Nancy Altman to keynote Everett forum on Social Security

From PSARA’s Retiree Advocate:

Nancy Altman

Nancy J. Altman, a nationally-recognized expert on Social Security, will keynote a forum on that subject from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, October 18, at the Jackson Event Center on the campus of Everett Community College.

Sponsored by a coalition of community, labor and retiree organizations, the forum is entitled, “The Threat to Social Security: An Issue for All Generations.”

Altman has a 30-year background in private pensions and Social Security. She chairs the board of the Pension Rights Center, and was a member of the faculty at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She is the author of many reports, editorials and opinion pieces, and of a new book, The Battle for Social Security.

Altman will puncture myths and misinformation circulating about Social Security, intensified by the rhetoric of the campaign season. She will also discuss possible ways to strengthen the program’s benefits, and will emphasize its importance to all generations of Americans – from children of the Great Depression to those born in the current Great Recession.

She will be joined in the speaking program by Jeff Johnson, president of the Washington State Labor Council, whose family were early recipients of Social Security survivor benefits.

A second forum, at 2 p.m. Monday, November 21, on the University of Washington campus, will feature as a keynote speaker Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women.

Both forums are free and open to the public. Events at other Puget Sound communities are being planned.

When: 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. Tuesday, October 18
Where: Jackson Event Center, Everett Community College

Questions? Contact us

Learn the truth about Social Security: Join us in Everett on October 18th!

Click here to download a print version of the flyer (258 KB) >

Putting the Social Security Shortfall in Context

– By Frank de Libero

Anne and Jake were taking a walk in Ballard. Jake, the thoughts obviously been weighing on him, suddenly said, “Social Security, Medicare and similar programs are almost half of non-interest Federal spending. These transfers are sabotaging America’s future.”

“Whoa”, Anne responded, “where’d that come from? And please don’t conflate Social Security with Medicare and Medicaid. Health care costs are presently a world-wide problem that needs attention. However, it doesn’t foster rational discussion to lump health care with Social Security, which has a dedicated tax and a projected shortfall a quarter century from now. Let’s keep them separate. OK?”

“OK”, Jake said, “I’ll restrain myself, but it’s common in what I read and watch that welfare programs are lumped together.”

bush tax cuts vs Social Security shortfallAnne replied sternly, “The Social Security that we pay into is an insurance program, not welfare.” And then easing up, she continued, “However, since it came up, I’ve been thinking about the projected shortfall. It’s usually expressed in terms of trillions of dollars or as a percent of GDP, and that we can’t afford it. Where’s the context? Trillions of dollars or GDP are too much of an abstraction, and just how is it unaffordable? So I did some quick calculations for context. I compared the shortfall to the costs of the Bush tax cuts.”

Jake interrupted, “That doesn’t make sense. The Bush tax cuts have paid for themselves! I recall Senator Mitch McConnell saying the tax cuts actually increased revenue, they paid for themselves.”

“That’s just congressional PR.” Anne responded. “Recently Bruce Bartlett disproved such ‘totally erroneous ideas‘. Similarly, in a June 1, 2011 policy memo, the Economic Policy Institute presented their estimate of the 10-year cost of the Bush tax cuts. It was $2.6 trillion. Using the EPI’s estimate and the 2011 Social Security Trustees Report I figure that the annual costs of the Bush tax cuts and the Social Security shortfall in today’s dollars is about the same, approximately a quarter trillion dollars a year. That helps me understand. I can think in comparables rather than trillions. Here’s what I did:

On page 13 of the Trustees Report, it essentially states the shortfall beginning in 2035 will average about 1.5% of GDP. On page 14 there’s a graph that shows the shortfall averaging close to 1.5% of GDP from 2035 to 2085, pretty much flat over those years. Right now, given the recession, GDP is about $13.5T.

If there were no recession, the potential GDP would instead be about $14.5T, which is what I used. And 1.5% of $14.5T is $0.22T. That is, the annual Social Security shortfall in today’s dollars would be about a quarter trillion dollars. The EPI estimate for the cost of the tax cuts is $0.26T a year, again about a quarter trillion dollars. So the annual Social Security shortfall is approximately the same as the average annual cost of the Bush tax cuts.”

Jake, his eyes beginning to glaze over, murmured “You’re making me feel uncomfortable.”

