On Saturday, August 8, Trump signed four Executive Orders intended to substitute for Congressional Republicans compromising with Democrats on a relief package against the health and economic ravages of the coronavirus pandemic. In a vitriolic speech, delivered to a mini-rally assembled from among his Bedminister golf course members, he attacked the Democrats’ plan, threatened a stock market crash should Joe Biden become president, and promised to end the payroll tax (which funds Social Security) should he be elected.
Indeed, Trump delivered this campaign promise: to reduce income taxes and capital gains taxes (in order to goose the stock market), in effect robbing the US Treasury which is already over $25 trillion in debt with trillions added because of the 2017 GOP tax cuts and the trillions spent on COVID relief, much of it going to the wealthiest and best connected. Instead of providing aid to states and localities which have been devastated by depleted revenues and run-up in costs to address COVID-19, he put more of the burden on states to come up with his faux employment benefits (it requires 25% to be paid by states). Instead of funding election protection and the post office, he accused Democrats of stealing the election.
“The massive taxpayer bailout of badly run blue states we talked about — that’s one of the things they’re looking to do. Measures designed to increase voter fraud,” he told his adoring audience.
“You know what it’s about? Fraud. That’s what they want: fraud. They want to try and steal this election because, frankly, it’s the only way they can win the election.
“The bill also requires all states to do universal mail-in balloting — which nobody is — nobody is prepared for — regardless of whether or not they have the infrastructure. They want to steal an election. That’s all this is all about: They want to steal the election.”
Trump couldn’t resist attacking proposals for a Green New Deal: “And they want to do the Green New Deal, which will decimate our country and decimate — it’s ridiculous, too. It’s childish. I actually say the Green New Deal is childish. It’s for children. It’s not for adults.”
And when asked what happens if the states can’t pony up the 25% to continue the $400 (not $600) unemployment benefits (the 75% that the federal government would spend would be coming from the states’ share of the CARES Act funding), he said, “Well, if they don’t, they don’t…So I don’t think their people will be too happy.”
As for the reduction in unemployment benefits, Trump said, “this gives them a great incentive to go back to work.”
Questioned about the constitutionality of going around Congress, which has the sole “power of the purse,” Trump said, “This will go very [fast]– if — if we get sued. Maybe we won’t get sued. If we get sued, it’s somebody that doesn’t want people to get money. Okay? And that’s not going to be a very popular thing. “
Pressed whether a President should go around Congress “ and decide how money is collected and spent?” Trump retorted, “You ever hear the word ‘obstruction’? “yes,” the reporter replied. “You were investigated for that.”
Trump then replied, “They’ve obstructed. Congress has obstructed. The Democrats have obstructed people from getting desperately needed money.”
“But this is in the Constitution, Mr. President,” the reporter insisted.Asked why he keeps taking credit for Veterans Choice, which was passed in 2014 by the Obama Administration, Trump abruptly ended the press conference.
In reaction to Trump’s executive orders, Vice President Joe Biden, presumptive Democratic nominee for President, issued this statement: –Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Unable to deliver for the American people in a time of crisis, Donald Trump offered a series of half-baked measures today. He is putting Social Security at grave risk at a time when seniors are suffering the overwhelming impact of a pandemic he has failed to get under control. And make no mistake: Donald Trump said today that if he is re-elected, he will defund Social Security.
For months, Trump has golfed rather than negotiated, and sown division rather than pull people together to get a package passed. Now, instead of staying in Washington and working with Republicans and Democrats to reach a bipartisan deal, President Trump is at his golf club in New Jersey signing a series of dubious executive orders.
This is no art of the deal. This is not presidential leadership. These orders are not real solutions. They are just another cynical ploy designed to deflect responsibility. Some measures do far more harm than good.
One order is Donald Trump’s first shot in a new, reckless war on Social Security. Trump announced a payroll tax plan with no protections or guarantees — like the ones the Obama-Biden administration enforced a decade ago — that the Social Security Trust Fund will be made whole. And, Trump specifically stated today that if re-elected, he plans to undermine the entire financial footing of Social Security. He is laying out his roadmap to cutting Social Security. Our seniors and millions of Americans with disabilities are under enough stress without Trump putting their hard-earned Social Security benefits in doubt.
Another order brings cuts, chaos, and confusion to our system of unemployment insurance. Trump is unilaterally reducing the amount laid-off workers could receive. And he purports to provide these benefits until the end of the year, but only identifies enough funding to make it a handful of weeks. Even with that limited funding, Trump is basically playing a cruel game of robbing Peter to pay Paul: He is taking billions of dollars of federal natural disaster funding away so it won’t be available to states like Florida. And, he is forcing states to choose between imposing benefit cuts for unemployed workers or slashing funds for public schools, health workers, and first responders.
A third order, on evictions, is woefully inadequate to deal with the emerging housing crisis. He is leaving our nation’s renters with ever-mounting debt and leaving our small family landlords badly squeezed. Without a comprehensive plan to help our American families make rent, they will leave this crisis months behind on their payments while many landlords teeter on the verge of bankruptcy.
And a fourth order is a band-aid approach to student debt that leaves out 7 million borrowers who obtained their federal loans from private lenders or their college rather than the Department. The economic strain on these Americans is deep and unrelenting.
There is a solution to all of this pain and suffering. A real leader would go back to Washington, call together the leaders of the House and Senate, and negotiate a deal that delivers real relief to Americans who are struggling in this pandemic. We need a president who understands their struggle and believes in their courage to overcome.
talk about the need to reform “entitlements,” they always refer to the “sacrifice”
demanded of the people most dependent upon Social Security benefits and most
vulnerable (with the least political power) in society. They never ask the most
obscenely rich, most comfortable, most powerful to make any sacrifice – after all,
they are the “job creators” and we don’t want to interfere with the number of
yachts and vacation homes they can purchase.
Warren, vying for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, has just
released her plan to expand Social Security – not cut it.
“Millions of Americans
are depending on Social Security to provide a decent retirement. My plan raises
Social Security benefits across-the-board by $2,400 a year and extends the full
solvency of the program for nearly another two decades, all by asking the top
2% to contribute their fair share to the program,” Warren states. “It’s time
Washington stopped trying to slash Social Security benefits for people who’ve
earned them. It’s time to expand Social Security.”
This is from the
Charlestown, MA – Today, Elizabeth Warren
released her plan to provide the biggest and most progressive increase in
Social Security benefits in nearly 50 years. Her plan will mean an immediate
Social Security benefit increase of $200 a month — $2,400 a year — for every current
and future Social Security beneficiary in America. That will immediately help
nearly 64 million current Social Security beneficiaries, including 10 million
Americans with disabilities and their families.
The plan also updates outdated rules to further increase
benefits for lower-income families, women, people with disabilities,
public-sector workers, and people of color. The plan finances these benefit
increases and extends the solvency of Social Security by nearly two decades by
asking the top 2% of earners to contribute their fair share to the
According to an independent analysis,
Elizabeth’s plan will immediately lift an estimated 4.9 million seniors out of
poverty — cutting the senior poverty rate by 68%. It will also produce a “much
more progressive Social Security system” by delivering much larger benefit
increases to lower and middle-income seniors on a percentage basis,
increase economic growth in the long term, and reduce the deficit by
more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years.
I’ve dedicated most of my career to studying what’s happening to working families in America. One thing is clear: it’s getting harder to save enough for a decent retirement.
A generation of stagnant wages and rising costs for basics
like housing, health care, education, and child care have squeezed family
budgets. Millions of families have had to sacrifice saving
for retirement just to make ends meet. At the same time, fewer people have
access to the kind of pensions that used to help fund a comfortable retirement.
As a result, Social Security has become the main source of
retirement income for most seniors. Abouthalf of married
seniors and 70% of unmarried seniors rely on Social Security for at least half
of their income. More than 20% of married seniors and 45% of unmarried
seniors rely on Social
Security for 90% or more of their income. And the numbers are
even more stark for seniors of color: as of 2014, 26% of Asian and Pacific
Islander beneficiaries, 33% of Black beneficiaries, and 40% of Latinx
beneficiaries relied on Social Security benefits as their only source of retirement income.
Yet typical Social Security benefits today are quite small.
Social Security is an earned benefit — you contribute a portion of your wages
to the program over your working career and then you and your family get
benefits out of the program when you retire or leave the workforce because of a
disability — so decades of stagnant wages have led to smaller benefits in retirement
too. In 2019, the average Social Security beneficiary received $1,354 a month, or
$16,248 a year. For someone who worked their entire adult life at an average
wage and retired this year at the age of 66, Social Security will replace just 41% of what
they used to make. That’s well short of the 70% many financial
advisers recommend for a decent retirement — one that allows you to keep living
in your home, go to a doctor when you’re sick, and get the prescription drugs
And here’s the even scarier part: unless we act now, future
retirees are going to be in even worse shape than
the current ones.
Despite the data staring us in the face, Congress hasn’t
increased Social Security benefits in nearly fifty years. When
Washington politicians discuss the program, it’s mostly to debate about whether
to cut benefits by a lot or a little bit. After signing a $1.5 trillion tax
giveaway that primarily helped the rich and big corporations, Donald Trump
twice proposedcutting billions
from Social Security.
We need to get our priorities straight. We should be
increasing Social Security benefits and asking the richest Americans to
contribute their fair share to the program. For years, I’ve helped lead the fight in
Congress to expand Social Security. Andtoday I’m
announcing a plan to provide the biggest and most progressive increase in
Social Security benefits in nearly half a century. My plan:
Increases Social Security benefits immediately by $200 a
month — $2,400 a year — for every current and future Social Security
beneficiary in America.
Updates outdated rules to further increase benefits for
lower-income families, women, people with disabilities, public-sector workers,
and people of color.
Finances these changes and extends the solvency of Social
Security by nearly two decades by asking the top 2% of families to contribute
their fair share to the program.
An independent analysis of my plan
from Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, finds that my plan will
accomplish all of this and:
Immediately lift an estimated 4.9 million seniors out of
poverty, cutting the senior poverty rate by 68%.
Produce a “much more progressive Social Security system”
by raising contribution requirements only on very high earners and increasing
average benefits by nearly 25% for those in the bottom half of the income
distribution, as compared to less than 5% for people in the top 10% of the
Increase economic growth in the long term and reduces the
deficit by more than $1 trillion over the next ten years.
Every single current Social Security beneficiary — about 64
million Americans — will immediately receive at least $200 more per month under
my plan. That’s at least $2,400 more per year to put toward home repairs, or
visits to see the grandkids, or paying down the debt you still might owe. And
every future beneficiary of Social Security will see at least a $200-a-month
increase too, whether you’re 60 years old and nearing retirement or 20 years
old and just entering the workforce. If you want to see how my plan will affect
you, check out my new calculator here.
Our Current Retirement Crunch — And How It Will Get Worse
If We Don’t Act
Seniors today are already facing a difficult retirement.
Without action, future generations are likely to be even worse off.
While we’ve reduced the
percentage of seniors living in poverty over the past few decades, the numbers
remain unacceptably high. Based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s Supplemental
Poverty Measure, 14% of seniors —
more than 7 million people — live in poverty. Another 28% of seniors have
incomes under double the poverty line. A record-high 20% of seniors are still in the workforce in
their retirement years. Even with that additional source of income, in 2016,
the median annual income for
men over 65 was just $31,618 — and just $18,380 for women over 65.
It’s hard to get by on that, especially as costs continue to
rise. Most seniors participate in Medicare Part B, and standard premiums for
that program now eat up close to 10% of the average monthly Social Security benefit.
