WASHINGTON WATCH: Social Security: Fear-mongering
May 8, 2012
There are some new reports on the health of the Social Security and Medicare trust Funds and I want to warn retirees to be wary of politicians who would use these reports as political cover for radical change that would put seniors at risk while enriching Wall Street and big health insurance companies.
Social Security, according to its trustees, has a $2.7 trillion surplus, enough to fully meet the demands of a growing retiree cohort through 2033. With no action from Congress, it would cover most benefits through 2086. There is a lot of support for Sen. Tom Harkin’s effort to significantly boost the Social Security Trust Fund by requiring the nation’s highest wage earners to pay Social Security taxes at the same rate as middle-class workers. The trustees report for Medicare have noted that its trust fund, which covers hospital care, can fully pay benefits through 2021, and cover most benefits through 2085.
A commentary in the Columbia Journalism Review concluded that on Social Security, “much of the press has reported only one side of this story using ‘facts’ that are misleading or flat-out wrong, while ignoring others.” The writer said that while Social Security is not in perfect health, “the one-sided reporting on this issue has influenced the way millions of Americans, especially younger ones, now think about Social Security.” This is yet another reminder that particularly in an election year, we must be vigilant in sorting out fact from fiction in the media and politics. To read the report, visit http://bit.ly/HTjMFG
You may have noticed that there are voting law changes popping up in many states. In New Hampshire, for example, there is a bill in Legislature that would require a government-issued photo ID to vote. Besides costing an estimated $800,000, it would be a daunting logistical barrier for seniors living in remote parts of the state. This would be a radical change in a centuries-old voting tradition. The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law has produced a handbook for how state and local organizations can help educate and assist prospective voters, particularly minorities and the elderly, who will be greatly affected by these new voting laws. The handbook calls the rash of state voter ID laws “a costly solution in search of a problem that only serves to effectively disenfranchise certain voters.” A New York University study concluded that one is more likely to be the victim of a lightning strike than someone voting under another person’s name. The handbook is available at http://bit.ly/HYmB5Y .
I have always thought our goal was to make it easier for people to vote and be part of a great American tradition, not to make certain that some people have a more difficult time of it. Don’t forget, I still have copies of the 2011 seniors’ issues voting record for all members of Congress. If you would like one please call me at 775-224-0904 and I’ll see that you get one. Stay tuned.
• Janice Ayres is immediate past president of the Nevada Senior Corps Association.