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Time to increase Social Security Benefits – Are you with us?

With our corporate controlled/Wall street directed government’s fear of regulation lest the rich not get rich enough, the FDR three legs of the retirement stool has been reduced to one for most people as personal savings invested in safe bank stocks are have reduced lifetime savings by 80% for many (the average 401k for those about to retire in their 60’s is only $160,000 – before future bad investments – and only enough for an inflation protected to 3% max $5k a year insurance company annuity or a no inflation protection 8k a year), and the destruction of unions has allowed the corporate world to kill defined pensions in business and many areas of government (the pre-Reagan 38% covered by defined benefit plans is now only 20%), replacing them with payroll deduction savings accounts (401k), if that.

So the screams of the deficit Hawks to cut Social Security are wrong headed for two reasons – one, Social Security by law can never add to the deficit – it currently runs a $69 billion annual surplus, and if and when the projections are found to be true that the Trust fund is reduced to zero, those same projections say 75% of currently promised benefits (the promised benefits being much larger than today’s benefits) will be paid forever, the reduction to 75% avoiding any increase to the deficit, and two Social Security, the third leg, needs to be made larger.

Indeed the AFL-CIO is calling for increasing benefits across the board, changing the cost-of-living formula to an index geared to the real costs faced by seniors, and scrapping the cap on wage income subject to payroll taxes, which has been set for this year at $110,100, so as to pay for the above and indeed to prevent the reduction to 75% of promised benefit levels 22 years from now. And we have a bill in the Senate from Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) in his Rebuild America Act, where there is a tax increase phased in over a decade that finances an across-the-board monthly benefit raise of $65 after 10 years, plus sets the CPI – the tool Obama wants to use to reduce Social Security benefits by changing to the eat dog food to replace meat and there is no inflation “chained CPI” – to the current retiree cost-of-living CPI called CPI-E, an inflation index that properly weights goods and services that consume a lot of elderly people’s budgets, such as medical care. The CPI-E rises at about 0.2 percentage points a year faster than the regular CPI – and over time is important – at least until someone gives us single payer national health with budget/price control.

Liberals have joined with the National Organization for Women (NOW) to fix the problem of lower female benefits cause by non-recognition of being a caregiver (Ann Romney – are you listening – you are the spokesperson for stay at home Moms, right?). SS benefit calculations use 35 years in the calculation, inputting “zero” for those years (on average 8 such years are in the calculation of most women’s benefits) the stay at home Mom was not working. The proposal is to deem a wage for such stay at home Moms called a caregiver credit, the amount deemed being 50% of the median wage that year (this has a lesser impact when one considers the 50% of Husbands benefit that stay at home Moms already get, but it fills the financial problem of the unmarried caregivers).

Another hole in the system is the level of support since 1939 for dependents or survivors of disabled or deceased workers who want to go to school/college – after the age of 19 they currently get nothing. Oh, we tried to give benefits in 1965 to those in school or college through age 21, but the Sainted Ronald Reagan took them away in 1981 as part of a Reagan administration cost-cutting move. Given the higher wages earned, and higher SS tax paid by college grads this pays for itself.

“Are you with us, or are you against us — that’s the question.” As Romney tries to take the “hope and change you can believe in” high ground from Obama, can either answer the question with “I am with you” – I mean, saying it believably?

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