The average senior has just 66% of Social
Security benefits remaining after paying all out-of-pocket healthcare expenses
— and if we don’t adopt Medicare For All, out-of-pocket medical spending by
seniors is projected to rise sharply over
time. The number of elderly households still paying off debt has grown by
almost 20% since 1992,
and hundreds of thousands of
seniors have had their monthly benefits garnished to pay down student loan
Meanwhile, the prospect of paying for long-term care looms
over most retirees. 26% of seniors
wouldn’t be able to fund two years of paid home care even if they liquidated
all of their assets. And for people that have faced lifelong discrimination,
like LGBTQ seniors who until recently were denied access to spousal pension
privileges and spousal benefits, the risk of living in or near poverty in
retirement is even higher.
This squeeze forces a lot of seniors to skimp in dangerous
and unhealthy ways. A recent survey found that
millions of seniors cut pills, delay necessary home and car repairs, and skip
meals to save money.
While the picture for current retirees is grim, it’s
projected to get even worse for Americans on the cusp of retirement. Among
Americans aged 50 to 64, the average amount saved in 401(k) accounts is less
than $15,000. On average,
Latinx and Black workers are less likely to have
401(k) accounts, and those who do have them have smaller balances and are more
likely to have to make withdrawals before retirement. The gradual disappearance
of pensions has been particularly harmful to
workers of color who are near retirement. And 13% of all people
over 60 have no pension or savings at all.
Meanwhile, this near-retirement group are also suffering
under the weight of mounting debt levels and other costs. 68% of households headed
by someone over 55 are in debt. Nearly one-quarter of
people ages 55 to 64 are also providing elder care. According to one study, 62%
of older Latinx workers, 53% of older Black workers, and 50% of older Asian
workers work physically demanding jobs,
leading to higher likelihood of disability, early exit from the job market, and
reduced retirement benefits.
Gen-Xers and Millennials are in even greater trouble. For
both generations, wages have been virtually stagnant for
their entire working lives. 90% of Gen-Xers are
in debt, and they’re projected to be able to replace only 50% of their income
in retirement on average. Many Gen-Xers are trapped between
their own student loans and mortgages, the costs
of raising and educating their
children, and the costs of caring for their elderly relatives. Two-thirds of
working millennials have no retirement savings, and the numbers are even worse
for Black and Latinx working millennials. Debt, wage stagnation, and decreasing
pension availability mean that, compared to previous generations at the same
age, millennials are significantly behind in
There’s also the looming prospect of serious Social Security
cuts in 2035. Social Security has an accumulated reserve of almost $3 trillion
now, but because of inadequate contributions to the program by the rich, we are
projected to draw down that reserve by 2035, prompting automatic 20% across-the-board
benefit cuts if nothing is done.
My plan addresses both the solvency of Social Security and
the need for greater benefits head on — with bold solutions that match the
scale of the problems we face.
Creating Financial Security By Raising Social Security
The core of my plan is simple. If you get Social
Security benefits now, your monthly benefit will be at least $200 more — or at
least $2,400 more per year. If you aren’t getting Social Security benefits now
but will someday, your monthly benefit check with be at least $200 bigger than
it otherwise would have been.
My $200-a-month increase covers every Social Security
beneficiary — including the 10 million Americans
with disabilities and their families who have paid into the program and now
receive benefits from it. Adults with disabilities are twice as likely to
live in poverty as those without a disability. While 9% of people
without disabilities nearing retirement live in poverty, 26% of people that
age with disabilities live in poverty. Monthly Social Security benefits make up
at least 90% of income for
nearly half of Social Security Disability Insurance beneficiaries.
This benefit increase will also provide a big boost to other
groups. It will help the 621,000 disabled
veterans who are Social Security beneficiaries. It will benefit the 1 million seniors
who exclusively receive Social Security Insurance — which helps Americans with
little or no income and assets — and the 2.7 million Americans
who receive both SSI and Social Security benefits.
On top of this across-the-board benefit increase, I’ll
ensure that current and future Social Security beneficiaries get annual
cost-of-living adjustments that keep pace with the actual costs they face. The
government currently increases Social Security benefits annually to keep pace with the
price of goods typical working families buy. But older Americans and people
with disabilities tend to purchase more of certain goods — like health care —
than working-age Americans, and the costs of those goods are increasing more
rapidly. That’s why my plan will switch to calculating annual cost-of-living increases
based on an index called CPI-E that better
reflects the costs Social Security beneficiaries bear. Based on current
projections, that will increase benefits
even more over time.
Combined, my immediate $200-a-month benefit increase for
every Social Security beneficiary and the switch to CPI-E will produce
significantly higher benefits now and decades into the future. My Social
Security calculator will let you see how much your benefits could change under
Targeted Social Security Improvements to Deliver Fairer
Broadly speaking, Social Security benefits track with your
income during your working years. That means pay disparities and wrongheaded
notions that value salaried work over time spent raising children or caring for
elderly relatives carry forward once you retire. That needs to change. My plan
increases Social Security benefits even further by making targeted changes to
the program to deliver fairer benefits and better service to women and
caregivers, low-income workers, public sector workers, students and
job-seekers, and people with disabilities.
Women and Caregivers
In part because of work and pay discrimination and
time out of the workforce to provide care for
children and elderly relatives, women receive an average monthly Social
Security benefit that’s only 78% of the average
monthly benefit for men. That’s one reason women over the age of 65 are 80% more likely to
live in poverty than men. My plan includes several changes that primarily
affect women and help reduce these disparities.
Valuing the work of caregivers. My plan creates
a new credit for caregiving for people who qualify for Social Security
benefits. This credit raises Social Security benefits for people who
take time out of the workforce to care for a family member — and recognizes
caregiving for the valuable work it is.
The government calculates Social Security benefits based on
average lifetime earnings, with years spent out of the workforce counted as a
zero for the purpose of the average. When people spend time out of the
workforce to provide care for a relative, their average lifetime earnings are
smaller and so are their Social Security benefits.
That particularly harms lower-income women, people of color,
and recent immigrants. There are more than 43 million informal
family caregivers in the country, and 60% of them are
women. A 2011 study found that women over fifty forgo an average of $274,000 in
lifetime wages and Social Security benefits when they leave the workforce to
take care of an aging parent. Caregivers who also work are more likely to be
low-income and incur out-of-pocket costs for providing care. Because access to
paid or partially paid family leave is particularly limited for workers
of color — and first-generation immigrant workers are less likely to have
jobs with flexible schedules or paid sick days — these workers are more likely
to have to take unpaid leave to provide care and thus suffer reductions in
their Social Security benefits.
My plan will give credit toward the Social Security average
lifetime earnings calculation to people who provide 80 hours a month of unpaid
care to a child under the age of 6, a dependent with a disability (including a
veteran family member), or an elderly relative. For every month of caregiving
that meets these requirements, the caregiver will be credited for Social
Security purposes with a month of income equal to the monthly average of that
year’s median annual wage. People can receive an unlimited amount of caregiving
credits and can claim these credits retroactively if they have done this kind
of caregiving work in the last five years. By giving caregivers credits equal
to the median wage that year, this credit will provide a particular boost in
benefits to lower-income workers.
Improving benefits for widowed individuals from
dual-earner households and widowed individuals with disabilities. Because
women on average outlive men by 2.5 years, they
typically spend more of their retirement in widowhood, a particularly vulnerable period financially.
My plan provides two targeted increases in benefits for widows.
In households with similar overall incomes, Social Security
provides more favorable survivor benefits to the surviving spouses in
single-earner households than in dual-earner households. After the death of a
spouse, a surviving spouse from a dual-earner household can lose as much
as 50% of her
household’s retirement income. My plan will reduce this disparity by ensuring
that widow(er)s automatically receive the highest of: (1) 75% of combined
household benefits, capped at the benefit level a household with two workers
with average career earnings would receive; (2) 100% of their deceased spouse’s
benefits; or (3) 100% of their own worker benefit.
My plan will also improve benefits for widowed individuals
with disabilities. Currently, a widow with disabilities must wait until she is
50 to start claiming Social Security survivor benefits if her spouse dies — and
even at 50, she can only claim benefits at a highly reduced rate. Since most
widows with disabilities can’t wait until the official retirement age of 66 to
claim their full survivor benefits, their average monthly benefit is only $748 a month, or
less than $9,000 a year. My plan will repeal the age requirement so
widow(er)s with disabilities can receive their full survivor benefits at any
age without a reduction.
My plan ensures that workers who work for a lifetime at low
wages do not retire into poverty.
In 1972, Congress enacted a Special Minimum Benefit for
Social Security. The benefit was supposed to help people who had earned
consistently low wages over many years of work. But it’s become harder to
qualify for the benefit, and the benefit amount has shrunk in value so it now helps
hardly anyone. Today, only 0.6% of all
Social Security beneficiaries receive the Special Minimum Benefit, and projections show
that no new beneficiaries will receive it this year.
No one who spends 30 years working and contributing to
Social Security should retire in poverty. That’s why my plan restructures the
Special Minimum Benefit so that more people are eligible for it and the
benefits are a lot higher. Under my plan, any person who has done 30
years of Social Security-covered work will receive an annual benefit of at
least 125% of the federal poverty line when they reach retirement age. That
means a baseline of $1,301 a
month in 2019 — plus the $200-a-month across-the-board increase in my plan, for
a total of $1,501 a month. That’s more than $600-a-month
more than what that worker would receive under current law.
Public Sector Workers
My plan also ensures that public sector workers like
teachers and police officers get the full Social Security benefits they’ve
If you work in the private sector and earn a pension, you’re
entitled to your full pension and your full Social Security benefits in
retirement. But if you work in state or local government and earn a pension,
two provisions called the Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension
Offset can reduce your Social Security benefits. WEP slashes Social Security
benefits for nearly 1.9 million former
public-sector workers and their families, while GPO reduces — and in most cases,
eliminates — spousal and survivor Social Security benefits for 700,000 people, 83% of whom are
My plan repeals these two provisions, immediately
increasing benefits for more than two million former public-sector workers and
their families, and ensuring that every current state and local government
employee will get the full Social Security benefits they’ve earned.
Students and Job Seekers
My plan also updates the Social Security program so that it
encourages people to complete college and participate in job training programs
or registered apprenticeships.
Restoring and extending benefits for full-time students
whose parent has a disability or has died. In the Reagan administration,
Congress cut back a provision that allowed children receiving Social Security
dependent benefits to continue to receive them until age 22 if they were
full-time students. Before the provision was repealed, these beneficiaries came
from families with average incomes 29% lower than their college peers, were
more likely to have a parent with low educational attainment, and were more likely to be
Black. Access to these benefits boosted college
attendance and performance by letting low-income students reduce the number of
hours they had to work while attending school. When Congress repealed this
benefit, college attendance by previously eligible beneficiaries dropped by
more than one-third. My plan
restores this provision — and it extends eligibility through the age of 24
because only 41% of all students
complete college in four years, and Black, Native American, and Latinx students
have even lower four-year
completion rates. A longer eligibility period will improve the chances the
people who receive this benefit complete college before the benefit ends.
Encouraging registered apprenticeships and job training.
Currently, workers who participate in registered apprenticeships or job
training may receive lower Social Security benefits because they are taking
time out of the workforce or agreeing to accept lower-paying positions to gain
skills. We’re about to enter a period of immense transformation in the economy,
and we should encourage workers to take time to participate in a registered
apprenticeship or job training program so they are prepared for in-demand jobs.
