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Free public forum in Seattle on the future of Social Security

May 14, 2014

A growing national movement to strengthen and expand Social Security is taking hold, pushing back against decades of misinformation and political attacks by opponents.

Join us for a free public forum on the future of America’s pension — Social Security — on Wednesday June 4th from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. at Bethany United Church of Christ (Beacon Hill). Featured speakers include: Terry O’Neill, National President of NOW; Rep. Adam Smith, D-WA, 9th District; and Marilyn Watkins, Policy Director, Economic Opportunity Institute.

You’ll get an update on the status of the Social Security system and learn about legislation that will strengthen Social Security for the remainder of this century: the “Strengthening Social Security Act” (House Resolution 3118 and Senate Bill 567).

As the nation’s most efficient, fair, secure and universal source of retirement income, life insurance, and disability insurance available in the United States, Social Security is of critical importance to every American. Join us to learn how we can work together to address the nation’s retirement savings crisis, strengthen family protections for all generations, and secure Social Security financing for generations to come.

Download a flyer here »

Free public forum in Bellingham on the future of Social Security

May 14, 2014

A growing national movement to strengthen and expand Social Security is taking hold, pushing back against decades of misinformation and political attacks by opponents.

Join us for a free public forum on the future of America’s pension — Social Security — on Thursday, June 5th from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. in the Syre Center at Whatcom Community College. Featured speakers include: Terry O’Neill, National President of NOW; Rep. Rick Larsen, D-WA, 2nd District; and Marilyn Watkins, Policy Director, Economic Opportunity Institute.

You’ll get an update on the status of the Social Security system and learn about legislation that will strengthen Social Security for the remainder of this century: the “Strengthening Social Security Act” (House Resolution 3118 and Senate Bill 567).

As the nation’s most efficient, fair, secure and universal source of retirement income, life insurance, and disability insurance available in the United States, Social Security is of critical importance to every American. Join us to learn how we can work together to address the nation’s retirement savings crisis, strengthen family protections for all generations, and secure Social Security financing for generations to come.

Download a flyer (with map and directions) here »

Watch: Social Security’s Role in Solving the Retirement Income Crisis

October 30, 2013

“We are not going to balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, the children, working families, the sick and the poor. We’re not going to do that.” – Senator Bernie Sanders 

Today, John Burbank, EOI executive director, and Dean Baker, EOI board member, joined Social Security Works, lawmakers and experts from around the country to share research and strategies for the protection and expansion of Social Security.

The event coincided with the release of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Social Security cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) – a mere 1.5% which equates to about $19 a year.  Social Security accounts for more than 90 percent of income for 40 percent of U.S. seniors and it makes up more than half of the income of 70 percent of seniors. In Washington state, Social Security provided benefits to 1,164,430 Washingtonians or 16.9 percent of residents. Social Security also lifted 395,000 Washingtonians out of poverty in 2011.

Our nation’s budget negotiators are considering disastrous proposals like the chained CPI or a 3 percent benefits cut, despite the fact that Americans widely support expanding, not cutting, Social Security – even in hyper-red states like Texas and Kentucky.  You can check out video of the full conference below. Remarks from Senator Bernie Sanders and other lawmakers start at 3:29:00.

Contest Backfires on Social Security Privatizer

July 10, 2013

(via AFL-CIO Now)

Oh, the sweet irony.

Pete Peterson is the conservative billionaire who is a major financier in the effort to dismantle, cut and privatize Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Recently he and his foundation held a contest asking folks to submit videos on why it is important to “fix” the national debt of which, he and his foundation falsely claim, Social Security is a major contributor.

Sometimes the best-laid plans for a propaganda campaign can go awry. The winner of the $500 grand prize determined by popular vote on the website came from the completely opposite side of Peterson’s cut Social Security argument.

The “Just Scrap the Cap” winning video features rapping seniors rhyming their way to the conclusion that the way to shore up Social Security’s long-term finances isn’t through cuts or privatization but by scrapping the payroll tax cap on Social Security. That means billionaires like Peterson and rich CEOs would pay the same Social Security tax that low- to upper-middle-income workers do. Currently, any income above the $113,700 cap is exempt from the Social Security tax.

