit being reduced, in part, on the backs of the middle class and poor.  As we've noted recently; the president may even believe the false meme.

... Remapping Debate, in an April 10 article, Remapping Debate disclosed:

For all the talk of the Social Security system running out of money, it is well established that raising or eliminating the cap on the wages subject to payroll taxes would guarantee a healthy Social Security system for many decades, and do so without cutting benefits or raising the retirement age.

Public support for elimination of the payroll tax cap is high.  [...]

Nevertheless, these routes to ensuring the promises made to workers that they could rely Social Security benefits are kept is little discussed on Capitol Hill. [...]

... That is probably because they don't want to be undercutting the position of their party's president. [...]

In The Nation, William Greider developed an interesting theory:

In fact, there is an even bigger lie concealed by the fiscal scolds and ignored by witless media, too. Again and again, self-righteous critics have portrayed Social Security as the profligate monster borrowing from the Treasury and sucking the life out of federal government.

Guess what? It's the other way around. The federal government borrows from Social Security.  [...]

That is the real crisis that makes the financial barons and their media collaborators so anxious to cut Social Security benefits. They would like to get out of repaying the debt—that is, giving the money back to the people who earned it. The only way to do this is cut the benefits—over and over again. Count on it...

Please read the entire post here.

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Elizabeth Warren on Pres. Obama's chained CPI proposal: "We cannot allow Social Security to be dismantled inch by inch."

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elizabeth warren banks

chained cpi social security 2

From my inbox (bolding is mine):

Elizabeth Warren for Massachusetts

Hi Laffy,

My brother David has always had the special spark in our family.

Like our two older brothers, David served in the military. When he got out, he started a small business -- and when that one didn't work out, he started another one. He couldn't imagine an America where he wasn't living by his wits every single day.

Year after year, my brother paid into Social Security. He never questioned it. He figured he was paying so that he -- and a lot of other people -- could have a secure retirement.

Today my brother lives on his Social Security. That's about $1,100 a month. $13,200 a year.

I'm telling you my brother's story not because it's unusual, but because it's like the story of so many other people. I can almost guarantee that you know someone -- a family member, friend, or neighbor -- who counts on Social Security checks to get by.  

That's why I was shocked to hear that the President's newest budget proposal would cut $100 billion in Social Security benefits. Our Social Security system is critical to protecting middle class families, and we cannot allow it to be dismantled inch by inch.    

The President's policy proposal, known as "chained CPI," would re-calculate the cost of living for Social Security beneficiaries. That new number won't keep up with inflation on things like food and health care -- the basics that we need to live.

In short, "chained CPI" is just a fancy way to say "cut benefits for seniors, the permanently disabled, and orphans."

Two-thirds of seniors rely on Social Security for most of their income; one-third rely on it for at least 90% of their income. These people aren't stashing their Social Security checks in the Cayman Islands and buying vacation homes in Aruba – they are hanging on by their fingernails to their place in the middle class.

My brothers and I grew up in an America that invested in its kids and built a strong middle class. An America that allowed millions of children to rise from poverty and establish secure lives. An America that created Social Security and Medicare so that seniors could live with dignity.

We can't chip away at America's middle class and break the promise we make to our seniors.

Thank you for being a part of this,

Elizabeth

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