Anne stopped walking and stood for a moment. And then almost as if she were talking to herself said, “I feel uncomfortable too. However, I feel uncomfortable because I better understand and I don’t like what I see. Given the prevailing narrative, this says we can afford the Bush tax cuts which are chiefly for the wealthy, but we can’t afford Social Security even though we pay for it and it’s for everyone. How’s that work?”

Disentangling Social Security From the Debt Ceiling

From the Huffington Post:

By Nancy Altman and Mark S. Scarberry

Nancy Altman
Nancy Altman

Social Security appears to be a key bargaining chip in the struggle over the debt limit. President Obama may have played smart politics when he threatened that, if the debt limit is not raised, Social Security checks might not go out on time. But he was needlessly scaring the program’s fifty-five million beneficiaries, the vast majority of whom are highly dependent on each month’s Social Security check. So was Speaker John Boehner who, in a recent interview, also spoke of the possible interruption of benefits.

Mark S. Scarberry
Mark S. Scarberry

The truth is that checks can go out, in their full amount, without adding a penny to the federal government’s total debt. They can be paid without subtracting more than a tiny fraction of a percent — if anything — from the funds currently being used for other government purposes — a reduction so small that it could be considered a rounding error.

Three key facts make this true. First, Social Security has its own dedicated income stream for payment of benefits and associated administrative costs. Second, in addition to its current income, Social Security has an accumulated reserve of $2.7 trillion in its trust funds. That reserve is invested, as Congress has always required, in what has been the safest investment on Earth — treasury bonds backed by the full faith and credit of the United States. And third, the $2.7 trillion in treasury bonds held in the trust funds is included in the $14.3 trillion total debt that has reached the statutory limit.

Read more from Disentangling Social Security From the Debt Ceiling »

Happy Birthday Social Security!

social security card imageThis Sunday (8/14/11) will mark 76 years in which Americans have been working hard and contributing to Social Security with every paycheck — and we all benefit as a result. Social Security represents the best of American values, rewarding hard work, honoring our parents, and providing help for those unable to care for themselves.

But Social Security is under near constant attack from Republicans in Congress — and Republicans campaigning to be President — who think millionaire tax breaks are more important. In fact, every Republican member of the new deficit ‘super committee‘ has signed an irresponsible pledge saying they support a so-called “Balanced Budget Amendment” – and will not raise taxes under any circumstances – factors that contributed to our country’s credit downgrade.

Unfortunately, this is nothing new. For years, Washington Republicans have tried to cut, weaken, or eliminate Social Security. This year alone, they’ve pushed for raising the Social Security age and cutting benefits; unveiled a plan to cut over $6 trillion from Social Security, and voted for a budget that cuts nearly $2 billion from the workers who keep Social Security running.

Republicans just don’t seem to get it – Social Security doesn’t contribute a dime to the deficit. Taking away benefits earned by seniors will pull money out of our economy – and further prolong the recession.

Instead, we easily protect Social Security for the next 100 years – and expand benefits to those who need them most – by ‘scrapping the cap‘. This simple solution would ensure all Americans contribute their fair share to Social Security, and preserve the program for future generations.

Rep. Kucinich: Protect Social Security; Numbers Show Lifting the Cap Works

Rep. Dennis Kucinich

From the Huffington Post:

Obama 2008: ‘The best idea is to lift the cap;’ Obama 2011… What Happened?

Social Security is strong. It is not a government piggy bank and it is 100% fully funded until 2036.

Social Security has been falsely interjected into a discussion about our nation’s debt and deficit. Seniors have been threatened that their checks will not go out and that long term cut backs could include an extension of the retirement age and reductions in benefits. This is a false solution to a fake crisis.

It is simple to fix the long term concerns about Social Security: Lift the caps on taxable income for Social Security. The numbers show that it is the best way to ensure the viability of Social Security for the next 75 years. Lifting the caps is the most equitable way to strengthen Social Security because everyone in society fully participates.

Check out the calculations from the Social Security Administration here.

County seniors sound off on nation’s debt

From The Columbian:

Nearly three-fourths of Clark County seniors prefer either closing corporate tax loopholes and raising taxes for wealthy Americans over cutting Social Security and Medicare as a means to reduce the country’s burgeoning debt, according to an unscientific poll conducted Thursday at an AARP event in Vancouver.

Reductions to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid have dominated congressional discussion on how to rein in debt and whether to increase the nation’s $14.2 trillion debt ceiling. Congress must raise the ceiling by Aug. 2 to keep the government from going into default.

Read more form The Columbian: County seniors sound off on nation’s debt »