Seniors, Social Security and scare tactics

By Sheila Jackson, Greer SC
SC Alliance for Retired Americans

There is an attempt to frighten us all into accepting political prevarications. It goes like this: Don’t pay any attention to what we are trying to do to Social Security because its not going to be there when you young people retire anyway. We’re trying to save it. We’ll privatize it and the wonderful, infallible free market system of the purely motivated moguls of Wall Street will take good care of you. As opposed to the wasteful inefficient federal government which never does anything right.

Medicare is poorly administered and is therefore too expensive. We’ll get rid of it and give you vouchers to buy insurance on the open market. And for-profit insurance companies will gladly insure you at a reasonable, never increasing premium rate regardless of your health.

I have received my Social Security check on the third Wednesday of every month for the past 10 years. It has never failed to be there. Medicare has never failed to pay what it has promised to pay. Both administered by the federal government.

There are politicians who are funded and controlled by people who profit from the continuing redistribution of wealth from the shrinking middle class to the top 1% — who already control over a quarter of the nation’s wealth. These politicians oppose allowing the top tax rate to return to 39% even though it would hurt no one and preclude raiding the self-funding Social Security trust fund. They prefer instead to yell panic, accuse seniors of being greedy and to do all that they can to destroy something that has worked so phenomenally well to produce a healthy middle class.

Alliance for Retired Americans sends joint letter to President urging him to protect Social Security

President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:
We write you as the national officers and the presidents of the state chapters of the Alliance for Retired Americans, a national organization of four million members dedicated to securing a better quality of life for all Americans in retirement. We believe that you have the opportunity to renew the nation’s commitment to the Social Security program during the State of the Union Address next week.

Mr. President, Social Security, which just celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2010, is the nation’s premier social insurance program. It has provided economic security for millions of Americans of all ages across the last 75 years. From the nation’s youngest, who have lost a parent, to the oldest, who live in retirement, Social Security has been a constant, positive force in our nation’s life. Now, Social Security benefits go to nearly one in four American households.

Without the guaranteed benefits of the program, nearly half of older and disabled Americans would live in poverty. No other program, funded entirely by worker and employer contributions and without government funds, has had such a long lasting positive impact on American life. We are concerned, Mr. President, that many in Washington will try to take advantage of the nation’s current debt situation and cause permanent damage to the Social Security program.

As the Co-Chairs of the Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform recently pointed out, the Social Security program has not contributed at all to the nation’s debt. While we disagree with many of the Co-Chairs’ Social Security recommendations, such as raising the retirement age and cutting benefits for current and future retirees, the fact remains that the current debt situation should not be a political cover for attacking the Social Security program. We strongly urge you to resist such efforts.

We urge you to speak forcefully in favor of a strengthened Social Security program. We recognize that long term efforts will be necessary to keep the program financially sound as well as being able to provide benefits that are adequate to maintain a dignified quality of life. However, the debate over the current debt situation is not the forum for debating the future of Social Security. We applaud your leadership on vital issues such as health care reform which has benefited our members. We believe you are now in a position to demonstrate that same leadership on behalf of the Social Security program.

Sincerely,

Barbara J. Easterling, President

Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer

Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director

Douglas Hart, President
Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans

Nan Brasmer, President
California Alliance for Retired Americans

Vivian Stovall, President
Colorado Alliance for Retired Americans

Cal Bunnell, President
Connecticut Alliance for Retired Americans

Tony Fransetta, President
Florida Alliance for Retired Americans

Kenny Bradford, President
Georgia Alliance for Retired Americans

Al Hamai, President
Hawaii Alliance for Retired Americans

Barbara Franklin, President
Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans

Elmer Blankenship, President
Indiana Alliance for Retired Americans

Don Rowen, President
Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans

Mike Vivirito, President
Maryland/DC Alliance for Retired Americans

Dan Mikel, President
Minnesota Alliance for Retired Americans

David R. Meinell, President
Missouri Alliance for Retired Americans

Mike Owens, President
Missouri Alliance for Ret Americans Ed Fund

Bob Biel, President
Nebraska Alliance for Retired Americans

Scott Watts, President
Nevada Alliance for Retired Americans

Charlie Balban, President
New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans

Barbara Pardo, President
New Mexico Alliance for Retired Americans

Jim Wood, President
New York Alliance for Retired Americans

John Newman, President
North Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans

Dave Friesner, President
Ohio Alliance for Retired Americans

Jerry Morris, President
Oregon Alliance for Retired Americans

Jean Friday, President
Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans

John Pernorio, President
Rhode Island Alliance for Retired Americans

Julie Harbin, President
South Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans

Shane Fox, President
Texas Alliance for Retired Americans

John Bloch, President
Vermont Alliance for Retired Americans

Mike Warren, President
Washington Alliance for Retired Americans

Sterling Ball, President
West Virginia Alliance for Retired Americans

Leon Burzynski, President
Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans

Public invited to luncheon forum on Social Security and Medicare Jan. 19 in Myrtle Beach

In politics, if you aren’t sitting at the table, you’re probably on the menu. Today, seniors are on the menu. They need a seat at the table.

Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and state health programs are on the chopping block. Come learn the facts at a public forum Jan. 19, 12:30-2pm at the Myrtle Beach Recreation Center, 800 Gabreski Lane, Myrtle Beach.

The program will lay out what’s happening in both Washington and Columbia that impacts the health and welfare of SC’s seniors.

“This is a great opportunity for retirees to find out more about policy decisions that stand to affect them and their families,” said SC Alliance for Retired Americans President Julie Harbin. “We want to inform and empower seniors to be their own best advocates.”

Brett Bursey, SC Alliance for Retired Americans Vice-President, will talk about pending cuts to Medicaid and a South Carolina grassroots campaign to stop them.

Robert Kearney and Bill Cea of the national Alliance for Retired Americans will discuss threats to Social Security and health care reform, and what the Alliance is doing to protect them.

The public is invited to enjoy free East of Chicago Pizza and tea.

For details, call 803-957-8740 or email scalliance@mindspring.com.

South Carolina veteran rips US Sen. Alan Simpson

SC Alliance for Retired Americans member Sheila Jackson, of Greenville, SC, is not amused by US Sen. Alan Simpson, chair of the President’s Deficit Commission, who recently called Social Security a “milk cow with 310 million tits.”

Keeping the promise between generations

By Becci Robbins
SC Alliance for Retired Americnas

Seventy-five years ago this week, FDR signed the Social Security Act into law. As senior and retiree groups threw parties across the country to mark the occasion, opponents of Social Security continued their multimillion dollar campaign to fool the public into believing that benefits for seniors must be cut to reduce the deficit.

It is a cruel message that puts the burden of fixing the country’s financial problems on the backs of seniors and people with disabilities. It is also dishonest.

They don’t blame our economic problems on Wall Street bailouts, tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans or funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And they won’t tell you that Social Security’s solvency can be resolved with small adjustments, such as raising the payroll tax cap on Social Security taxes for the wealthy or by freezing the estate tax and applying that money to the program.

Those who depend on Social Security — or love someone who does — would do well to pay attention to what’s going on. The next couple of months are critical.

In December, President Obama’s Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform will offer to Congress its recommendations on how to reduce the deficit. Given the make-up of the body, it’s likely that Social Security and Medicare will be targets.

The Commission’s co-chair, for one, famously described older Americans as “greedy geezers” and supported efforts to privatize Social Security. If he’d had his way, those investment accounts by now would have lost 20 percent of their value.

While the Commission has several other known foes of entitlement programs, it also includes US Rep. John Spratt, who promises to continue to work to keep Social Security strong for future generations. South Carolina voters have a unique opportunity to engage their family, their neighbors and the congressman on this matter to make sure he stays true to his commitment.

Social Security, funded with taxes paid by workers and their employers, is a promise between generations that belongs to the people who have worked hard their whole lives to provide for their families.

The program is critical to many of South Carolina’s retirees and their spouses. Don Thacker, 80, says Social Security and Medicare allow him to live at home and get medical care as an outpatient. “Many people live on very limited incomes in South Carolina and have to make choices between food and medicine,” he said. “These programs make a difference.”

Columbia resident Ruby James says, “I worked for many years and then became disabled. I’m able to live now off of my Social Security.” Her daughter’s husband died at a young age, leaving her with three children, one with a disability. Social Security benefits helped two of those children finish college.

Without Social Security, 19.8 million more Americans would be poor, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Without Social Security, 45.2 percent of elderly Americans would live below the poverty line.

But Social Security doesn’t just benefit seniors; children and people with disabilities also depend on the program. The program lifts more than 1 million children out of poverty. And it is is the most important source of income for the 112,000 children living in South Carolina’s grandfamilies, households headed by a grandparent or other relative.

Sue Berkowitz says that her husband and a former roommate would not have been able to attend college if not for Social Security benefits. “So even though we were prior to retirement age, I know two people who are dear to me who it helped.”

While the debate rages about how to manage our national deficit, the loudest voices are spreading fear and misinformation. The rest of us need to make our own voices heard at the polls in November.

Becci Robbins is an organizer with the SC Alliance for Retired Americans. For details about the organization, email scalliance@mindspring.com.