That’s why I proposed a $20 billion investment in high-quality apprenticeships
in my Economic Patriotism and Rural America plans.
My plan today complements that investment by letting workers in job training
and apprenticeship programs elect to exclude up to three years in those
programs from their lifetime earnings calculation for Social Security benefits,
thereby producing a higher average lifetime earnings total — and higher
Improving the Administration of Social Security Benefits
My plan improves Social Security in another important way:
it makes it easier for people to actually get the benefits they’ve earned.
Congress is starving the Social Security Administration of
money, creating hardship for people who rely on the program for benefits.
Congress has slashed SSA’s operating budget by 9% since 2010, even as
the number of beneficiaries is growing. Meanwhile, more Baby Boomers are
approaching retirement age — a critical period when workers are most likely to
claim Social Security Disability benefits. SSA has a staff shortage, rising telephone
and office wait times, and outdated technology.
Sixty-four Social Security field offices have closed since 2011 and 500 mobile
offices have closed since
2010. Field office closures are correlated with a 16% drop in
disability insurance beneficiaries in the surrounding area because those people
— who have paid into the system and earned their benefits — no longer have assistance
to file their applications.
Disability insurance applicants can wait as long as 22 months for an
eligibility hearing. Thousands of people have
died while waiting for administrative law judges to determine if they’re eligible
to receive their benefits. To make matters worse, Donald Trump issued an
Executive Order that will politicize the
process of selecting the judges who adjudicate these cases. And his
administration keeps proposing more cuts to the
My plan restores adequate funding to the Social Security
Administration so that it can carry out its core mission. That will allow us to
hire more staff, keep offices open, reduce call times, update the technology
system, and give applicants and beneficiaries the services they need. And I
will revoke Trump’s Executive Order on administrative law judges.
Strengthening Social Security By Extending Solvency For
Nearly Two More Decades
Currently, the rich contribute a far smaller portion of
their income to Social Security than everyone else. That’s wrong, and it’s
threatening the solvency of the program. My plan fully funds its new benefit
increases and extends the full solvency of Social Security for nearly 20 more
years by asking the richest top 2% of families to start contributing more.
Social Security is funded by mandatory insurance
contributions authorized by the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, or “FICA”.
The FICA contribution is 12.4% of wages, with employers and employees splitting
those contributions equally at 6.2% each. (Self-employed workers contribute the
full 12.4%.) If you’re a wage employee, you contribute 6.2% of your very first
dollar of wages to Social Security, and 6.2% of every dollar after that — up to
an annual cap. This year’s cap is $132,900, and each year, that cap increases
based on the growth in national average wages.
Congress designed the cap to go up each year based on
average wages to ensure that a fairly steady percentage of total wages in
America were subject to the FICA contribution requirement. But growing wage
disparities over the past few decades has thrown the system out of whack.
While wages for lower-income and middle-income workers have
been fairly stagnant —
limiting the growth of the national average wage figure we use to set the
annual cap — income at the very top has been skyrocketing. That means
more income for the biggest earners has been above the cap and therefore exempt
from the FICA contribution requirement. In 1983, 90% of total wage
earnings were below the cap. Now it’s just 83%. The top 1% of
earners have an estimated effective
FICA contribution rate of about 2%, compared to more than 10% for the middle
50% of earners. That amounts to billions of dollars every year that should have
gone to Social Security but instead remained in the pockets of the very richest
Americans, while the Social Security system slowly starved.
And the very rich have escaped contributing to the system in
yet another way: more and more of their income is in the form of unearned
investment income, not wages, and they don’t have to contribute any of their
investment income to Social Security. Although most Americans earn most of
their income from wages, capital income makes up more than half of
total income for the top 1% and more than two-thirds for
the top 0.1%. All that income escapes the Social Security program.
My plan brings our Social Security system back into balance
by asking the top 2% of earners to start contributing a fair share of their
wages to the system and by asking the top 2% of families to contribute a
portion of their net investment income into the system as well:
First, my plan imposes a 14.8% Social Security contribution requirement on individual wages above $250,000 — affecting less than the top 2% of earners — split equally between employees and employers at 7.4% each. While most American workers contribute to Social Security with every dollar they earn, CEOs and other very high earners contribute to Social Security on only a fraction of their pay. My plan changes that and requires very high earners to contribute a fair share of their income. My plan also closes the so-called “Gingrich-Edwards” loophole to ensure that self-employed workers can’t easily reclassify income to avoid making Social Security contributions.
Second, my plan establishes a new 14.8% Social Security contribution requirement on net investment income that applies only to the top 2% — individuals making more than $250,000 in annual income or families making more than $400,000 in annual income. My plan creates a new contribution requirement — modeled on the Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT) from the Affordable Care Act — that asks people and families above these high income thresholds to contribute 14.8% of the lesser of net investment income or total income above these thresholds. My plan also closes loopholes in the NIIT that allow wealthy owners of partnerships and other businesses to avoid it. This contribution requirement will ensure that the very wealthy are paying into Social Security even when they report the bulk of their income as capital returns rather than wages.
The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Amy Klobuchar’s plan for Seniors tackles Alzheimer’s, enhances health care and retirement security and reduces prescription drug costs. This is a summary from the Klobuchar campaign:
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Senator Amy Klobuchar released her policy priorities for seniors. Building on her leadership in the Senate when it comes
to lowering the cost of prescription drugs and addressing the challenges our
seniors face, Senator Klobuchar is proposing a bold plan to tackle Alzheimer’s
disease and other forms of dementia, enhance health care and retirement
security, reduce skyrocketing prescription drug costs and combat senior fraud
and abuse. As President, Senator Klobuchar will continue to stand up for our
seniors and the 10,000 Americans who turn 65 each day.
“Everywhere I go, I meet seniors who tell me about their struggles to afford
everyday costs like prescription drugs or health care,” said Senator
Amy Klobuchar. “I meet family members who face challenges
caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s and urgent action is needed to take on
these problems. I believe we owe it to our seniors to make sure they have the
care and support they need as they get older, and as President I will
prioritize tackling Alzheimer’s, strengthening health care and retirement
security, and reducing prescription drug costs.”
caregivers for those living with Alzheimer’s and other chronic conditions.
Senator Klobuchar has been a leader when it comes to supporting people affected
by Alzheimer’s and their families. As President, she will support expanding
resources for health care providers to expand training and support services for
families and caregivers of people living with Alzheimer’s disease or other
forms of dementia as well as other chronic conditions, improving caregiver
well-being and health, as well as allowing patients to stay in their homes
it easier for people with Alzheimer’s and their families to get the medical
care they need. Medicare is an essential resource for people
affected by Alzheimer’s, but many patients and their families are unaware of
the resources and coverage available when it comes to Alzheimer’s. Senator
Klobuchar will take action to expand Medicare covered services for Alzheimer’s
and she will expand efforts to make patients and their families aware of the
care-planning and services that are covered. She will also support an ongoing
investment in public health infrastructure for Alzheimer’s that reduces risk,
improves early detection and diagnosis, and focuses on tribal, rural, minority,
and other underserved populations.
the National Institutes of Health and invest in research for chronic conditions.
While the current administration has proposed draconian cuts to lifesaving
research, Senator Klobuchar will bolster research at the National Institutes of
Health and increase investments in research into cancer, including breast
cancer, which the Senator has long supported, and other chronic conditions. And
Senator Klobuchar will also invest in research into health disparities.
Significant and persistent disparities exist in health outcomes for minority
populations in the United States. When it comes to healthy aging, research has
shown divides based on race, wealth, and education. Senator Klobuchar will
invest in research across the federal government into the causes of these
disparities and how they can be reduced.
in Alzheimer’s research.
Senator Klobuchar will commit to preventing, treating and facilitating a cure
for Alzheimer’s disease, with the goal of putting us on a path toward
developing a cure and treatment by 2025. To support researchers, she will make
sure that funding is reliable and consistent. Since African Americans and the
Latino community will represent nearly 40 percent of the 8.4 million American
families affected by Alzheimer’s disease by 2030, Senator Klobuchar will
increase federal research into disparities in the incidents and outcomes of
Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Improve mental health care for seniors. Senator Klobuchar is committed to making mental health a priority, including for our seniors. As part of her recently released mental health plan, she will expand access to mental health treatment for seniors and expand depression treatment and suicide prevention efforts that focus on seniors.
Implement and extend Kevin and Avonte’s law and expand dementia training. Senator Klobuchar introduced bipartisan legislation signed into law last year that helps families locate missing people with forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s, or developmental disabilities, such as autism. As President, Senator Klobuchar will make sure the program is fully implemented and she will also establish federal partnerships with state and local governments to provide dementia training for public sector workers who interact with seniors.
Ensure a Secure Retirement
Protect Social Security and make sure it is fair. Social Security has served as a stable and secure retirement guarantee for generations of Americans. Senator Klobuchar believes that this program must remain solvent for generations to come and she will fight against risky schemes to privatize it. As President, Senator Klobuchar will work to lift the Social Security payroll cap. Currently the payroll tax only applies to wages up to $133,000. Senator Klobuchar supports subjecting income above $250,000 to the payroll tax and extending the solvency of Social Security. And Senator Klobuchar will make sure people are treated fairly by the current Social Security system. As President, she will work to strengthen and improve Social Security benefits for widows and people who took significant time out of the paid workforce to care for their children, aging parents, or sick family members.
Expand retirement savings. Senator Klobuchar believes all Americans deserve a secure retirement. As she has previously announced, Senator Klobuchar will work to create innovative, portable personal savings accounts called Up Accounts that can be used for retirement and emergencies by establishing a minimum employer contribution to a savings plan. [ This proposal is modeled after the Saving for the Future Act, which was introduced by Senators Coons and Klobuchar.] Under her plan, employers will set aside at least 50 cents per hour worked, helping a worker build more than $600,000 in wealth over the course of a career. And Senator Klobuchar will work to reduce disparities when it comes to retirement savings. According to a recent study, the median wealth for white families was more than $134,000, but for African American families it was just $11,000.
Defend pensions. Senator Klobuchar has been a leader in the Senate when it comes to keeping our pension promises. As President, she will support legislation to ensure retirees can keep the pensions they have earned and, in her first 100 days, she will recommend that Treasury heighten the scrutiny of any applications to reduce retiree benefits under the Kline-Miller Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014.
Improve Health Care for Seniors and Lower Prescription Drug Costs
Unleash the power of 43 million seniors in Medicare Part D to negotiate better drug prices. Seniors should have access to their medicines at the lowest possible prices. As President, Senator Klobuchar will push to allow the government to directly negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare Part D, building on legislation she has led in the Senate.
Take immediate and aggressive action to lower prescription drug prices, including allowing personal importation from countries like Canada and crack down on “Pay-for-Delay” agreements. Senator Klobuchar has been a leading advocate for reducing the price of prescription drugs for seniors, including by helping close the Medicare Part D donut hole and introducing legislation to increase competition and require Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices. As President, during her first 100 days she will allow for the personal importation of prescription drugs from safe countries like Canada and crack down on “Pay-for-Delay” agreements that increase the cost of prescription drugs.
Strengthen Medicare and provide incentives for getting the best quality health care at the best price. Senator Klobuchar opposes cuts and risky schemes to privatize Medicare and will take action to strengthen Medicare and find solutions so it remains solvent. She will improve Medicare for current beneficiaries by reforming payment policies through measures like site neutral payments and providing incentives for getting the best quality health care at the best price, including bundled payments and telehealth.
