Social Security Gets Attention at Debate

GOP Candidates Share Their Plans for Shoring Up System’s Solvency

Published in Woonsocket Call on March 12, 2016

Last Thursday, the four surviving G0P contenders for president at the CNN Republican debate at the Bank United Center on the campus of the University of Miami, focused on meaty policy issues and not theatrics. Previous debates were heated and sparks flew between candidates. But many political wonks consider this one to be subdued, may be even a little boring. Like the other 11 debates, on March 10 Ohio Governor John Kasich, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Businessman Donald Trump and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, gave their two cents on scores of policy issues including, the right to bear arms, trade, jobs, illegal immigrants, education, national security, fighting ISIS, Iran’s nuclear deal and protecting Israel. But one political hot potato issue, Social Security, even got a little more air time during this debate.

With Florida having the highest percentage of retirees in the country, with nearly 3.1 million residents receiving a Social Security check, CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash, brought Social Security into the debate by asking the candidates how they would keep the nation’s retirement program afloat for future generations.

Bash called on Rubio to explain his position on rising the retirement age and reducing benefits for wealthy retirees. The Florida Senator said he would not cut Social Security checks, joking that “I’m against any changes to Social Security that are bad for my mother, a Social Security recipient.”

Younger Generations Take Brunt of GOP Fix for Social Security

Rubio warned that Social Security will ultimately go bankrupt taking the country down with it. So, here’s his fix. “So what it will require is people younger, like myself, people that are 30 years away from retirement, to accept that our Social Security is going to work differently than it did for my parents,” he noted.

The 44- year-old Florida Senator, called for increasing the retirement age of younger persons to age 68 ultimately to age 70, suggesting that Social Security checks should not “grow as fast as someone who made less money.”

“Medicare could very well become the option of using my Medicare benefit to buy a private plan that I like better. Medicare Advantage does that now,” said Rubio.
Explaining what he favors making changes to Social Security, Rubio noted that “in less than five years, only 17 percent of our budget will remain discretionary; 83 percent of the federal budget in less than five years will all be spent on Medicare, Medicaid, the interest on the debt.”

CNN moderator Bash called on Trump to explain why he did not want to raise the Social Security retirement age and his rationale for not wanting to cut benefits to wealthy retirees.

Trump responded by saying that his democratic opponents oppose cutting the retirement program, evening wanting to give recipients “even more.” The businessman, becoming more of a politician, clearly sees how the heated political issue, of making changes to Social Security, will bring votes to the Democrats. ”And that’s what we’re up against. And whether we like it or not, that is what we’re up against,” he says.

“I will do everything within my power not to touch Social Security [either making benefit cuts or rising the eligibility age”. Trump believes the solution is “to make this country rich again; to bring back our jobs; to get rid of deficits; to get rid of waste, fraud and abuse, which is rampant in this country.” He notes that catching improper retirement payments will also increase the solvency of the program.

Time Can Allow a Fix for Social Security Program

In response to those warning about the impending bankruptcy of the Social Security program if changes are not made, Trump says he would have a “a long-time to go,” possibly over 20 years, to increase the solvency of the program. It seems that he does believes that time will be on his side to fix Social Security, if he becomes president.

“The numbers don’t add up,” charges Rubio, to Trump’s assertion that reducing fraud and waste and in Social Security, the nation’s foreign aid programs and better purchasing policies. He chides both the Democrats and GOP for taking too long to “deal with” the solvency of Social Security.

With the spotlight on Cruz, the Texas Senator explained his advocacy for allowing younger workers to put some of their Social Security taxes into a 401 (k) accounts even with the

As president, Cruz pledges that he will not make any changes to Social Security that will impact anyone at or near retirement. “Every benefit will be protected to the letter,” he says, “But for younger workers, we need to change the rate of growth of benefits so it matches inflation instead of exceeding inflation.”

Finally, CNN moderator Bash, reminded Kasich of his position of cutting retirement payments. The Ohio Governor told a New Hampshire voter: “Get over cuts to Social Security benefits,” he says.

Kasich brought up his 1999 plan to save Social Security by allowing young people to have private retirement accounts. During a light hearted moment, Kasich quipped this memorable quote: “Now there are more 18-year-olds who believe they have a better chance of seeing a UFO than a Social Security check and we have a lot of seniors who are very nervous.”

Kasich’s plan to save Social Security is quite simple. “If you’ve had wealth throughout your lifetime, when the time comes to be on Social Security, you’ll still get it. It will just simply be less. And for those people who depend on that Social Security, they’ll get their full benefit. That’s the way it will work. And we don’t have to monkey around with the retirement age. And how do I know that? I’ve done all this before,” he told millions watching the two hour debate.

The writing is on the wall. 2016 GOP candidates for president, except Trump, look to make changes to Social Security to ratchet up the program’s solvency. Those calling for change say they won’t increase program eligibility, cut benefits or privatize the program, to impact aging baby boomers nearing retirement or for current Social Security recipients.

While differing on their political strategies, Democratic presidential contenders — former Secretary of State and New York Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders, — seek to strengthen and expand Social Security.

