Another Survey Suggests U.S. Middle Class is Falling Behind

April 25, 2014

While income gains for the richest Americans are outpacing their global peers, The New York Times reports that lower- and middle- income tiers in other advanced nations have made greater gains over the last three decades. “The new data about the middle class underscores the growing importance of expanding Social Security,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director for the Alliance. “Many seniors are just barely able to remain above the poverty line.” Read more about shifting incomes in the U.S. at http://nyti.ms/1k7bhrS.

Earlier this week, the American Federation of Teachers hosted a discussion with former Rolling Stone political reporter Matt Taibbi in Washington. The discussion drew attention to the struggles of the middle class as Wall Street continues to make gains. Taibbi has written extensively on the role of Wall Street firms in recent financial crises and has examined Wall Street’s attempts to loot millions from public pension funds across the country. “Essentially it is a wealth transfer from teachers, cops, and firemen to billionaire hedge funders,” says Taibbi. “Pension funds are one of the last great, unguarded piles of money in this country and there are going to be all sort of operators that are trying to get their hands on that money.”

California City Tries to Skip Legally Required Pension System Payments

In an effort to cut expenditures during bankruptcy negotiations, the city of San Bernardino, California is asking to pay only a fraction of $17 million in back payments and penalties it failed to make to Calpers, the agency that administers the California state pension system. If successful, the move could have ripple effects across the country, as cash strapped cities use bankruptcy proceedings to delay or withhold required pension fund payments. State law in California mandates that cities contribute full payments to the pension system on time and that workers’ benefits cannot be reduced. The city is claiming, however, that federal bankruptcy law trumps state law and allows the city to treat payments to Calpers as they would obligations to other creditors. If mediation between the city and Calpers is unsuccessful, the issue may ultimately be decided in court. “San Bernardino is trying to set a dangerous precedent,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer for the Alliance. “Allowing cities to skip legally mandated pension payments undermines the hard-earned retirement security of workers across the country.” Read more at http://nyti.ms/1hd8uNV.

Social Security to Bring Back Paper Benefits Statements

The Social Security Administration has announced that it will partially resume mailings of Social Security benefits statements. The agency had previously switched to an online system and ended most benefit statement mailings in 2011, in response to budget constraints. Under the new rules, workers who have not signed up to receive online statements will begin receiving mailed statements every five years. It is argued that paper statements are helpful for letting workers know how benefits are calculated and how much they can expect in future payments. Since low-income and immigrant workers are less likely to have internet access than the general population, it has been argued that the switch to digital statements has left a disproportionate number of those most reliant on Social Security with little information about the program.

“This is an important change that will let more people track what they have paid into the program and understand the benefits they have earned,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. More about the change here: http://reut.rs/1kXJBqH.

America’s Fastest-Growing Retirement Places

A survey of recent census data shows that Phoenix, Arizona and Portland, Oregon have the fastest growing retirement age populations of any major metropolitan areas in the country, with many other warm metro areas, such as Las Vegas, Nevada; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Jacksonville, Florida also in the top 10. The website www.Nerdwallet.com analyzed the data. While in the past seniors have tended to move to smaller cities and rural areas with a lower cost of living, it appears that metropolitan areas with relatively warm winters are becoming a more attractive option. For more detailed results, go to http://tinyurl.com/mdt65rs.

“It looks like seniors are headed to cities where they don’t have to shovel their driveways every morning in the winter,” said Ms. Easterling.

Fiesta Addresses Connecticut Alliance

Mr. Fiesta was in Southington, Connecticut on Monday to speak at the Connecticut Alliance Annual Fundraiser Luncheon. One hundred and forty people attended the event, marking the tremendous growth of the organization. On Wednesday, the group held its senior day at the state capitol.

Ryan Budget or another Topic on Your Mind? Write a Letter to the Editor, Win a Pen!

If you want others to know about the Ryan budget, pensions, or another topic, take a moment and start writing. If your submission is published, the Alliance will send you a free, union-made “Retirees with the Write Stuff” pen. Most recently, Barry Andrews, Wayne Burton, Frank Copple, Bob Dougherty, Mike Doyle, Raymond Ensher, Merry Foxworth, Morris Fried, Jim Hagerty, Win Heimer, Jenny Kenny, Jeanne Larson, Elayne Lastofka, Bette Marafino, Dave Meinell, Al Mumm, Mike Pyne, Robert Reinhold, Suzanne Reinhold, Martin Walsh, Norm Wernet, and Rufus Wesley contributed to the national dialogue. Please e-mail aracommunications@retiredamericans.org if you have had a letter published. “Letters to the editor are a fantastic way to get our message out,” said Mr. Burks. Only Three More Days until the National Membership Convention in Las Vegas Walk-ins are welcome at the Alliance for Retired Americans 2014 National Membership Convention at Bally’s Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, April 28 through May 1. Workshops are slated to include Building Coalitions; Voter Rights and Voter Protection; The Trans Pacific Partnership Exposed, and more! For more information - including airport shuttle deals for those attending and a list of union cabs in Las Vegas, go to http://bit.ly/1hYpj0g.

PDF