Expand coverage for dental, vision and hearing under Medicare. Dental, vision, and hearing care should be covered as part of Medicare. Senator Klobuchar will support new Medicare coverage for these services that makes them affordable for all seniors.
Expand telehealth and rural health services and maintain rural hospitals. In the Senate, Senator Klobuchar has championed policies that ensure seniors who want to stay in their homes and communities can do so. As President, she will promote remote monitoring technology and telehealth services in Medicare and other programs that improve the quality of life and expand access to quality home care and emergency hospital services in rural areas. As President, she would work to create a new Rural Emergency Hospital classification under Medicare to help rural hospitals stay open and provide expanded support to our critical access hospitals.
Invest in Long-Term Care
Create a refundable tax credit to offset long-term care costs. Senator Klobuchar will work with Congress to establish a new refundable tax credit to help offset the costs of long-term care. The credit will be available for qualifying long-term care costs including both nursing facility care and home- and community-based services, and additional expenses like assistive technologies, respite care, and necessary home modifications. The credit will be targeted towards those who are most in need of support. Senator Klobuchar will also stand up to efforts to cap Medicaid spending, which would put services like mental health care, transportation costs, and long-term care at risk for millions of Americans.
Reduce the costs of long-term care insurance and increase access. Senator Klobuchar believes seniors and their adult children must have the resources they need to prepare for long-term care, including education about the types of services available. To reduce the costs of long-term care, Senator Klobuchar will propose a new targeted tax credit equal to 20 percent of the premium costs of qualified long-term care insurance. Senator Klobuchar will also establish incentives and make it easier for employers to offer their employees long-term care insurance on an opt-out basis. In addition, she will explore updating federal policies to combine long-term care policies with life insurance.
Provide financial relief to caregivers and ensure paid family leave for all Americans, including those who care for elderly or disabled relatives. Senator Klobuchar is proposing a tax credit of up to $6,000 a year to provide financial relief to those caring for an aging relative or a relative with a disability to help offset expenses, including the cost of medical care, counseling and training, lodging away from home, adult day care, assistive technologies, and necessary home modifications. As President, Senator Klobuchar will also support legislation to provide paid family leave to all Americans so no one has to sacrifice a paycheck to care for someone they love, including an elderly parent.
Support a world class long-term care workforce, increase long-term care options, and tackle disparities in long-term care. Senator Klobuchar believes we must invest in and address shortages in our long-term care workforce. She is committed to increasing wages, improving job conditions and promoting other recruitment and retention policies, especially in rural communities facing workforce challenges. She will also support training for long-term care workers and new loan forgiveness programs for in-demand occupations that includes our long-term care workers. In addition, she will expand long-term care facilities and beds as well as home care and telehealth services. Research also suggests that there are significant racial and ethnic disparities in the quality of long-term care as well as disparities in coverage for long-term care. Senator Klobuchar is committed to tackling disparities in care through expanding access to long-term care with a focus on reducing inequities as well as addressing the costs of long-term care services for people in the greatest need of assistance.
Reduce Costs and Prevent Fraud
Fight senior fraud and elder abuse. As a prosecutor, Senator Klobuchar created a senior protection unit at the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office. And she has always believed that we need strong safeguards to prevent and address fraud, abuse and exploitation of our seniors, and has led and passed multiple bills in the Senate that would strengthen these safeguards. Within her first 100 days as President, she will establish a new senior fraud prevention office to educate consumers, expedite the handling of complaints, and coordinate prevention efforts across the federal government. Senator Klobuchar will stregthen enforcement of age discrimination laws, and she will also take action to tackle elder abuse, strengthen oversight and accountability for court-appointed guardians, support training for employees at long-term care facilities, and increase tracking of incidents and investigations to help prevent and better respond to elder abuse.
Improve access to affordable housing, transit, and nutrition for seniors and expand workforce opportunities. In the first 100 days of her Administration, Senator Klobuchar will reverse the Trump Administration’s proposed changes to federal housing subsidies that could triple rent for some households and would be particularly harmful for seniors. In addition, she will update regulations for reverse mortgages to make sure seniors have access to safe products that make it easier to stay in their homes, as well as expand support for affordable senior housing. Senator Klobuchar is also committed to expanding transportation programs and services for older adults, particularly in rural and underserved populations. She also supports expanding resources for Meals on Wheels, helping the food bank system serve seniors in need, and launching a national effort to increase enrollment among seniors in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Senator Klobuchar will also work to expand workforce and training opportunities for older Americans who are looking to remain in and return to the workforce.
Help seniors afford their energy costs: Senator Klobuchar strongly opposes efforts by the Trump Administration to eliminate funding for programs like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps seniors afford heating and cooling. As President, Senator Klobuchar’s budget will preserve and expand resources for LIHEAP and the Weatherization Assistance Program, which helps households in need reduce energy spending, and she will support new efforts to help seniors with their energy costs.
To pay for these policies, Senator Klobuchar will close the trust fund loopholes that allow the wealthy to avoid paying taxes on inherited wealth.
vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has
produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. This is from the
Biden 2020 campaign:
BIDEN PLAN FOR OLDER AMERICANS
The moral obligation of our time is rebuilding
the middle class. The middle class isn’t a number, it’s a value set. And, a key
component of that value set is having a steady, secure income as you age so
your kids won’t have to take care of you in retirement. This means not only
protecting and strengthening Social Security, but also helping more
middle-class families grow their savings.
A dignified retirement also means having access to affordable health care and
support. Too many Americans – and too many older Americans – cannot afford
their prescriptions or their long-term care. Their families are faced with
saving for their own retirement or taking care of their aging parents. It’s not
Working- and middle-class Americans built this country. And, they deserve to
retire with dignity – able to pay for their prescriptions and with access to
quality, affordable long-term care.
STAND UP TO THE ABUSE OF POWER BY PRESCRIPTION DRUG CORPORATIONS
Too many Americans cannot afford their prescription drugs, and prescription
drug corporations are profiteering off of the pocketbooks of sick individuals.
The Biden Plan will put a stop to runaway drug prices and the profiteering of
the drug industry by:
outrageous exception allowing drug corporations to avoid negotiating with
Medicare over drug prices. Because Medicare covers so
many Americans, it has significant leverage to negotiate lower prices for
its beneficiaries. And it does so for hospitals and other providers
participating in the program but not drug manufacturers. Drug
manufacturers not facing any competition, therefore, can charge whatever
price they choose to set. There’s no justification for this except the power
of prescription drug lobbying. The Biden Plan will repeal the existing law
explicitly barring Medicare from negotiating lower prices with drug
prices for drugs that face no competition and are being abusively priced
by manufacturers. Through his work on the Cancer Moonshot, Biden
understands that the future of pharmacological interventions is not
traditional chemical drugs, but specialized biotech drugs that will have
little to no competition to keep prices in check. Without competition, we
need a new approach for keeping the prices of these drugs down. For these
cases where new specialty drugs without competition are being launched,
under the Biden Plan the Secretary of Health and Human Services will
establish an independent review board to assess their value. The board
will recommend a reasonable price, based on the average price in other
countries (a process called external reference
or, if the drug is entering the U.S. market first, based on an evaluation
by the independent board members. This reasonable price will be the rate
Medicare and the public option will pay. In addition, the Biden Plan will
allow private plans participating in the individual marketplace to access
a similar rate.
increases for all brand, biotech and abusively priced generic drugs to
a condition of participation in the Medicare program and public option,
all brand, biotech and abusively priced generic drugs will be prohibited
from increasing their prices more than the general inflation rate. The
Biden plan will also impose a tax penalty on drug manufacturers that
increase the costs of their brand, biotech or abusively priced generic
over the general inflation rate.
consumers to buy prescription drugs from other countries. To create
more competition for U.S. drug corporations, the Biden Plan will allow
consumers to import prescription drugs from other countries, as long as
the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has certified that those
drugs are safe.
supply of quality generics. Generics help reduce health
care spending, but brand drug corporations have succeeded in preserving a
number of strategies to help them delay the entrance of a generic into the
market even after the patent has expired. The Biden Plan supports numerous
proposals to accelerate the development of safe generics, such as Senator Patrick
Leahy’s proposal to make sure generic
manufacturers have access to a sample.
II. PROTECT AND STRENGTHEN MEDICARE AS WE KNOW
IT AND ENSURE QUALITY, AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE FOR ALL OLDER AMERICANS
On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law,
with Vice President Biden standing by his side, and made history. It was a
victory 100 years in the making. It was the conclusion of a tough fight that
required taking on Republicans, special interests, and the status quo to do
what’s right. But the Obama-Biden Administration got it done.
But, every day over the past nine years, the Affordable Care Act has been under
Immediately after its passage, Congressional Republicans began trying again and
again to repeal it. Following the lead of
President Trump, Republicans in Congress have only doubled down on this
approach since January 2017. And, since repeal through Congress has not been
working, President Trump has been unilaterally doing everything he can to
sabotage the Affordable Care Act. Now, the Trump Administration is trying to
get the entire law – including protections for people with pre-existing
conditions – struck down in court.
As president, Biden will protect
the Affordable Care Act from these continued attacks. He opposes
every effort to get rid of this historic law – including efforts by Republicans,
and efforts by Democrats. Instead of starting from scratch and getting rid of
private insurance, he has a plan to build
on the Affordable Care Act by giving Americans more choice, reducing health care costs, and making our health care system less complex to navigate. You
can read Biden’s full health care plan [here]. In
addition, to improve older Americans’ access to affordable, quality health
care, Biden will:
as we know it. Today,
Medicare provides health insurance coverage to over 60 million older
Americans and people with disabilities. As president, Biden will
continue to defend our nation’s commitment to older Americans and people
with disabilities through Medicare, and he will keep Medicare as a
separate and distinct program, and ensure there is no disruption to the
current Medicare system.
and ensure its beneficiaries can access home and community-based long-term
care when they want it. Medicaid pays for more
long-term care than any other insurer in the country. In fact,
roughly 6 in 10 individuals
residing in nursing homes are enrolled in Medicaid, including many older
Americans. Yet, the Trump Administration is reportedly considering
a plan to cut Medicaid funding by turning it into a block grant. And
Republican leadership in states like Iowa, where Medicaid has been
privatized with devastating results for some
of its most vulnerable residents, are not fulfilling their obligations
under the program. The Biden Plan will protect Medicaid funding and make
sure the program gives those on Medicaid who need long-term care the
flexibility to choose home- and community-based care. In addition, the
Biden Administration won’t let states skirt their duties under Medicaid
and will take enforcement action against any state that allows
profiteering to get in the way of Medicaid beneficiaries’ health.
relief to help solve the long-term care challenge. The Biden
Plan will also help Americans pay for long-term care by providing relief
for Americans needing long-term care by creating a $5,000 tax credit for
informal caregivers, modeled off of legislation
supported by AARP. These informal caregivers –
whether family members or other loved ones – have for too long been doing
tireless work without any financial support. In addition, Biden will
increase the generosity of tax benefitsfor older
Americans who choose to buy long-term care insurance and pay for it using
their savings for retirement.
Care for our
physical, emotional, and financial challenges of caring for a loved one is
enormous. As president, Biden will work to enact at the federal level
Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act, which has
already been passed in 39 states. This
legislation will help our caregivers by ensuring hospitals equip them with
instructions and information when their loved ones are discharged. Biden
also supports additional proposals to support caregivers, such as funding
to give them access to respite care.
The Biden Plan will protect Social Security for the millions of Americans who
depend on the program. With Social Security’s Trust Fund already in deficit and expected to be
exhausted in 2035, we
urgently need action to make the program solvent and prevent cuts to American
But the Biden Plan doesn’t stop there. As president, Joe Biden will strengthen
benefits for the most vulnerable older Americans – including widows and
widowers, lifelong workers with low monthly benefits, and old-age beneficiaries
who may have exhausted their other savings. Specifically, the Biden Plan will:
Security on a path to long-run solvency. The impending exhaustion of
the Social Security Trust fund imperils American retirement as we know it.
Waiting to act only jeopardizes the program further, and will make an
eventual solution that much more difficult. The Biden Plan will put the
program on a path to long-term solvency by asking Americans with
especially high wages to pay the same taxes on those earnings that
middle-class families pay.
nature of Social Security. Social Security is one of
our nation’s great public policy successes, in large part due to the fact
that participation in the program is shared across almost all workers.
Efforts to privatize the program – such as an approach suggested under the
Bush Administration – will undermine the program’s solvency, while putting
at risk individuals’ income in retirement. Similarly, proposals to make
the program “means-tested” – so that only low-income retirees workers
receive benefits – jeopardizes the program’s universal nature and key role
as the bedrock of American retirement. Ultimately, the success of Social
Security is largely due to the fact that almost all Americans can rely on
the program to make their retirement more secure.
Provide a higher
benefit for the oldest Americans. At advanced ages, Americans
become more vulnerable to exhausting their savings, sometimes falling into
poverty and living a life of hardship. The Biden Plan will provide the
oldest beneficiaries – those who have been receiving retirement
benefits for at least 20
with a higher monthly check to help protect retirees from the pain of
dwindling retirement savings.
Implement a true
minimum benefit for lifelong workers. No one who has worked for
decades and paid into Social Security should have to spend their
retirement in poverty. The Biden Plan will revolutionize the Social
Security’s minimum benefit, which has deteriorated over time to the point
of being entirely ineffective. Under the Biden Plan, workers who spent 30
years working will get a benefit of at least 125%
of the poverty level.
and widowers from steep cuts in benefits. For many
couples, the death of a spouse means that Social Security benefits will be
cut in half – putting pressure on the surviving spouse who still needs to
make the mortgage payment and handle other bills. The Biden Plan
will allow surviving
keep a higher share of the benefits. This will make an appreciable
difference in the finances of older Americans, especially women (who live
longer on average than men), raising the monthly payment by about 20% for
teachers and other public-sector workers. Current rules penalize
teachers and other public sector workers who either switch jobs or who
have earned retirement benefits from various sources. The Biden Plan would
eliminate these penalties by ensuring that teachers not eligible for
Social Security will begin receiving benefits sooner – rather than the
current ten-year period for many teachers. The Biden Plan
will also get rid of the benefit cuts for workers and surviving
beneficiaries who happen to be covered by both Social Security and another
pension. These workers deserve the benefits they earned.
IV. EQUALIZE SAVING INCENTIVES FOR
In the modern retirement landscape, a sound retirement begins with years of
diligent saving. While other aspects of the Biden Plan will help raise wages
for workers and reduce costs for spending like child care and health insurance,
the Biden Plan will also ensure that middle-class families get a leg up as they
grow their nest egg.
Under current law, the tax code affords workers over $200 billion
each year for various retirement benefits – including saving in 401(k)-type
plans or IRAs. While these benefits help workers reach their retirement goals,
many are poorly designed to help low- and middle-income savers – about
two-thirds of the benefit goes to the wealthiest 20% of families. The
Biden Plan will make these savings more equal so that middle class families can
enter retirement with enough savings to support a healthy and secure
retirement. President Biden will do so by:
tax benefits of defined contribution plans. The
current tax benefits for retirement savings are based on the concept of
deferral, whereby savers get to exclude their retirement contributions
from tax, see their savings grow tax free, and then pay taxes when they
withdraw money from their account. This system provides upper-income
families with a much stronger tax break for saving and a limited benefit
for middle-class and other workers with lower earnings. The Biden Plan
will equalize benefits across the income scale, so that low- and
middle-income workers will also get a tax break when they put money away
penalties for caregivers who want to save for retirement. Under
current law, people who work as caregivers without receiving wages are
ineligible to get tax breaks for retirement saving. The Biden Plan will
allow caregivers to make “catch-up” contributions to retirement accounts,
even if they’re not earning income in the formal labor market, as has
been proposed in
bipartisan legislation by Representatives Jackie Walorski
and Harley Rouda.
businesses a tax break for starting a retirement plan and giving workers
the chance to save at work. As proposed by the
Obama-Biden Administration, the Biden Plan will call for widespread
adoption of workplace savings plans and offer tax credits to small
businesses to offset much of the costs. Under Biden’s plan, almost all
workers without a pension or 401(k)-type plan will have access to an
“automatic 401(k),” which provides the opportunity to easily save for
retirement at work – putting millions of middle-class families in the path
to a secure retirement.
V. PROVIDE HELP FOR OLDER WORKERS WHO WANT TO
With longer lifespans and the changing nature of work, many Americans are
choosing to stay in the workforce longer. Despite their valuable contributions,
these workers often face illegal discrimination or steep tax penalties when
they try to continue to earn a living. Joe Biden believes that all workers
deserve an opportunity to earn a living and will fight to change the laws to
allow all people – regardless of their age – to get the pay they deserve. The
Biden Plan will:
Americans against harmful age discrimination. As
president, Biden will back bipartisan legislation protecting older workers
from being discriminated against in the workforce. According to an AARP
this practice is widespread – with more than 60% of older workers
reporting discrimination because of their age. The Biden Plan will put in
place workplace safeguards making it easier for older workers to prove
that they were treated unfairly at work.
Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to older workers. The EITC
is one of the most effective strategies for helping low-wage workers
achieve a living wage. Unfortunately, the EITC is not available to workers
once they turn 65, putting them at a distinct disadvantage relative to
their younger peers. As president, Joe Biden will allow low-wage older
workers to claim the tax credit they deserve.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced $18.5 million included in the FY 2019 Enacted Budget to launch a multi-pronged program for at-risk young people that will help Long Island communities cut off the MS-13 gang recruitment pipeline. Of this funding, $16 million will support the expansion of after-school programs, case management services and job opportunities for vulnerable youth, as well as community and local law enforcement initiatives to prevent gang involvement. A total of $2.5 million in funding will also support the Gun Involved Violence Elimination initiative and SNUG street outreach on Long Island, which provide law enforcement agencies and community-based organizations with resources to help combat gun and gang violence using proven, evidence-based strategies. Together, this commitment builds on progress New York has made over the past year and ensures that young people have the tools and resources to avoid involvement in a gang.
“New York will not tolerate the monstrous acts and fear that MS-13 has brought to our communities, and by focusing on educating and protecting our young residents, we are furthering our efforts to drive out these violent criminals,” Governor Cuomo said. “The launch of this comprehensive plan invests in critical programming to help stomp out gang recruitment, engage young men and women during and after school, and help protect New Yorkers from being victimized, as we work to eliminate MS-13’s presence in this state for good.”
MS-13 is an international criminal gang that emerged in the United States in the 1980s. They engage in a wide range of criminal activity and are uniquely violent, oftentimes engaging in brutal acts simply to increase the gang’s notoriety. Despite violent crime being down dramatically on Long Island over the past several years, a recent uptick in violent crime, including a series of senseless homicides, has been traced directly back to the MS-13 gang. This funding is the latest component of a holistic approach laid out by Governor Cuomo to eradicate MS-13 on Long Island and protect New York’s communities.
Comprehensive Programs for At-Risk Youth on Long Island
Expand the Empire State After-School Program: $2 Million
The FY 2019 Budget includes $2 million to expand the Empire State After School Program this year to schools and nonprofit organizations located in at-risk areas on Long Island, which have been identified by the State Office of Children and Family Services, Division of Criminal Justice Services, and Division of State Police, as well as County Executives, and local law enforcement agencies. This expanded initiative will keep young people engaged in sports, music, art, and other educational programming during after school hours and help deter potential gang activity or involvement.
Increase Job and Training Opportunities for At-Risk Youth: $5 Million
The successful New York Youth Jobs program will dedicate up to $5 million to provide job and training opportunities to young people who are most at-risk of being potentially recruited into gangs. This program will guide youth toward employment and vocational training positions and provide tax incentives to companies that hire unemployed, out-of-school youth between the ages of 16 and 24. This engagement will help provide a pathway for young people who may be pressured into crime because of their financial disadvantage.
Provide Gang Prevention Education Programs: $2 Million
Over the next three years, $2 million will be invested to support local education programs focused on early intervention and violence prevention that target middle and high school students. Working with school districts and community-based organizations, this initiative will provide students with counseling, group programming, and other social services to help them avoid gang recruitment, peer pressure, violence, and delinquent behavior. Law enforcement agencies working with schools and community-based organizations on gang prevention education to help both in-school and out-of-school youth will be able to share $500,000 of this investment.
Develop Comprehensive Support Services For Vulnerable Youth: $3 Million
To provide immigrant youth with the resources they need to succeed, a $3 million investment included in the FY 2019 Budget will be provided over three years to support comprehensive case management. This service will be used to support vulnerable young people, particularly new immigrant children who are often the focus of MS-13 recruitment. This case management will include medical and mental health support, addiction treatment, trauma and family counseling, language training, and other community support services to promote positive social-emotional development and strong ties to the community.
Establish a New Community Assistance Team: $4 Million
To identify and respond to gang activity in “hot spots,” as well as support local requests for actionable intelligence and increased service, the FY 2019 Budget supports the deployment of a State Police Community Assistance Team to Long Island. The 11-person team will include six Troopers, three investigators, one senior investigator, and one supervisor designated to partner with local law enforcement and community-based agencies to support their efforts to curtail gang-related crime.
State Support for Violence Reduction Efforts through GIVE and SNUG Initiatives
Gun Involved Violence Elimination Initiative Funding: $1.9 Million
The FY 2019 Budget continues to support the DCJS Gun Involved Violence Elimination Initiative, which is a nationally-recognized approach to reduce violence using evidence-based strategies. This year, Nassau and Suffolk counties will receive a total GIVE award of $1.9 million to fund community outreach efforts, training, equipment, and personnel – such as prosecutors and crime analysts. This support will be shared among Long Island’s police departments, district attorneys’ offices, probation departments, and sheriffs’ offices.
SNUG Street Outreach Funding:$687,500
The FY 2019 Budget also continues support for the DCJS SNUG programs on Long Island. These programs, located in Hempstead and Wyandanch, provide community-based organizations, in partnership with local law enforcement, resources to conduct street outreach and steer young people away from violence. This year, these two organizations will receive a total of $687,500 – an increase of $78,500 over the previous year.
Combatting Gang Violence on Long Island
Investments included in the FY 2019 Budget mark the latest effort to eradicate gang violence on Long Island led by Governor Cuomo. Last April, the Governor directed the State Police to deploy resources on Long Island to help combat MS-13, including 25 Troopers to conduct high visibility patrols in Brentwood and Central Islip, as well as undercover operations specifically targeting and saturating neighborhoods known to have high levels of gang activity. The State Police also provided six new investigators to the FBI-led Long Island Gang Task Force which comprises more than 30 members of federal, state and local law enforcement partners, and helps agencies combine intelligence and other resources to conduct comprehensive investigations into gang activity.
Most recently, Governor Cuomo announced the deployment of a new Gang Violence Prevention Unit, consisting of 10 State Troopers. The unit will work to identify early warning signs of gang activity and coordinates closely with the Suffolk County Police Department on an “Educate the Educators” program to help teachers and faculty recognize the early warning signs of gang involvement and recruitment and provide training to students on the dangers of street gangs. Today’s announcement enacts the 4th Proposal of the Governor’s State of the State which was announced last December in advance of the legislative session.
Senator Phil Boyle said, “New York’s investments in gang prevention strategies, education programming, and gun safety initiatives have set us apart from the rest, supporting an increase in community outreach and, a decrease in violent crimes on Long Island. Thanks to the unwavering commitment and collaboration of Governor Cuomo, my colleagues in the NY State Senate and local leaders throughout the region, this latest investment will take our efforts to new heights and engage more students than ever before. I commend our communities for sticking together as we work to put an end, once and for all, to MS-13.”
Assemblyman Phil Ramos said, “MS-13 has wreaked havoc in our communities for far too long. I am proud to have worked with my colleagues in the legislature and alongside Governor Cuomo to ensure necessary funding is delivered to Long Island to help stop these dangerous criminals in their tracks and protect our some of our most vulnerable New Yorkers. I look forward to young men and women engaging in more after-school activities and taking advantage of new job training opportunities, as we work to build a brighter future for all of our residents.”
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said, “As crime in Suffolk County continues to decline and remains at historic lows, we are committed to eradicating MS-13 through a comprehensive approach by focusing not just on law enforcement but also stopping the recruitment pipeline. Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s leadership, this state investment will provide the necessary resources to help fund this anti-gang approach and keep our communities safe.”
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said, “I am proud of the joint efforts across Long Island to eliminate the fear of gang violence and return peace to our communities. Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s continued leadership he has ensured the state’s the FY 2019 Budget delivered the funding necessary to provide much needed education programs and gang prevention strategies that will help keep our kids safe. In addition, he again shows his support for the men and women of our police departments by making sure they are equipped with the tools needed to combat gang violence and hold perpetrators accountable. I look forward to working with state and local partners to launch these programs and help shape the lives of New York’s young men and women.”
Suffolk County Legislator Monica R. Martinez said, “The state’s holistic approach – educating and protecting our children while working together to put an end to MS-13, is the road map we need to ensure a brighter future for all our residents. Under the leadership of Governor Cuomo, crucial funding has been delivered to Long Island that will help drive out fear from our neighborhoods and equip community organizations and schools with the tools we need to wipe out this vicious gang for good. I applaud our state leaders for working together to ensure these investments are made, and for working side-by-side with our region to keep our students safe.”
Governors of New York and California and the Governor-Elect of New Jersey and California joined forces to condemn the Republican tax plan as a “stake in the heart” of the nation’s economic engine, a cynical ploy to punish Democratic-majority states, and only the first-step toward generating such an increase in the national debt to justify cuts in Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, CHIP and other social programs, and threatened to challenge the legality of elements of the tax plan should it become law.
In a joint press call, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, California Governor Jerry Brown and New Jersey Governor-Elect Phil Murphy and using phrases such as “evil,” “nefarious” and “cynical,” raised issues of the legality of elements of the Republican tax plan, which shifts $1.5 trillion in wealth from middle class and working families to the wealthy – indeed, 50% of the tax cuts go directly into the pocket of the top 1% – through lowered tax rates, elimination of the AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax), reductions if not elimination in the Estate Tax (which only impacts 2 out of 1000 families now), and new rules enabling the wealthiest to shelter tax through pass-throughs.
But the Republicans pay for the cuts by largely eliminating or significantly reducing the deductibility of state and local taxes, including property taxes, effectively double-taxing, something that has not existed since income taxes were first implemented in 1913, which disproportionately targets 12 states that happen to vote Democratic and also happen to be the donor states that account for 40% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). A similar effort during the 1986 Reagan tax reform effort was defeated by both Republicans and Democrats. The governors say this may be challenged as unconstitutional double-taxation.
Other provisions, such as establishing a legal framework for “personhood” may also be challenged as unconstitutional.
The way the Republican tax plan is structured, it shifts wealth from the 12 “donor” (Democratic-majority) states, to the rest of the country, by eliminating or dramatically reducing the tax deductibility of state and local taxes, including property taxes. In effect, it makes those states structurally uncompetitive by effectively increasing taxes by 20-25 percent for homeowners, may reduce home values by that amount, as well as make it difficult for schools (which account for 60-65% of New Yorkers’ property taxes and 40% of California’s) to raise the revenue they need to property function. But while individuals lose the deductibility of SALT, corporations do not.
In a further blow to public education and stripping away of the separation of Church & State, the Republicans would allow the tax-exempt 529 funds, created to fund college, to be used for K-12 education for parochial and private schools, even homeschooling. (This is on top of repealing the Johnson Amendment, opening floodgates of “charitable” contributions to religious institutions to become political PACs; a particularly insidious breach of the Constitution’s Establishment clause because the religious leader preaching from the pulpit has a special ability to coerce.
The governors held at the hope that the wildly unpopular Congress (only 13% approval) and the most unpopular president in history (33% approval), will recognize the tax plan is similarly wildly unpopular, with barely 20% support, and that Republican Congressmen who have to stand for election in 2018, will do what is best for their constituents.
The Senate version, which eliminates the individual mandate from the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), would result in 13 million more people without health insurance by 2025, and 10 percent annual increases in premiums on everyone else.
The bill also “pays” for the tax cuts to the richest Americans and corporations by eliminating the deductibility of student loan interest, tax credits for renewable energy, and opens the way for drilling in the Arctic National Refuge, and other provisions which help the upward mobility of working families and middle class striving to achieve the American Dream.
The governors held out a glimmer of hope that enough of the Republicans (the only ones who voted in favor of the tax plan) would vote for their constituents’ interests.
“The tax plan that passed Senate, the House, and is headed to reconciliation, is a long way from done. It is a fraud on the American people. They talk about tax cuts for middle class and working people, but what it is, is tax cut for the rich – 50% of the tax cuts go to the top 1%. That’s an inarguable fact. Their theory isn’t new or novel. It’s ‘trickle down’ on steroids.” He argued that instead of corporations taking their tax cuts to raise wages for workers or create more jobs through investment, corporations in the past have pocketed the extra cash or used it to buy back stock (raising the share prices) or paying dividends.
“To add insult to injury,” Cuomo said. “the tax cut is then targeted at 12 states that happen to be Blue States where they target eliminating state and local deductions. People don’t understand what that will do, but it will be devastating for states. In essence, it is an increase in property taxes and state income tax only on those 12 states. It puts us at a structurally competitive disadvantage because structurally our taxes will be higher.” That gives residents additional complaint about their government (Republicans even now charge that New York’s taxes are high because of mismanagement, or lavish spending on services). Cuomo countered the claim by Republicans that the poorer states somehow subsidize the public services of the richer states. New York, California and New Jersey are donor states, which means we put more into the [federal] till than we take out. This aggravates and enhances the injustice where we are subsidizing the other states, and now you’re using New York and New Jersey as a piggybank to finance tax cuts in other states.
“That amounts to political retaliation through the tax code. That’s why they passed it with only their own votes,” Cuomo charged.
California Governor Jerry Brown assailed the Republican tax plan saying, “the most immediate evil of this cynical maneuver called the tax bill is to further divide America when we are at one of our most divisive periods in history. The idea that a president and representatives only in the majority would use that power to penalize 12 states – most of which voted strongly against this president– is not going to bring country together. We are divided while some of our most important competitors are getting more unified, authoritarian. We need to come together. This will further divide blue states from red, Democrats from Republicans. It is evil in the extreme. It exacerbates inequality….It’s not right. It won’t stand.”
New Jersey Governor-Elect Philip Murphy further expounded on the devastating impact in terms of widening inequality and continuing down the awful path of us vs Washington leadership.
“It is based on the trickle down theory, which we have seen time and again doesn’t work. Executives get paid better, the gap between the top of corporate food chain and bottom widens; shareholders benefit from buybacks while working people are neglected. It is a scam at the ultimate extreme. On more than one occasion we all heard, when asked for the rationale, the awful answer [from Republicans] was ‘it is our donors, our donor base will dry up if we don’t.’ We saw the chaos Friday night, literally lobbyists hand-writing in pen, amending the bill. This is as bad as it gets.
“But in a ‘glass half full’ sense, as Governor Cuomo stated, It’s not over yet. This is the ninth inning. Each of our states have Republican House members. This is beyond Republican, Democrat; it is a clear question of whether you are representing the constituents who elected you. Black & white.”
“The changes in the SALT deduction, are particularly problematic, Murphy said. “That’s been part of the tax code since income tax became legal in 1913. For over 100 years, Congress realized taxing people twice is unfair. We are the biggest odnor states in terms of the federal money we give. This will only make it worse.
“The stronger we are together, the more numbers, the more locked arms, we fight together as a team. There is a lot to be said for that. I am honored to be with you.”
Asked what actions, beyond political pressure on Republican members of Congress, the governors might take, they said that just as the Republicans, the day after Obamacare was signed into law, pledged to repeal and replace, they would also take whatever means – even court challenges– to repeal and replace this tax law.
“We’re looking at the legality now. [SALT deductions] has been in the tax code since it started over 100 years ago. This is double taxation – they are taxing taxes, this from the party that’s against taxation, redistribution [or what Republicans used to condemn as “class warfare”]. This is redistribution in an exponential form –taking from richer states and subsidizing a tax cut in less wealthy states. Hypocritical. Everything they said were against: double-taxation, taxing tax for first time, redistribution state to state, so may well be illegal, unconstitutional. We’re looking at it.”
“There may be some legal action but this is a quintessentially political challenge,” Governor Brown stated. “Our job is to communicate the fraudulent and nefarious character of this tax bill – the way it proceeded, which John McCain said follows no normal pathway. We want to make sure our members of Congress know they are hurting New York, California, New Jersey but also hurting America. We are the key elements of America’s engine of prosperity, and when Trump and his allies attack New York, New Jersey, California, they are attacking the vital seams of the American economy. That’s stupid. They will regret it, and we will do everything we can to convince our Republican representatives that the right thing to do is defeat.
Murphy said they are working with state Attorneys General “to tear up all the floor boards, to the fullest extent of law, and challenge this. There are 500 pages of amendments, a lot handwritten. I am betting there are flaws, holes. If we don’t succeed in the next few days, we will have to take this to the limit.
“This is double taxation and I’m not sure it’s legal,” said Cuomo. “We will find out if it is. But Governor Brown’s point is that it is counterproductive. These 12 states are 40% of GDP. If you say this will help the American economy, how do you do that by assaulting 12 states that are 40% of GDP: this will be negative for our states and regional economies. No doubt about that.”
“Attacking the innovation of NY, CA, NJ and others is just a dumb move, only explained by the desperate situation the Republican leadership find themselves,” Governor Brown added. “This president is the most unpopular is history. They are riding a dead horse in this tax bill, acting irrationally, not in interest of country, throwing a wrench into engine of economy.”
“The more people understand, the more people understand how unfair, divisive and harmful it is to them individually,” Cuomo commented. “The problem is, there is so much news, so much happening. This is so complicated – elimination of state and local taxes but the more people understand it, the more they are against it. Congresspeople and Senators ultimately have to go home, and if they vote for this, they are voting against the interests of their constituents, and they have election next year. Ultimately democracy works. A congressperson who votes for this, there’s no going home again.
“I’m an optimist for the simple reason that we all believe in a different America than this bill articulates,” Murphy said. “The more people understand what’s in this thing, the more actively they push back. What it will do for higher education by repealing tax deduction for student loans, stripping credits for renewable energy, opening Arctic to drilling, on and on –repealing the individual mandate in ACA – the more people realize what’s at stake, the more collectively they say this can’t go forward.