SC AFL-CIO President Donna Dewitt and SC Progressive Network Director Brett Bursey honor US Congressman John Spratt with a plaque at a SC Allilance for Retired Americans party celebrating Social Security’s birthday in Rock Hill on Aug. 13. See more photos here.

On Social Security’s 75th birthday, let’s party with US Congressman John Spratt

To celebrate Social Security’s 75th birthday and honor US Congressman John Spratt for his long service to the Palmetto State, the SC Alliance for Retired Americans invites the public to a party on Friday, Aug. 13, in Rock Hill.

Spratt serves on the President’s Fiscal Reform Commission, which will offer its recommendations to Congress in December that likely will affect programs critical to seniors. Given the make-up of the Commission, the Alliance fears it may vote to cut Social Security benefits or raise the retirement age to reduce the deficit.

Spratt and other guests will talk about the history and current threats to Social Security, and will remind us that the program did not create the deficit and should not be cut to solve it. Social Security has enough money to cover full benefits for nearly 30 years, and has not added a penny to the nation’s budget crisis. In fact, the program is one of America’s greatest success stories, but misinformation has twisted the public debate.

With a $2.6 trillion dollar surplus, Social Security is not bankrupt. The federal government has borrowed most of that to pay for bailouts, two wars, and tax cuts for the wealthy. The government must pay back the loan, as that money belongs to American workers.

Part of Friday’s program will be the release of a new study detailing how much Social Security benefits residents of South Carolina.

The party kicks off at 5:30pm with music by the TransGenerational Jazz Band and free refreshments. Congressman Spratt will speak shortly after 6pm. He will receive a giant card signed by constituents asking him to protect and preserve Social Security and a plaque from the Alliance thanking him for his service.

Someone will get whacking rights to a large “Fat Cat” piñata.

The SC Alliance for Retired Americans thanks our event cosponsors: SC AFL-CIO, SC New Democrats, SC Progressive Network, Rock Hill NAACP, Catawba Central Labor Council, Greater Columbia Central Labor Council.

For details about the event or the SC Alliance for Retired Americans, email scalliance@mindspring.com or call 803-808-3384. Or join us on Facebook.

On 75th anniversary of Social Security, where does Wilson stand?

This weekend on Meet the Press, Republican Leader John Boehner reiterated his support for making deep cuts in Social Security.  South Carolina Democrats met the assertions with criticism, calling on Second District Congressman Joe Wilson to denounce Boehner’s plan to take away the benefits seniors have earned.  Wilson’s silence on this issue and refusal to protest the GOP plan to raise the retirement age to 70 shows just how out of touch with South Carolina he is.

“It’s time for Joe Wilson to show that he’s willing to fight for South Carolina’s seniors,” said South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Carol Fowler.  “He’s made a career out of voting the way his party leadership tells him to, but cutting the benefits that people have worked a lifetime to earn is taking partisanship too far.  It’s time for Joe to stand up for his constituents, not Wall Street Banks and the GOP’s privatization schemes.”

BACKGROUND

Wilson votes with GOP 96.7% of the time. [Washington Post Votes Database, Accessed 8/9/10]

Meet the Press exchange between host David Gregory and Republican Leader John Boehner:

GREGORY: All right. One of the ways you talk about getting your arms around spending was something you suggested back in June. That is that social security, the retirement age, ought to be raised to the age of 70. Is that something that the GOP will campaign on in the fall?

BOEHNER: David, I think it’s time for the American people to have an adult conversation about the problems that we face. These entitlement programs serve tens of millions of Americans and are critically important. We know that these programs are unsustainable in their current form, and I really do think it’s time we sit down and talk to the American people together about how we solve this. I think we need to bring Democrats and Republicans together in order to solve this problem.

GREGORY: You favor raising the retirement age?

BOEHNER: David, there are a lot of options about how you solve these, but I don’t want to get the cart before the horse. I think it’s important to have this conversation. It’s going to be a difficult conversation, but it’s time to have it and come up with solutions done in a bipartisan way to address the problems. [Meet the Press, 8/8/10]

Boehner Said he’d favor raising the Social Security retirement age to 70. Earlier this summer, Boehner outlined his support for raising the Social Security retirement age to 70, tying cost-of-living increases to the consumer price index rather than wage inflation, and limiting payments to those who need them. [Pittsburgh Tribune Review, 6/29/10]

Described support for existing Social Security system as “nostalgia.” Boehner said, “We need the courage to strengthen Social Security for our children and grandchildren. We can’t be blinded by nostalgia for a broken system or casual about the problems it’ll cause our families down the road…” [US Fed News, Boehner Answers Community's Questions, 4/29/05]

Boehner promised agenda of privatizing Social Security if he took Ccarge. In 2006, Boehner said he’d push to privatize Social Security if he was in charge. “If I’m around in a leadership role come January, we’re going to get serious about it.” [Washington Times, 7/31/06]

NOW Participates in Launch of Campaign to Protect and Strengthen Social Security

By Terry O’Neill
National Organization for Women President

The National Organization for Women is glad to be a part of this large and diverse coalition to strengthen our country’s most important and successful social insurance program–Social Security. Speaking on behalf of NOW’s 500,000 members and contributing supporters, my message is simple: Social Security is especially vital to women, who would be disproportionately harmed by cuts in benefits.

