Monday, November 22, 2010

Messing with Social Security

In March, Erskine Bowles, co-chair of President Obama's Deficit Reduction Commission spoke at the North Carolina Banker's Association annual Bank Director's Assembly. He was quoted in the Columbia Journalism Review:

"We’re going to mess with Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security because if you take those off the table, you can’t get there. If we don’t make those choices, America is going to be a second-rate power, and I don’t mean in fifty years. I mean in my lifetime."

As the CJR points out, given that Bowles is 64, "in my lifetime" sounds pretty dire. Luckily the millions he made on Wall St. will insulate him from any unpleasantness during his later years.

Those of us who aren't so well insulated may be less fortunate. From an op-ed in the LA Times by Nancy Altman and Eric Kingson, the co-directors of Social Security Works:

In releasing their plan, the co-chairs went out of their way to make clear that they were proposing changes to Social Security "for its own sake, not for deficit reduction." This was an acknowledgement that Social Security does not and cannot contribute to the deficit, because it has no borrowing authority and by law cannot pay benefits unless it has sufficient income and reserves to cover their cost. But Simpson and Bowles just couldn't keep their hands off the program.

This needs to be repeated. Often and loudly.

One thing they propose is increasing Social Security's retirement age to 69. Every year that Social Security's retirement age is increased amounts to a 6% to 7% across-the-board benefit cut for recipients. The retirement age is already being raised to age 67 for those turning 62 in 2022. Increasing the age to 69 would cut benefits by one-quarter from a decade ago, when the retirement age was 65.

The co-chairs also want to increase the early retirement age to 64. Currently, the majority of Americans start claiming benefits at age 62, despite the fact that this means they receive reduced benefits. As a new General Accountability Office report concluded, the people who take early retirement often do so because they work in jobs that are too physically demanding to continue or because they have health problems or can no longer find work. Raising the early retirement age will shut out workers who are disproportionately low income and minority, and it will do it when they are most vulnerable, potentially forcing them to seek disability benefits or welfare.

I'm at a loss. I truly do not understand how cutting benefits for older people will make the US a first rate power. I can think of many things it will make us, but I'm far too genteel to list them.

The co-chairs apparently think most Americans can work as long as politicians, Wall Street billionaires and others who have all of life's advantages. In effect, the Bowles-Simpson plan says to America's workers that they must work longer for less because the rich are living longer.

Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson are a couple of reverse Robin Hoods, attempting to steal from the poor to give to the rich.

The folks at Social Security Works are asking all of us to participate in a national day of action. On November 30, people all over the country will be calling their US Senators and their Congressperson to say: Hands Off My Social Security! More info.

cross-posted at MainSt/

1 comment:

DissedBelief said...

We are looking more and more like the serfdoms of Europe prior to their revolutions. I don't read or hear any hint of Herr Boo-ner and company denying themselves the privledges we award them of platinum health coverage. And there is no doubt in my mind, that they draw on social security to supplement their billions in wealth while finding creative evasive tax havens. The rich continue to turn milk to cream at every turn, while the rest of us languish in a fast declining quality of life. Europeans and many other nations around the world are beginning to rise up on their haunches and protest. When will we? Will we see some semblance of protest on Nove. 30? I'll certainly raise my voice, but if there is no swelling in greater numbers, the politicians will continue on their road to the golden tower while us serfs carry their goods and chattels for them.