End the retirement crisis by increasing Social Security benefits

Yes, you read that right: End the retirement crisis by increasing Social Security benefits now.

There is a retirement crisis, and the only part of the solution that’s in government hands is Social Security benefits. If government really want to “promote the general welfare” — instead of the welfare of our lords and masters — it can act now by increasing benefits.

Paul Krugman explains in a striking, plain-spoken column:

Paul krugman

Paul Krugman

Expanding Social Security
For many years there has been one overwhelming rule for people who wanted to be considered serious inside the Beltway. It was this: You must declare your willingness to cut Social Security in the name of “entitlement reform.” … But a funny thing has happened in the past year or so. Suddenly, we’re hearing open discussion of the idea that Social Security should be expanded, not cut.

What’s driving this change, he asks?

America’s overall retirement system is in big trouble. There’s just one part of that system that’s working well: Social Security. And this suggests that we should make that program stronger, not weaker.

It’s that simple. Krugman discusses other aspects of the push to increase benefits, but his key points are these. After noting that the most accurate measure puts today’s senior poverty rate at just below 15%, he adds (my emphasis and paragraphing):

Will you settle for what they offer you? Class War Kitteh says, "Stand up for more." You have permission.

Will you settle for what they offer you? Class War Kitteh says, “Stand up for more.” You have permission.

When you look at today’s older Americans, you are in large part looking at the legacy of an economy that is no more. Many workers used to have defined-benefit retirement plans, plans in which their employers guaranteed a steady income after retirement. … Today, however, workers who have any retirement plan at all generally have defined-contribution plans — basically, 401(k)’s — in which employers put money into a tax-sheltered account that’s supposed to end up big enough to retire on.

The trouble is that at this point it’s clear that the shift to 401(k)’s was a gigantic failure. Employers took advantage of the switch to surreptitiously cut benefits; investment returns have been far lower than workers were told to expect; and, to be fair, many people haven’t managed their money wisely. … For many, the only thing protecting them from abject penury will be Social Security. Aren’t you glad we didn’t privatize the program?

“Tens of millions of Americans face a sharp decline,” he says, while the companies who forced this change are doing just fine.

He doesn’t say it, but I will. America is a a crossroads (actually, many of them). Will we promote the general welfare or keep the billionaires happy? The country won’t tolerate the latter, and the billionaires — and their paid politicians — won’t tolerate the former. Collision coming, with strong voices in the Senate leading the charge.

By the way, to pay for these increases, just raise the salary cap that most people don’t know exists. Let the rich pay their share, like they do with Medicare. That solves most of the funding problem in one smart move. The rest includes funding tweaks that most people strongly prefer.

There’s a sudden increase in the calls for increasing benefits

The calls to raise Social Security benefits are increasing as a surprising rate.

First, the Harkin bill in the Senate (S. 567).

Then people like Sherrod Brown signing on.

Then Elizabeth Warren (below) in full-throated agreement:


Thanks especially to Warren and now Krugman, the tide against retirement austerity is turning. Help it turn some more. Call your Congress person and ask:

Where do you stand on America’s retirement crisis?
Where do you stand on the Harkin bill, S. 567?
Do you stand with Elizabeth Warren on fixing the retirement crisis?

Senate phone numbers here. House phone numbers here.

And if you happen to be standing next Hillary Clinton at the bus stop, feel free to ask her too. After all, she may be the only voice that counts in just a couple of months — unless something changes, that is.


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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