Largely eliminating the SALT deductions, Cuomo said, contradicts the Republican claim their tax plan is supposed to spur the economy. “But targeting 40% of GDP, then saying that’s how you are going to spur economy, by putting arrow into economic heart of these 12 states? There are predictions it will drop the value of homes in our states because property taxes in effect will go up 20-25% over night. If you drop the value of homes, disrupt the whole financial system. Mortgage foreclosures. I don’t think they understand what they are doing.
“We talk about [eliminating SALT deductions] as if it were a new concept,” Governor Cuomo said. “It’s not new. They proposed eliminating SALT during Reagan’s time. At that time, Democrats and Republicans both said it was wrong and defeated it. The difference now is the political extremism and their willingness to divide, and the political extremes they will go to.
“This is only step one of their plan – we know what their plan is, because not new, we’ve seen the playbook. Step one is tax cuts for the rich. Step 2, is to drive up the debt, the deficit, and then come back and say we have $1.5 trillion debt that we created (by cutting taxes for rich), and now we have this debt, we have to address it by cutting government spending. Where will they go? The right to Medicaid, healthcare for poor people. The right to CHIP for poor children, Right to housing programs, food stamps, etc. That’s inevitable. They are creating the debt that will then justify their philosophical step to cut government spending to hurt the poorest Americans.”
“Look at this in its entirety, beyond SALT,” Murphy added. “This is their way to cut Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security. It is the height of hypocrisy from the so-called deficit hawks. Look at higher education and student loans, Obamacare individual mandate, Seen result of trickle down. Pass through. Taken in its entirety, the Republican tax plan is exceedingly damaging not just to our states, but entire country.”
“Republicans saw Obamacare passed and the next day they started Repeal & Replace,” Cuomo said. “If they do this, the next day, we will start the repeal and replace of the divisive Tax Act.”
None of them mentioned, but should have, the increasing pressures on the federal government for disaster relief from climate catastrophes (hundreds of billions of dollars in 2017 alone), the need to address the opioid crisis, and to rebuild and mitigate infrastructure.
“A woman deserves equal pay for equal work. She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship – and you know what, a father does, too.”— President Barack Obama, 2014 State of the Union Address
Today the White House is highlighting two new actions to further support working Americans. First, the Department of Labor is finalizing a rule to require employees of businesses doing work on federal contracts to earn up to seven paid sick days a year. Second, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is publishing its final and approved collection of summary pay data by gender, race, and ethnicity from businesses with 100 or more employees to improve enforcement of our nation’s equal pay laws.
In a White House conference call with reporters, Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania applauded the Administration’s actions, noting that he has been in public office for less than two years, but prior, “I was a business owner, employed up to 600-700 employees. We did all these things – paid sick leave, personal time off, holidays, long vacation time. These were not a cost to the business, they made business sense with lower turnover, better morale, healthier employees, better productivity.
“One of the things we must acknowledge: it’s not just a fair thing, a matter of public health, public good, but something that is good for business. “
More than one million workers will not have to depend on the kindness of employers because of these new rules. “Workers shouldn’t have to win the boss lottery or geographic lottery to win access to paid sick leave,” commented Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Chair Jenny Yang.
Contrary to the “sky is falling” reaction of many private employers, Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez noted, in places where earned sick leave has been implemented – including San Francisco, Tacoma Washington, New York City and Connecticut – employers are by a wide margin satisfied. “When the law into effect [in these places] they had trepidation, but what they saw was that were able to adjust and in fact thrive.” Indeed, customers may be miffed if a waiter sneezes on their plate; other employees can be taken ill because of a worker with a flu could not afford to stay home.
“The beauty of incubators of innovation like Philadelphia, Connecticut, San Francisco, and Tacoma is that we have track record to build on and tremendous confidence that building on this part of the social contract is both good for workers, public health, families and not an undue burden on business.
“Bringing fairness and balance to workplace is really not something that should be seen as expense.”
FACT SHEET: Helping Working Americans Get Ahead by Expanding Paid Sick Leave and Fighting for Equal Pay
Since taking office, President Obama has promoted policies to grow and strengthen the middle class by supporting working families. Despite tremendous changes that have transformed America and its families over the past 50 years, our workplaces have not kept pace. In most families today, both parents work and share in the responsibilities of caring for children or other family members. Recently released data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that these efforts have resulted in strong progress for America’s working families. Today, a record share of private sector workers now have access to paid sick leave, increasing from 61 to 64 percent over the past year. Furthermore, this increase was driven almost entirely by increased access in low-wage jobs: in just one year, the share of workers in the lowest-paid quarter of occupations that had access to paid sick leave jumped from 31 to 39 percent. Since the President took office, the number of private sector workers with paid sick leave has grown by 10.6 million.
Despite this progress, millions of Americans still do not have access to even a single day of paid sick leave, so when workers get sick they may have to choose between caring for themselves or paying their bills. Too many parents must make the painful choice between staying home to take care of a sick child—and losing out on a day’s pay—or sending their child to school sick. For that reason, President Obama has repeatedly called on Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act—which would guarantee most Americans the chance to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave each year—and urging states, cities, and businesses to act where Congress has not.
Similarly, despite a woman’s pay being just as critical for a family to make ends meet, women make less than their male peers. The President has fought to close that gap, and the first legislation he signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, an important step in ensuring that Americans can effectively challenge unequal pay in the courts. Since then, he has taken numerous other steps to advance equal pay, including issuing a 2014 Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against employees who discuss their pay, and announcing a White House Equal Pay Pledge that has now been signed by more than 50 of America’s leading businesses.
Similar to the expansion of paid sick leave, progress has been made on the gender pay gap. In 2008, a typical woman working full-time earned only 77 cents for every dollar earned by a typical man; today, that has risen to 80 cents. That means that for a woman working full-time, the pay gap has shrunk by more than 10 percent, or about $1200, since the President took office.
Yet much work remains. Too many women and workers of color are still not paid equally for equal work, with African-American women earning 63 cents and Latina women earning 54 cents for every dollar earned by a white non-Hispanic man. And 41 million private sector workers do not have access to even a single day of paid sick leave. Today’s actions mark critical progress to support the needs of working Americans and their families.
EXPANDING SICK LEAVE
Last September, President Obama signed an Executive Order requiring federal contractors (and subcontractors) to allow their employees working on federal contracts to earn up to seven paid sick days each year. Today, the Department of Labor is finalizing its rule implementing the order. It takes into account extensive public comments from employers, business associations, small businesses, workers, unions, and worker advocates. The final rule, which goes into effect for new solicitations issued on or after January 1, 2017, will:
Give additional paid sick leave to 1.15 million people working on federal contracts, including nearly 600,000 employees who do not currently have even a single day of paid sick leave. Workers will earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked on (or in connection with) a covered federal contract, up to 56 hours in a year or at any point in time.
Allow workers to use paid sick leave for their own illnesses, preventive care, or other health care needs; to care for a family member or loved one who is ill, seeking preventive care, or otherwise in need of care; and for absences resulting from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Employers may not retaliate against employees for using paid sick leave or require them to find replacements in order to take it.
Improve the health and performance of employees of federal contractors and bring benefits packages offered by federal contractors in line with leading firms, ensuring they remain competitive in the search for dedicated and talented employees.
Protect public health by reducing the transmission of illnesses in the workplace from sick employees to coworkers or their customers.
Respond to employers’ concerns by ensuring coordination with existing “paid time off” policies that give workers a flexible bank of leave; existing collective bargaining agreements; and multi-employer plans.
This action reflects leading practices by major employers, states, and localities throughout the country. Since the President’s call to action in 2014, four states and more than 25 cities and counties have taken action to expand paid sick leave in their community, and many businesses small and large have adopted similar policies. For example:
Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota passed ordinances in May and September, respectively, requiring businesses to offer their workers an hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. Both ordinances go into effect on July 1, 2017 with phased implementation periods. The Twin Cities have a joint population of nearly 700,000 residents, though the ordinances cover anyone who does work within the respective city limits.
Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC), a nonprofit clean energy consulting company and federal contractor in Vermont, testified in support of Vermont’s new paid sick leave law, passed earlier this year. VEIC’s founder pointed to the monetary, physical, and cultural value of paid sick leave to employers.
Cava Grill, a fast-casual national restaurant brand headquartered in Washington, DC, announced in July that it began offering paid sick and parental leave to its hourly workers, for whom it also raised its starting wage to $13 an hour. Employees will now receive up to six days a year of paid sick leave, up to four days of paid parental leave, and one day for community service.
Microsoft, a federal contractor, took a similar step last year by announcing it would require suppliers with at least 50 employees doing business with the company to provide employees who handle its work with 15 days of paid leave annually (including 5 paid sick days). In announcing this change, Microsoft pointed to research showing that paid leave contributes to the health and well-being of workers and their families, strengthens family ties, increases productivity, improves retention, lowers health-care costs, and contributes to the health of colleagues.
ADVANCING EQUAL PAY
Today, the EEOC, in cooperation with the Department of Labor, is publishing its finalized revisions to its EEO-1 form, which for the first time will collect summary pay data, broken down by gender, race, and ethnicity, from all businesses with 100 or more employees. This data collection, which stems from a recommendation by the President’s Equal Pay Task Force and a Presidential Memorandum issued in 2014, is expected to cover roughly 63 million employees and 60,000 employers.
Today’s action will promote improved voluntary compliance by employers with existing equal pay laws. It will also help EEOC and the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) better focus investigations on employers who are illegally shortchanging workers’ pay based on their gender, race, or ethnicity.
The data will be a tool not only for the federal government, but for employers as well. It will help employers evaluate their own pay practices to prevent pay discrimination in their workplaces. The EEOC will also compile and publish aggregate data that will help employers in assessing their pay practices relative to others in the same industry and geographic area.
Businesses have long used the EEO-1 form to report demographic information on their workforces. With the revised EEO-1, businesses also will report summary data on the range of compensation paid to employees of each demographic group. Businesses will not be required to disclose individual employees’ salaries.
Employers will first be required to submit pay data for 2017 by March 31, 2018, giving them 18 months to prepare for the change. This revision does not impact the 2016 EEO-1 report, which is due on September 30, 2016 and is unchanged. EEOC will be offering webinars and technical assistance to employers, payroll and human resource information system providers, and other stakeholders in preparation for the new submission requirements.
Today’s publication of the revised form comes after the EEOC approved this action by a vote of the Commission, and follows final approval by the Office of Management and Budget pursuant to the Paperwork Reduction Act. The EEOC is an independent government agency that enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, and genetic information.
BUILDING ON A RECORD OF SUPPORTING WORKING FAMILIES
Since taking office, President Obama and his Administration have taken a number of actions to support working families and combat the pay gap, including:
Publishing a final regulation by the Department of Health and Human Services to implement the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014. The program provides subsidies to working families and last year provided services for roughly 1.4 million children aged 0-13, most of whom are younger than 5. The rule, which has not been comprehensively revised since 1998, will provide a roadmap to states on how to implement the new law and clarify ambiguities around provisions that deal with eligibility for services; health and safety requirements; and how best to support the needs of parents and providers as they transition to the new law. It also clarifies that worker organizations can provide professional development to child care workers and contribute to discussions around the rates states set for subsidies.
Signing his first piece of legislation as President, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pair Act, in January 2009 making it easier for employees to challenge unfair pay practices.
