Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Thanks, New York Times, for compromising away seniors’ Social Security income

For many American senior 
citizens, this could be the
big meal of the day, if the New
York Times and the Trump
Administration have their way.
I should have come across this sooner. Perhaps it was the Ghost of Christmas Past, trying to postpone my un-holiday-like outrage for a while, that caused me to overlook it.

I refer to a piece by the Times Editorial Board offering to bargain away part of the Social Security benefits that seniors currently receive. 

The Times began by pretending to oppose benefits cuts that Republicans are proposing to “save” Social Security. Never mind that the whole shebang can be saved for the foreseeable future simply by raising the cap on deductions.

The cap — the point at which the government stops deducting Social Security taxes from your pay check — is currently at $110,000 a year. And even the Times article agrees that “the wage cap has not kept pace with the income gains of high earners; if it had, it would be about $250,000 a year.

So just restore the wage kept to its inflation-adjusted level and everybody’s happy. Well, maybe the million-bucks-a-year corporate C-Suite inhabitant gets irked because it takes a few months longer before the withholding from his pay check is reduced. But nearly everybody lives happily ever after, right?

Not the New York Times. 

The Times instead generously offers to chip away at the already cheesy safety net, helping to lower the bar for Tom Price, the incoming head of Health and Human Services, to propose the benefit cuts he has in mind.

States the Times:

A prudent approach to reform would target the causes of the system’s shortfall with a mix of modest benefit cuts and modest tax increases. It would make sense, for instance, to trim the benefits of recipients who were high earners during their work lives, because, in general, high earners live longer than low earners and thus draw their relatively higher benefits for a longer period of time.
Price, admits the Times, “ has been a champion of cuts to all three of the nation’s large social programs — Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. When discussing reforms to Social Security, he has ignored ways to bring new revenue into the system while emphasizing possible benefit cuts through means-testing, private accounts and raising the retirement age.”

There is no reason why America’s citizens — even the richest of us — should accept any of these cuts, nor the one the Times proposes. Social Security isn’t simply a program for the hard up. It’s an insurance program, a retirement annuity, into which every American who has ever worked for a living — and the companies that employed them — paid  regularly by payroll deduction.

Imagine if you had a private retirement annuity and the insurance company came to you and said, “Hey, we’ve decided that, despite what the contract we signed with you says, that we’re going to delay three years before beginning to pay you the money we owe you.”

Or imagine they came to you and said, “Hey, we've just decided that you’ve got plenty of money. So we think you don’t need the benefits you paid for. Thanks, we’ll keep ‘em instead.”

Or even, “You’ve still got some money. Only a dollar? Well, cat food’s plenty nutritious. And if that doesn’t fill you up, eat the cat.”

You’d be enraged. You’d be livid. Your head would be exploding. You’d demand the arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment of the crooks who perpetrated that ripoff. 

So start getting livid now, not only at The New York Times, but also at the mere notion of raising the retirement age again — it was 65 only a few years ago — or reducing benefits. Evidently both are on every Republican agenda, starting the millisecond Trump stumbles into the Oval Office.

As for privatization, that’s just an opportunity for the wonderful folks who brought you the Mortgage Meltdown to reach into your pocket and grab a big handful of your money for themselves.

It’s time to make an issue of this. Not a little issue. A huge, cage-rattling, booming issue. 

Seniors, sharpen your pitch forks and light your torches!

No comments: