Social Security & Medicare: More Than Numbers
by Marilyn Pinsky
Dec 05, 2012 | 2335 views | 3 3 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The way some people talk in Washington you could get the idea that Social Security and Medicare are little more than numbers in a budget.

Yet for families in New York State and all over America, Social Security and Medicare have a deeper meaning: They are the very foundation of security in retirement.

Social Security and Medicare enable millions of older Americans to survive financially each month, after years of working hard and paying taxes to earn these protections. One day, younger people will count on these same pillars of security for their own independence and dignity in old age.

As lawmakers consider the U.S. budget, here are a couple numbers they should keep in mind: Half of America’s seniors get by on less than $20,000 a year. And here’s another: Typical seniors already spend nearly 20 percent of their incomes on health care, a percentage that continues to rise.

These facts argue against treating Social Security and Medicare as bargaining chips in a year-end political deal. Instead, we should be discussing responsible ways to preserve their vital protections for future generations.

A good place to start is by recognizing the essential role that Social Security and Medicare play in the lives of average Americans:

• Social Security provides more than half the household income for one out of two older Americans. In New York, 2.3 million residents received Social Security in 2011 and for the typical New Yorker it comprised 58 percent of their income.

• Social Security benefits keep 32 percent of New York’s seniors, approximately 800,000, above the poverty line. And benefits are modest, averaging under $15,000 a year.

• Medicare enables over 50 million older Americans and people with disabilities to receive affordable health care. In New York, that’s 2.5 million people. Still, seniors have to pay $4,600 on average out of their own pockets for care each year. Without Medicare, many would have to spend thousands more for private coverage – if they could afford it at all.

Since early 2012, AARP has been encouraging a conversation about the long-term financial challenges facing Social Security and Medicare, and how to keep these programs effective for the long haul. This effort, which we call You’ve Earned Say, has engaged millions of Americans - and they’ve made their feelings clear.

In a recent AARP poll, 91 percent of Americans age 50 and over said Social Security was “critical” to the economic security of seniors, and an even higher 95 percent described Medicare as critical to health security for seniors.

To be sure, older Americans want very much to reduce the budget deficit and put our nation on a more secure fiscal path. But they seek measures that are responsible and fair, not ill-considered “solutions” that would cause more problems than they solve.

The fact is we are living in a time when retirement security has unraveled for many, due to a combination of trends. Private pensions are shrinking. Savings rates remain low. Home values have fallen. The cost of living continues to rise.

These realities make it unwise and even reckless to cut back Social Security and Medicare, just to meet numerical targets in a budget deal. Rather, the economic pressures facing older Americans warrant an open, thoughtful discussion on ways to enhance retirement security and how to strengthen the bedrock programs that provide it.

This focus is critical not only for today’s retirees and working Americans, but for future generations. AARP will continue to remind our elected leaders of the importance of Social Security and Medicare in New York and communities all over the country.

Of course, budgets matter. But we should never forget their impact on the real people behind the numbers.

Marilyn Pinsky is AARP New York State president.

Comments
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anonymous
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January 03, 2013
Hardly anyone is talking about the financial speculation tax, which would curb some of Wall Street’s riskiest gambling while raising $350 billion.

Lobby GOP Speaker Boehner and President Obama should be talking very loudly and openly about taxing Wall Street’s financial speculation and putting it on the bargaining table in place of cuts in social Security and Medicare. Like other Americans I have worked and paid into Social Security all of my adult life. Now that it is time for me to get my hard earned cash back, those overpaid rats in Congress say we need it to balance the budget. They should do it by giving back that 50% pay hike they gave themselves a few years ago. Social Security/Medicare recipients have never gotten a 50% increase!

The Wall Street Trading and Speculators Tax Act (H.R. 3313, S. 1787), proposed by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), would raise the revenue over 10 years through a miniscule fee — 0.03 percent — on Wall Street transactions.

It might also curb Wall Street's tendency to do any stupid thing they think will get a fast addition to the pile of money they, the multinationals, oil companies, and super-rich already have.

C. Ames
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December 21, 2012
President Obama is determined, it seems, to cut Social Security benefits by "adjusting" the chained CPI (consumer price index), the formula that determines benefits and COLAS. He is acting just as bad as the austerity extremists in Congress who are calling for cuts to programs that help lower- and middle-income Americans.

Some progressive measures, such as allowing the tax cuts enacted by President George W. Bush to expire for the wealthiest Americans and closing corporate tax loopholes, are on the table already.

Yet hardly anyone is talking about the financial speculation tax, which would curb some of Wall Street’s riskiest gambling while raising $350 billion.

Lobby GOP Speaker Boehner and President Obama about taxing Wall Street’s financial speculation and putting it on the bargaining table.

The Wall Street Trading and Speculators Tax Act (H.R. 3313, S. 1787), proposed by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), would raise the revenue over 10 years through a miniscule fee — 0.03 percent — on Wall Street transactions.

Because the fee is so small, it would target some of the most dangerous and volatile high-speed trading on Wall Street while having virtually no impact on the vast majority of Americans’ investment activities.

And it could especially reduce the sort of high-speed, automated trading that led to the May 2010 “flash crash,” when the Dow plunged nearly 1,000 points in just a few minutes.

If anything should be on the chopping block, it should be Wall Street’s recklessness.

Dsynr
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January 03, 2013
Ah-ah-ah-ah-mennnn!