Generation’s X, Y and Z might will consider looking closely at Democratic and Republican presidential candidate positions on fixing Social Security. November’s winner might just tinker with your future retirement program or slash benefits, ultimately impacting how you will financially survive in your retirement years.

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The First of the Generation Xers Starting (Gulp) to hit the Big 50

Published in the Woonsocket Call on January 10, 2016

With the New Year’s celebration on January 1, the first of America’s 62 million Generation Xers are on AARP’s radar screen as potential members. These individuals have hit a demographic milestone, turning age 50 this year.  Now, it’s time for the generation that is following the Baby Boomers, to begin thinking about their later years and what resources they will need if they are thrust into the role of caregiver for their parents and grandparents.

Demographers says that Generation Xers (born between 1965 and 1979) is the middle generation, sandwiched between Baby Boomers and Millennials.  “As they grow older, it is important to acknowledge that they are having a different experience than their cohorts, and that they are more than just an unsung demographic who wore parachute pants and acid wash jeans,” says a recent AARP press statement, announcing the first arrival of this generation into their fifth decade.

The First Vanguard of Gen Xer’s Turn 50

AARP notes in 2015, 4.4 million Gen Xers hit the big-5-0.  This year another 4.1 million are expected to join the ranks of Americans over age 50, notes AARP, predicting that this generation will take on the role of challenging “outdated perceptions of aging and empower people to take control of their futures”

“AARP is excited to welcome Generation X to the 50-plus community and be a resource for them as they embrace their age and live the life that they want,” said Sami Hassanyeh, AARP Chief Digital Officer. “They face different challenges and have different goals than their predecessors, and deserve every opportunity to explore the possibilities that lie ahead.”

According to the Washington, D.C.-based AARP, the nation’s largest aging organization, Generation Xers carry far more fiscal responsibilities than previous generations have or even the next one, the Millennial Generation.  Now, in their 40s and 50s, this generation is financially supporting their children while being caregivers for their aging parents.  With life expectancy increasing Generation Xers must continue working to pay the bills, but like the aging baby boomers must rethink the concept of growing old and where they will put their time and energy in retirement.

“Though Generation Xers feel less financially secure than their parents in regards to retirement, they also plan to work longer and embrace new opportunities in this evolving life phase. Most people turning 50 today can expect to live another 30-plus years, and many are already taking steps towards increasing their longevity – 87% consider themselves in good health and 55% maintain a healthy diet. They are re-imagining this life transition and expect their future years to be more flexible and rewarding than ever before,” says the AARP statement.

Key Generation Xer’s Metrics

AARP Research provides a snap shoot the Generation Xers (www.aarp.org/research/topics/life/info-2015/generation-x-snapshots.html?cmp=RDRCT-GNXNST_DEC08_015).  As to diversity: sixty percent are white; 18 percent Hispanic/Latino; 12 percent are African and 7 percent Asian.  Most are married (64%) but one in five (19%) have never married.  Fifty percent of Generation Xers have children age 18 years or younger living at home while 67 percent of this generation have children of any age living at home.  This generation is well-educated with 35 percent receiving a Bachelor’s degree or higher (35%). Twenty seven percent have some college education.  The median income of this generation is $70,501.

Fifty six percent of this generation feels overwhelmed with financial burden (carrying an average debt of $111,000). Fifty five percent use the internet for on-line banking.

But, when thinking about retirement, 35 percent are confident they will have enough income to live the life they envision in retirement.  But, few Generation Xers are confident Medicare (34%) and Social Security (24%) will be available to them like it is for those currently receiving the retirement checks.

Looking at health, Generation Xers say that “the number one element for a good life is good health.”  They take responsibility for maintaining their health and well- being, too. Eighty six percent of this generation has health insurance.  Seventy two percent say that they trust their physicians the most for health information.

“From my perspective, this age group entering our membership demographic signals an opportunity for AARP to build our relevance in the lower end of the 50+ population,” said John Martin, Director of Communications at AARP Rhode Island. “When I meet these folks I get excited because more likely than not, they have been connected to the Internet for some time and are up to speed when it comes to technology and social media.

Time is on Their Side

“Generation X, the research shows, is quite forward-looking – as well as motivated — when it comes to working and living in one’s 50s with an eye toward health & fitness, retirement planning and having a say in making sure one’s community is heading in the right direction. The good news for Generation X, I would say, is that time is on their side. They can make changes during the final 15-20 years of their work life that will make everything after much better. So, when they embrace online resources and I can keep them current via email on issues relevant to the road ahead it is very exciting,” Martin added.

“I am pleasantly surprised when I meet people across Rhode Island who declare ‘now that I’m 50’ it’s time to join AARP. To me, what they are saying is that they get it,  that membership represents a transition that is all about fulfilling their aspirations and building confidence that they will live out their lives with independence and dignity.”

AARP is no longer the membership organization for just the Greatest Generation (1900 to 1924), the Silent Generation (1925 to 1944) and Baby Boomers (1946 to 1964). It is fr Gen Xers (1965 to 1984), too, especially if they want to take control of the quality of life they will experience in their retirement years and beyond.

For more information about AARP, go to AARP.org.