October 24, 2014

Social Security Benefits will Increase by 1.7% in 2015

Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for nearly 64 million Americans will increase 1.7% in 2015, the Social Security Administration announced on Wednesday. The Social Security Act ties the annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) to the increase in the Consumer Price Index, as determined by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Other changes that take effect in January each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax will increase to $118,500 from $117,000. Of the estimated 168 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2015, about 10 million will pay higher taxes because of the increase in the taxable maximum. Billionaires and those making the taxable maximum pay the same amount in Social Security taxes. Read more on the January changes at http://tinyurl.com/nu8fhuv.

“If we want a real increase in Social Security benefits, we need to expand Social Security,” saidRichard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance. “The Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013 (S. 567) was introduced by Tom Harkin (D-IA) in the Senate and would increase benefits on average by about $800 per year.” Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) of California has introduced H.R. 3118, a companion bill, in the U.S. House of Representatives.

 Most Americans Would Pay More to Fix Social Security’s Finances, Improve Benefits
Large majorities of Republicans, Democrats and Independents are willing to pay more in taxes to stabilize the Social Security system’s finances and improve benefits, according to a new survey released Thursday by the nonpartisan National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI). Fully 69% of Republicans and 84% of Democrats agree “it is critical to preserve Social Security benefits for future generations even if it means increasing the Social Security taxes paid by working Americans.” When asked about top earners, 71% of Republicans and 92% of Democrats agree that they could pay more.

 Majorities oppose measures to balance Social Security’s future finances by reducing benefits. Fully 75% of respondents oppose increasing the retirement age to 70; and 76% oppose reducing the COLA that retirees receive. Seven out of 10 participants prefer a package of changes that would eliminate Social Security’s long-term financing gap without cutting benefits. Given choices, those surveyed preferred a package that would gradually, over 10 years, eliminate the cap on earnings taxed for Social Security. To see the findings, go to http://tinyurl.com/pmonh38. To read the NASI press release, go to http://tinyurl.com/mep8nq4.

“The study’s findings were consistent across all political parties and income levels. People are willing to pay more if it would improve Social Security’s finances and strengthen it,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

Possible Scenarios if the GOP Runs the Senate Include the Paul Ryan Budget
Reporter Howard Fineman composed a list of 10 things to know if the GOP wins control of the Senate for Huffington Post. Fineman wrote that it is clear that Republicans would use special rules for must-pass budgets in order to attach amendments reducing taxes on businesses and corporations, loosening bank regulation and cutting funding for the Affordable Care Act. Sen.Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who would likely be Majority Leader if he wins his own race and Republicans net 6 seats, has vowed publicly and privately to stop any bills to raise the minimum wage or strengthen federal guarantees of pay equity. More at http://tinyurl.com/pdrkroz.

“The Paul Ryan budget is the one item that seniors should fear most from a Republican senate,” said Mr. Fiesta. “Republicans have said that they support Paul Ryan’s plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program, shift costs to beneficiaries, and raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67. Seniors must stop all of these things from happening while we still can!” For a reminder on what else the Ryan budget would means for seniors, go to http://tinyurl.com/ow267fc.

Justice Ginsburg Writes a Blistering Dissent against Texas Voter ID Law
On Saturday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that Texas’ harsh voter ID law could remain in effect for the upcoming midterm elections, potentially disenfranchising 600,000 mostly black and Latino voters. Many seniors also do not have a driver’s license or other photo-identification. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that the list of acceptable government-issued photo ID documents is narrower than what is accepted in other states, citing Wisconsin. As it currently stands, the Texas law allows seven types of approved identification, including handgun licenses, but does not include some — like college IDs — which are accepted in other states. Many Texans will face round trip travel times of three hours or more to get the special government ID – an endeavor that is especially hard on seniors. Read more in Mother Jones at http://tinyurl.com/lgclqsu. If you have trouble at the polls on or before November 4, remember that you can call 1-866-OUR-VOTE, or go to http://www.866ourvote.org, for assistance.

“Don’t be discouraged by attempted impediments to voting,” encouraged Alliance PresidentBarbara J. Easterling. “Make your voice heard and do what it takes to have your vote count.”

AFSCME Holds Convention in Raleigh; California Alliance Hosts one in Buena Park
Mr. Fiesta spoke in Raleigh, North Carolina on Tuesday at an AFSCME Retirees Convention. On Wednesday, Fiesta was in Buena Park, California for the California Alliance’s (CARA’s) 11th Annual Regional Convention to speak about Social Security, Medicare, and national issues. CARA President Nan Brasmer presided. Other speakers included representatives from the UFCW Walmart campaign and Carmen Balber, Director of Consumer Watchdog. During the afternoon, members met in table discussions and voted on priorities for CARA for 2015. Results are being tabulated and added to the votes from regional conventions held previously in Richmond, CA and Fresno. Over 600 seniors attended CARA’s regional conventions, which are held every other year.

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