Tag Archives: National Academy of Social Insurance

Obama “expands” the Social Security Conversation

President Obama’s statement last week that he supports expanding Social Security was indeed a watershed in the discussion of the program’s future. What happens next is not clear, however, not least because “expand” can mean so many things to people of different political persuasions.

We should be strengthening Social Security,” the president declared during an economic speech in Elkhart Indiana. “Not only do we need to strengthen it, it is time we finally made Social Security more generous and increase the benefits so that today’s retirees and future generations get the dignified retirement that they have earned.” Expansion, he said, should be financed by “asking the wealthiest Americans to contribute a little bit more.”

The location was important: Elkhart was the first city Obama visited after assuming the presidency, in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Depression. Last week’s speech itself was meant to highlight the progress the economy has made since then. In staking out his new position on Social Security, “Obama is getting on board a movement that’s been brewing within the Democratic party for a while now,” write Nancy Altman and Eric Kingson, co-directors of the advocacy group Social Security Works, noting that a host of prominent figures including this year’s presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley and even Hillary Clinton (somewhat guardedly) have endorsed the idea and that Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, among others, have proposed action in Congress to expand benefits and pay for them by extending payroll tax to cover higher incomes. Continue reading Obama “expands” the Social Security Conversation

Enlisting AARP

Social Security will be under attack again in 2015. The best way for progressives to defend it is to go on the offensive as well, pressing Congress to pass one of the four bills now on the table to expand the program. Getting AARP on board would be a big help—but the giant older-Americans’ organization seems in no hurry.

AARP is by far the largest organization representing older Americans, and the most influential. Traditionally, it’s been reluctant to enter into coalitions with more overtly political groups advocating for seniors, presumably to sustain its image as a non-partisan organization. It’s a delicate balancing act, and not always successful, because no matter how moderate its policy positions, Republicans will always regard AARP as only slightly less evil than, say, the Socialist Workers Party.

With its 39 million members, AARP would be an invaluable ally in a 2015 push to expand Social Security. But an editorial by AARP’s CEO, Jo Ann Jenkins, suggests this is not a priority. Continue reading Enlisting AARP

It’s All About the Taxes

It’s a simple question that progressive types – and many non-Washingtonians, for that matter –ask themselves all the time: If Social Security needs more money in coming decades, why not just raise the payroll tax? It’s how we’ve done it in the past, why can’t we just do it again? The reason is that the far right and the center-right – Washington’s Very Serious People – have agreed that the low-tax regime they’ve collaborated on putting in place for the affluent is here to stay, along with the income inequality it’s helped to spawn.  There will be no further increases, even in a comparatively un-progressive levy like the payroll tax, they insist.

It’s not news that you can’t mention the words “tax increase” in Washington without someone attaching an epithet like “job-killing” or “politically unpopular” to them as a matter of reflex. This goes for the payroll taxes that fund Social Security as for any other tax. House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan says Continue reading It’s All About the Taxes

Teaching Social Security, With and Without Prejudice

A Young Person’s Guide to Social Security is an excellent tool for teaching students and younger workers how the system works and what’s at stake in the struggle over Social Security’s future. But big money is behind “Understanding Fiscal Responsibility,” a competing curriculum that can’t hide its deep ideological bias.

The Social Security wars are fought on many fronts. One of the newest is for the hearts and minds of younger Americans – high school and college students and even young workers. These people – “future decision-makers,” as they’re sometimes called – don’t always have well-developed assumptions about Social Security, Medicare, and related programs. That makes them either a non-factor in the national debate or else a potentially crucial bloc of votes. Some of them will no doubt go on to influential careers in public policy. And so the messages that are fed to them as students could have an enormous impact in future decades.

Two sets of institutions with very different values and priorities have entered the lists with curricula designed to shape young people’s thinking about Social Security, Continue reading Teaching Social Security, With and Without Prejudice

Progressives Learn to Love ObamaCare

“ObamaCare” – actually two complex pieces of legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and the Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 – started life as an unloved orphan. The right hated it passionately and comprehensively, and still does. Progressive Democrats, who’d been working for something like it for a century, were disappointed that it came out a patchwork of baby steps, not a full-fledged reinvention of American health care.

Last month’s policy conference of the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) in Washington brought together a group of health care reformers, some of whom have been in the game for a long time. If their comments are anything to go on, progressive Democrats are finally learning to love ObamaCare. If they go so far as to Continue reading Progressives Learn to Love ObamaCare

Changing the Direction of the Social Security Debate

When it comes to Social Security, the best defense is a good offense. A new study by the National Academy of Social Insurance, arguing for restoration of survivor benefits for college students, creates an opportunity for the program’s defenders to get out of their defensive crouch.

Reagan budget director David Stockman dismissed it as “dogs and cats”: just another relatively small, miscellaneous expenditure that could easily be chopped to pay for the new president’s upper-income tax cuts. And so it was in 1981, when the Senate voted to eliminate Social Security survivor benefits for young adults who remained in college until age 22.

Continue reading Changing the Direction of the Social Security Debate