Saturday, November 13, 2010

Get Your Hands Off My Social Security!

Since the election a number of Republicans are even more loudly proclaiming that we have to cut entitlements.  By entitlements they mostly mean Social Security.  Two of the things they want to do is raise the retirement age to from 67 to 69 and they want to change the calculations for cost of living (COLA) increases so that they virtually will not happen.  For those who give a damn and can read (usually those with higher education levels) I am submitting some information from which you can draw your own conclusions to where you stand on the issue.  If you are just out of college, retirement may not be of interest to you.  If you are about to retire, it is of paramount importance.  Young or old, the day will come when you retire.  What that day looks like is heading for the front burner of the political charade we call Congress.

I am going to share figures gathered from government source data and relate them to my own situation. In my case I retired in 2003 at age 69 while the retirement age was still 65.  I started taking my Social Security income, as allowed by law, at age 65.  That is as good a way to compare your own situation as any and I don’t really care who knows what my financial situation happens to be.  I would hope, however, that you care about yours, because with the Republicans in charge of the House of Representatives you can bet on some strange legislation coming up.  Incidentally, I am in favor of increasing the retirement age, eventually to 70, and removing the limit on the base upon which the FICA deductions are made.

There are several philosophical differences between Republicans and Democrats.  Simply stated most Republicans favor policies that benefit big business while most Democrats favor the labor side of economics.  The Republicans believe that if you make the rich richer they will spend their good fortune buying things, thus helping the economy to grow.  The Democrats believe the key to economic growth depends on policies that put earnings into the hands of the main consumers, the so-called middle class.  Democrats also believe that when the economy falters and unemployment grows, it is up to government to charge the economic forces by investing money in projects and programs that put people to work so they have the money to buy the goods we should be producing, even if that money has to be borrowed. If government does not put money into the economy when businesses do not, production stops, unemployment surges.  The 2% with the most money can never spend enough to keep the economy going.  It takes the 98% of the rest of us!  If we don’t have the money the economy tanks.

Well enough of that.  On the table below I have listed some facts about income and the cost of living.  It is by no means a complete picture, but it does highlight some basics.  Figures compare the year after my retirement to 2010.

% Change
My Social Security Gross Check
My Medicare Payment withheld
My Social Security Net Check
US Cost of Living Increase since 2003

Avg US Soc Sec Check/month


Avg OR Unemployment/month


Avg US Single Per. Poverty Level Inc/mo


Avg HH Income Oregon/month 2008


Ask yourself if you can live on the average SS check, or the average unemployment check, which at least is more than social security.  What do you think about the difference between the US average poverty level income for a single person as opposed to the average household income in Oregon?

It would be one thing if income and costs rose in relatively equal percentages, but as you can see they do not.  The costs of everything increase faster and by more than the average incomes of those most in need.  If there are meaningful alternatives for assisting those unable to support even a minimal life style, I am all for considering them.  The actions of politicians seem more focused on making sure the top 2% remain unaffected by any downturns in the economy.

I have paid money into Social Security like everyone else.  Receiving my monthly check is NOT a handout.  So, members of Congress, Mr. President, keep your hands off my Social Security check!

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