Bill Knight – December 12
2:26 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

New Scheme for Cutting Social Security

Seeing contradictions instead of complexities in attitudes and preferences by the Millennial generation is perhaps why Big Business and the elite have started focusing on 18- to 34-year-old Americans in the newest scheme to cut Social Security. But 1 percenters have misinterpreted young adults as vulnerable, dumb or both.

Millennials number about 80 million U.S. citizens – about one-quarter of the nation’s population. And they're as difficult to pigeonhole as they are diverse. According to a Pew survey in 2012, for example, 56 percent of Millennials prefer big government, yet 72 percent of them say government shouldn’t be so powerful it sacrifices citizens’ rights to fight terrorism.

Bill Knight

Bill Knight's December 12 commentary

“Young people today are taking what works from previous generations and discarding the rest,” writes Jon Dolan in a news story about a survey of Millennials by the Pivot group and Rolling Stone magazine. “And this could be their greatest strength.”

Still, billionaires are targeting Millennials to support cutting Social Security and Medicare, according to a new report, “Platinum-Plated Pensions: The Retirement Fortune of CEOs Who Want to Cut Your Social Security,” co-published by the Center for Effective Government and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS).

IPS’ Sarah Anderson said, “The loudest calls for cutting Grandma’s benefits are coming from CEOs who will never have to worry about their own retirement security.”

The two groups examined are the Business Roundtable and a PR front group called Fix the Debt.

Business Roundtable CEOs’ corporate retirement accounts average $14.5 million – more than 1,200 times as much as the median retirement savings of U.S. workers near retirement age, The IPS shows that a retirement fund of $14.5 million, combined with Social Security, would generate a monthly retirement check for these CEOs of $88,576. That’s 69 times what a typical U.S. retiree can expect to receive, IPS says.

Meanwhile, the Center for American Progress (CAP) lists a few reasons why Millennials should support strengthening Social Security – whose average Social Security benefit is $1,269 a month -- instead of weakening or killing it.

Social Security is a family program. Nearly one-third of Social Security beneficiaries are not retirees and currently 3.5 million Millennials are receiving benefits.

Millennials will likely rely on Social Security more than previous generations. Before, retirement was based on personal savings, a work pension and Social Security benefits. With attacks on labor and pensions, plus a struggling economy, traditional pensions are rare and saving is a chore.

CAP says, “The increasingly inadequate private retirement system could mean that Social Security is the only source of income for many Millennials when they become too old to work.”

Social Security is safe. CAP says, “Since its inception, Social Security has never missed a check. It is a stable, self-funded system that will continue indefinitely as long as workers and employers are paying into the program and Washington doesn’t cut it.”

Social Security eases the financial burden on seniors’ families. Social Security gives seniors more independence for themselves – and for their adult children.

The nation can invest in young people and also improve Social Security. CAP notes, “Many of the same people who want to cut Social Security benefits are the same people who want to cut investment in children, education and the young. Those investments have been steadily eroded since the ’80s, and this has nothing to do with Social Security, which is separate from the general budget. We can invest in children, education and young workers while strengthening the social insurance system that benefits all generations.”

Protecting Social Security’s future is achievable, insiders say.

“There is a way to return fairness and equity to our budget priorities,” according to a letter from Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and Michael Petit, president of Every Child Matters. “A balanced approach would target cuts to low-priority programs plus add new revenues, starting with the elimination of unnecessary tax breaks for the wealthy and huge corporations. We should preserve and strengthen proven safety-net programs in the face of a rapidly aging population and make critical investments in children in order to remain competitive in a global economy.

“Throughout our history, America has never had to impoverish one generation in order to support another,” they add. “As advocates for seniors and children we know that it doesn’t have to happen today either.”  

Contact Bill at Bill.Knight@hotmail.com; his twice-weekly columns are archived at billknightcolumn.blogspot.com

The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Tri States Public Radio or Western Illinois University.