Peterson’s check went to Robby Stern of Social Security Works, the group that produced the video. Stern signed it over to Social Security Works and said:

“We will use the $500 to finance our education efforts and our Scrap the Cap campaign. We want to save Social Security from Peterson and his band of wealthy supporters.”

Retiree group protests Social Security Chained CPI proposal in Conway, SC

July 8, 2013

From WPDE News Channel 15 in Conway, South Carolina

‘Scrap the cap’ to keep Social Security fair

June 5, 2013

From the Everett Herald:

Grandpa and childThe kids are all right. And so are their grandparents. Why? Because Social Security is there — for all of us. And we can make that promise even better by making sure we all pay the same tax rate for the same guarantee.

The Social Security Trustees report shows solid funding for the next 23 years. Signed into law by Ronald Reagan, one purpose of the 1982 Social Security reforms was to build up a trust fund to fund the retirement of the baby boomers. As they retired, the trust fund would eventually be spent down. Right now, the trust fund holds $2.7 trillion and is projected to grow to $2.9 trillion. After that, it will slowly shrink, as designed. And after us baby boomers fade away, Social Security will continue to be funded through payroll taxes, as it has for much of the past 75-plus years.

We need Social Security more than ever today. Half of private sector workers work for employers who don’t have any retirement plans. Only three percent of workers in the private sector have a defined benefit pension. A typical worker between the ages of 55 and 64 with a deferred contribution account has $40,000 in that account. That’s good for a monthly payment of about $280! So the only thing that soon-to-be retirees can depend upon, without question, is Social Security.

In Snohomish County, 101,000 people receive Social Security benefits — one out of seven people. Of those, seven out of 10 are retirees over age 65; 7,000 are children who have lost a working parent or live with their disabled parent or retired grandparents; and 15,000 are disabled workers.

Altogether Social Security pumps $1.5 billion a year into the Snohomish County economy. So if you want to hobble our economy and take away a job multiplier, just start cutting Social Security benefits. Unfortunately, that is exactly what President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, most Republicans, and some Democrats, all buried inside the Washington D.C. beltway, are proposing to do.

They are trumpeting a new way of calculating inflation called the “Chained CPI.” It’s an apt name, because it chains retirees to the edge of poverty. Most of us know at least a few Social Security recipients. Their average benefit is $1,215 a month. That’s less than $15,000 a year. Two-thirds of all retirees depend on Social Security for more than half of their retirement income. Under the “Chained CPI” proposal, if you retire at age 65 and live to 90, you stand to lose over $20,000 in benefits.

Proponents tout the Chained CPI as a more accurate index of inflation. But the fact is, the existing index already underestimates necessary cost-of-living adjustments, because it assumes seniors are buying things like iPads and cars — for which prices are falling — while not giving enough weight to the cost of drugs, health care, and housing.

Taking an already inaccurate measure of inflation and reducing it further is both immoral and irresponsible. Instead of planning back-door cuts, our leaders should be working on increasing benefits. Luckily, there is an easy way to do this: it’s called “Scrap the Cap.”

Right now we pay Social Security taxes (FICA) on all wages up to $113,700. Anything above that amount is not taxed. As more income has migrated from middle class workers to the already wealthy, a lesser amount of national income is contributed to Social Security. A simple way to solve this problem is to just “scrap the cap” — that is, get rid of the tax cap on wages, so high-income executives pay the same Social Security tax rate as the typical clerk, barista, machinist, nurse, teacher, or sanitation worker. Then those additional contributions could be used to switch to the CPI-Elderly inflation index, which takes into account the spending of retirees on health care. Sen. Maria Cantwell has proposed this very idea.

Congressman Rick Larsen, for his part, has cosponsored legislation to oppose switching to the “chained CPI” and has pledged his support for “scrapping the cap.” Rep. Larsen understands the value of Social Security, and he doesn’t just proclaim this as a campaign slogan to get votes. With more people like him and Sen. Cantwell representing us in Congress, perhaps our kids’ kids will be all right, too.

John Burbank is the Executive Director of the Economic Opportunity Institute (www.eoionline.org). He can be reached at john@eoionline.org

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