Increasing Benefits, Now We’re Talking!

New Orleans     The new Democratic majority in the US House of Representatives has   now submitted the Social Security 2100 Act in the new Congress.  The first proposed expansion of the social security since 1972.  That’s 47 years.  I’m not naïve.  It’s not suddenly going to become law, but finally at long last after decades of neoliberal attacks on anything that included their dreaded word, entitlements, a little bitty step forward has been made.

The bill would provide a 2% across-the-board increase in benefits.  Not huge, but it would help.  Additionally, the level of cost-of-living raises would increase.  Ironically, supporters argue this it to take care of additional health care costs for seniors, which almost seems like a backdoor insurance and hospital subsidy, since all of these seniors are on Medicare, so this rationale is handling copays.  Seems like better healthcare coverage should take of this, but I don’t want to quibble.

There would be an increase in the minimum benefit.  That’s also a good thing for lower waged workers or workers in the informal sector who might have enjoyed more limited times on a regular paycheck.  It also is an indirect subsidy for the gig economy, but I don’t want to quibble.  The bill would cut federal income taxes on Social Security benefits for some 12 million largely middle-income people, according to Robert Pear, the longtime benefit specialist for the New York Times. 

The pay up plan is kind of weird.  On the straight up side, they propose that over 24 years the rate on payroll taxes would go from 12.4% to 14.8%.  Right now, there is a cap on payroll taxes for the well-to-do and rich at $132,900, which makes no sense whatsoever.  The proposal is not a whole lot better, but it is a bit better.

The proposal would create a free-fire zone between $132,900 and $400,00 that would be tax-free, and then payroll over $400,000 would be taxed without a cap.  How in the world does that make sense?  Are campaign donors largely clustered in the doughnut hole gap?  Is that where Democrats think most of their suburban and urban chronic voter base is situated?  The answer has to be somewhere in that hole, because other than that, tell me why high earners should get a break and the rest of us should be cruising towards a 15% bite?

Republicans claimed this plan would “fix Social Security for 75 years.”  I hate to admit it, but some of them are asking the same questions that I’m asking:  why the big handout to middle-and-upper-income retirees, who are not the ones hurting?

Finally, in 2020, we may actually have some things worth fighting for down the road, other than the broken white line in the middle of the highway that we’ve been offered in past cycles.

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Please enjoy The Communists Have the Music from They Might be Giants. Thanks to KABF.

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Where are Seniors in the Fight for Social Security and Pensions?

New Orleans      I’m scratching my head.  Somehow, I’ve noticed something weird around the world, and it’s not adding up, or at least not adding up the way it should.  Maybe you have noticed it as well.  There are a lot of protests here and abroad about cutbacks and threats to pensions and benefit programs, but, surprisingly to me, they are being led and populated mainly by younger people without much participation by actual beneficiaries who are older or claimants.  What’s up with that?

In Nicaragua there have been days of protests led by young people over the government’s proposal to cut social security benefits to pay for rising medical costs.  In this instance social security is meant in the global sense of benefits for the unemployed or unable to work, rather than the United States linguistic politicization that terms any benefits, earned like unemployment or given as welfare complete with all the cultural baggage that carries.

In England university workers struck for weeks over attempts to change the nature of the pension program from a defined benefit program to a defined contribution program.  Their strike was powerful, but what they have won so far is a delay for a study committee that many activists worry will not be satisfactory.

Unrest and protests have been rising in France over curtailment not only of hard won workers’ rights but also the Macron government’s actions to dismantle various welfare benefits and entitlements.

Young, largely female teacher strikers in the United States have protested and gone on strike in recent months and among their issues have been protecting deterioration of pensions.

Where are the pensioners?  The seniors?  The recipients?

Some are there for sure, but too many are leaving the fight to their children, literally and metaphorically speaking.  At some level there’s simply an air of defeat, a sort of “I did my best, so good luck to the rest.”  Or worse, an attitude of “I’ve got mine, too bad about you.”

If welfare recipients and seniors are not protesting, isn’t it too much to ask young people to lead the fight?  Honestly, ask yourself, how many young people trying to survive in gig and informal economy jobs, find homes, lovers, and friends, have time – or interest – in what they might need in bad times or twenty, thirty or forty years from now.

Politicians and governments are counting on this indifference from the young and old.  Changes are often red-circles to exempt the old or punish the young in the future while there are not yet fighters even old enough to take the field in their own interest.

Seems like solidarity, good citizenship, and love of our families, friends, co-workers and communities demands those of us who understand the benefits and stand towards the front line, need to also be among the first to put our feet in the streets to stand up for the importance of these benefits to the quality of life, if not survival, for tens of millions.

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