The “three-legged stool of retirement” is meant to consist of a pension, personal savings, and Social Security. But all too often, women have neither a pension nor savings. In fact, fewer than one in three women has income from a pension. Moreover, after a lifetime of wage discrimination, women are far more likely than men to have little in the way of personal savings. The situation for women of color is particularly dire. According to a recent report by the Insight Center, women of color often have no personal savings, or even negative net worth, as they head into retirement.

As a result, Social Security is the mainstay for millions of older women. Every year, a major share of the nearly 24 million women age 62 and older who receive benefits are kept out of poverty because of Social Security. Often that monthly Social Security check is their only income.

We call upon the members of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to act responsibly and reject any effort to reduce entitlement program benefits — now or in the future. Raising the retirement age to 70 would be an especially cruel benefit cut, forcing a hardship on millions of women (and men) who have physically demanding jobs, as our sister organization the Older Women’s League (OWL) has found.

If anything, Social Security benefits should be improved — especially for elderly women, because many exhaust their savings as they grow older, and for disabled, divorced and never-married women who have had modest incomes and have been unable to save and invest for retirement. Reducing benefits for these women would be calamitous.

Rather than cutting Social Security and putting millions of women’s financial security at risk, the Fiscal Commission should address the real causes of the deficit — unfunded wars, irresponsible tax breaks for the wealthiest, and an economic crisis caused by financial regulatory failures. Women are watching the commissioners, but will we be invisible to them?

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If you live in South Carolina, find out how you can help protect Social Security by contacting the SC Alliance for Retired Americans at scalliance@mindspring.com.

Top 5 Social Security Myths

#1: Social Security is going broke.

Reality: There is no Social Security crisis. By 2023, Social Security will have a $4.6 trillion surplus (yes, trillion with a ‘T’). It can pay out all scheduled benefits for the next quarter-century with no changes whatsoever. After 2037, it’ll still be able to pay out 75% of scheduled benefits—and again, that’s without any changes. The program started preparing for the Baby Boomers’ retirement decades ago. Anyone who insists Social Security is broke probably wants to break it themselves.

#2: We have to raise the retirement age because people are living longer.

Reality: This is a red-herring to trick you into agreeing to benefit cuts. Retirees are living about the same amount of time as they were in the 1930s. The reason average life expectancy is higher is mostly because many fewer people die as children than they did 70 years ago. What’s more, what gains there have been are distributed very unevenly—since 1972, life expectancy increased by 6.5 years for workers in the top half of the income brackets, but by less than 2 years for those in the bottom half. But those intent on cutting Social Security love this argument because raising the retirement age is the same as an across-the-board benefit cut.

FDR signs Social Security Act

#3: Benefit cuts are the only way to fix Social Security.

Reality: Social Security doesn’t need to be fixed. But if we want to strengthen it, here’s a better way: Make the rich pay their fair share.  If the very rich paid taxes on all of their income, Social Security would be sustainable for decades to come. Right now, high earners only pay Social Security taxes on the first $106,000 of their income. But conservatives insist benefit cuts are the only way because they want to protect the super-rich from paying their fair share.

#4: The Social Security Trust Fund has been raided and is full of IOUs

Reality: Not even close to true. The Social Security Trust Fund isn’t full of IOUs, it’s full of U.S. Treasury Bonds. And those bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States. The reason Social Security holds only treasury bonds is the same reason many Americans do: The federal government has never missed a single interest payment on its debts. President Bush wanted to put Social Security funds in the stock market—which would have been disastrous—but luckily, he failed. So the trillions of dollars in the Social Security Trust Fund, which are separate from the regular budget, are as safe as can be.

#5: Social Security adds to the deficit

Reality: It’s not just wrong—it’s impossible!  By law, Social Security’s funds are separate from the budget, and it must pay its own way. That means that Social Security can’t add one penny to the deficit.

Find out how you can help protect Social Security by contacting the SC Alliance for Retired Americans at scalliance@mindspring.com.