Creating the National Equal Pay Task Force in January 2010 to implement his pledge to crack down on violations of equal pay laws, which included representatives from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor, and the Office of Personnel Management. The Task Force has issued reports on its progress, including Fighting for Equal Pay in the Workforce, Keeping America’s Women Moving Forward, and Fifty Years After the Equal Pay Act. In addition, since the creation of the Equal Pay Task Force in 2010, the EEOC has received over 18,000 charges of sex-based pay discrimination, and through its independent enforcement efforts, the EEOC has obtained over $140 million in monetary relief for victims of pay discrimination on the basis of sex.
Calling on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, commonsense legislation that would strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by closing loopholes in the defenses for equal pay violations, providing stronger remedies, and expanding protections against discrimination for employees who share or inquire about information about their compensation at work.
Signing a Presidential Memorandum in May 2013 directing the Office of Personnel Management to develop a government-wide strategy to address the gender pay gap in the federal workforce, leading to a report in April 2014 and new guidance in July 2015—which cautioned against reliance on a candidate’s existing salary to set pay, as it can potentially adversely affect women who may have taken time off from their careers or propagate gaps due to discriminatory pay practices by previous employers.
Issuing an Executive Order in April 2014 and publishing a Department of Labor rule in September 2015 prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against employees who discuss or inquire about their compensation.
Announcing a White House Equal Pay Pledge, with more than 50 leading businesses signing on to take action to advance equal pay. By signing the pledge, these companies are committing to conduct an annual company-wide gender pay analysis, review hiring and promotion processes, embed equal pay efforts in broader equity initiatives, and identify and promote best practices that will close the wage gap.
Hosting a White House Summit on Working Families in June 2014, highlighting the issues that women and families face, setting the agenda for a 21st century workplace, and announcing of a number of steps to help working families thrive.
Hosting the United State of Women Summit in June 2016, highlighting the progress that has been made over the course of this Administration and discussing public and private sector solutions to the challenges that still lie ahead.
Signing a Presidential Memorandum in January 2015 directing federal agencies to advance six weeks of paid sick leave to federal employees with new children, calling on Congress to grant another six weeks of paid leave for federal employees, and calling on Congress to pass legislation that gives all American families access to paid family and medical leave.
Publishing a final Department of Labor rule in May updating outdated overtime regulations, expanding overtime pay protections to 4.2 million additional Americans, boosting wages for workers by $12 billion over the next 10 years, and allowing workers to better balance their work and family obligations.
Issuing an Executive Order in February 2014 requiring federal contractors to raise their minimum wage initially to $10.10 an hour, indexing it, and lifting the tipped minimum wage (which disproportionately impacts women)—and urging Congress, states, cities, and businesses to do the same.
Directing the Office of Personnel Management and federal agencies to enhance workplace flexibility for federal employees to the maximum extent practicable, including enshrining a right to request flexible work arrangements.
Signing into law the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, which requires agencies to support and establish policies for telework by eligible employees.
Calling on Congress to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would require employers to make reasonable accommodations to workers who have limitations from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions (unless it would impose an undue hardship on the employer). The legislation would also prohibit employers from forcing pregnant employees to take paid or unpaid leave if a reasonable accommodation would allow them to work.
Finalizing a Department of Labor rule updating its sex discrimination guidelines for federal contractors for the first time since 1978, to align with current law and address barriers to equal opportunity and pay, such as pay discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environments, a lack of workplace accommodations for pregnant women, and gender identity and family caregiving discrimination.
Announcing the Department of Labor’s award of $54 million in “Strengthening Working Families” grants to help low- to middle-skilled parents access the affordable, quality child care they need to earn an education, participate in training programs, and compete for better-paying jobs in emergency industries.
Expanding access for women to higher-paying jobs through a proposed rule updating equal employment opportunity requirements in registered apprenticeships and through a Mega-Construction Projects (MCP) Initiative at the Department of Labor.
The 10th Annual Clinton Global Citizen Awards, held during a special ceremony during the 12th and last Clinton Global Initiative to honor outstanding individuals for their exemplary leadership and groundbreaking work which has effected positive social change.
This year’s ceremony honored Jon Bon Jovi in recognition of the 10-year anniversary of the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation which focuses on the issues of affordable housing and hunger in the U.S. through community development initiatives. Bon Jovi also entertained.
Additional honorees include President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia for his commitment to establish peace in Colombia following a 50 year civil war; Dr.Hawa Abdi for her work to provide refuge, quality healthcare, education and entrepreneurship opportunities to all Somalis; Adi Godrej for transforming his family’s multinational company into a leader of social and environmental value creation; and Nadia Mura, a Yazidi woman captured and enslaved by ISIS, for the courage to tell her story and be a voice for the thousands of women and children who have been trafficked in situations of conflict.
In addition to Bon Jovi’s performance, there was a special appearance of Andrea Bocelli who performed with the Voices of Haiti Choir.
Presenters were themselves noteworthy humanitarians and activists: Sister Mary Scullion, executive director of Project HOME in Philadelphia, who presented the award to Jon Bon Jovi; Iman who presented the award to Dr. Doqo Mohamed who accepted on behalf of her mother, Dr. Hawa Abdi; Luis A. Moreno, President of the Inter-American Development Bank, who presented the award to President Santos; Advija Ibrahimovic, a survivor of the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia in 1992, presented the award to Nadia Murad, and Hikmet Ersek President & CEO of The Western Union Company, presented the award to Adi Godrej.
Jon Bon Jovi, Leadership in Philanthropy
Sister Mary Scullion, who heads Project HOME, focused on breaking the cycle of homelessness and poverty, presented the Global Citizen Award for Leadership in Philanthropy to Jon Bon Jovi, saying, “He refused to let his fame and fortune shield him from the pain and suffering in society.
Ten years ago, he established the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing about positive change and helping the lives of those in need, “one SOUL at a time.” The Soul Foundation funds partnerships that address the issues of hunger and shelter, benefiting temporary shelters, transitional housing for teens, permanent supportive housing—including housing for veterans and special needs populations—as well as providing home ownership opportunities. In October 2011, the foundation opened the first JBJ Soul Kitchen in Red Bank, New Jersey to address issues of food insecurity. Staying true to Bon Jovi’s roots, the foundation aided in local recovery efforts in the days following Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The following year, Bon Jovi donated $1 million to the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund.
Over the past 10 years, it has served over 1000 families, veterans and youth; served 55,000 meals at the Soul Kitchen in Red Bank, where millionaires sit at tables with homeless, paying what they can or if they don’t have the cash, volunteering their time. A second restaurant has opened in Toms River.
“It is testament to the fundamental dignity of every person, what our world can and should be: a place where everyone is served with dignity, given an opportunity to work, and create more just and welcoming society.”
Bon Jovi, who said he was inspired by Clinton, reflected, “In 2005, I saw a homeless person sleeping on a grate in front of City Hall. I realized homelessness could affect any one. Most people are just one catastrophe away from financial ruin.
“In 2008, I saw food insecurity. In the most powerful country in the world, 1 in 7 don’t have enough food, one in five children are food insecure. It’s a matter of access and opportunity, so when we started the restaurant, we had a pay-it-forward concept.
“This is the 10th anniversary of our foundation. I humbly accept this recognition on behalf of our staff, volunteers, and 55,000 supporters who have dined with us.”
“President Clinton is fond of saying, ‘There is nothing wrong with America that can’t be cured by what is right with America’.”
Nadia Murad, Leadership in Civil Society
Advija Ibrahimovic, who presented the Global Citizen award to Nadia Murad, was herself a survivor of genocidal atrocity, orphaned when she was just 11 in the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia in 1992.
“I was 11 when I lost both my parents in the Bosnian genocide. Like Nadia, I experienced violence and deep loss. Everything can be taken from a person except freedom to decide what you will do with your heart and mind. She dedicated herself to raising awareness of these women.”
She shared the story of Nadia Murad, who was born and raised in the quiet agricultural village of Kocho, Iraq. A member of the Yazidi community, Nadia and her family lived a peaceful, happy life. On August 3, 2014 her village was attacked by ISIS, marking the beginning of its savage genocidal campaign against the Yazidi people. Six of her nine brothers were executed on the spot. In all, she lost 18 family members that day; in all, 1000 Yazidi men were massacred.
Murad, along with her two sisters and thousands of other men, women, and children were taken captive and subjected to unspeakable crimes. Murad was initially held hostage in a building with thousands of families. She witnessed young children given to ISIS soldiers as sexual “gifts.” She was raped and tortured on a daily basis. But after facing unimaginable brutality, she was able to escape.
Murad immigrated to Germany where she received medical attention and was reunited with other survivors. In total, she lost 18 family members. With the assistance of Yazda, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping Yazidi survivors and defending the rights of marginalized ethnic and religious minorities, Murad has been able to tell her story on the world stage, forcing world leaders to listen to the horrors of the ongoing genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
Just 23 years old now, Murad, a human rights activist, was named a UN Goodwill Ambassador on Friday and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Dr. Hawa Abdi, Leadership in Civil Society
Iman presented the Global Citizen Award for Leadership in Civil Society to Dr. Hawa Abdi, known as the Mother Theresa of Somalia, because of her life-saving work on behalf of Somalis displaced by war.
“She became a doctor, Somalia’s first female gynecologist, and opened a rural health clinic, organized on ancestral land. During the civil war, the government collapsed, famine was widespread, and she opened her land to refugees. By 2012, she was providing sanctuary for 90,000 displaced people.
She opened a 400 bed hospital, a school, organized a fishing and farming program and her land is the only source of fresh water in region.
“Today, Abdi continues to fight for the women, children, and elderly people of the Hawa Abdi Village. With the help of her daughters, Deqo and Amina, both of whom are doctors, Abdi continues to keep a candle of light lit for the people of the Afgooye Corridor.” Abdi has won numerous distinctions and awards, including the John Jay Justice Award, Vital Voices’ Women of the Year Award, and a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012.”
President Juan Manuel Santosof Colombia, Leadership in Public Service
“After 50 years of war, most people had never lived with peace – 6 million fled homes,” said Luis A. Moreno, current President of the Inter-American Development Bank, introducing President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia. “Today, we are on the threshold of concluding a historic agreement to bring a permanent end to the conflict.”
He said the seeds were sown when Moreno was serving as Colombia’s Ambassador to US when President Bill Clinton was in the White House, and credited Clinton’s “visionary aid program that allowed my country to achieve stability, attract investment, and set the conditions for peace. President Clinton made peace in Colombia his priority and brought Republicans and Democrats together.”
Clinton’s successors, George W. Bush and Barack Obama “followed Clinton’s example and supported” his policy.
Meanwhile, the Colombian President Santos put his presidency on the line during difficult negotiations with the FARC that dragged on for four long years.
“There were many setbacks but on August 24, the hope of millions was fulfilled when FARC and the government announced a final settlement. It is now up to the people, who will vote in plebiscite on Oct. 22.
“President Santos wanted a fully democratic process – a plebecite marks the beginning of a new, more complex chapter in our history. Every day, every Colombian will need to make personal decision – for lasting peace won’t be easy. Remembering is easy for those who have memory. Forgetting is hard for those who have heart.”
Convinced Colombia can be reunited together, write new chapter in history of beloved nation.
Accepting the award for Leadership in Public Service, President Santos said, “Peace is a right. It is in the constitution. To be a normal country, we had to stop war. I approached negotiations in a different way: Victims should be placed at the center of a solution – a human rights perspective was the key to success.
“One week from today, we will sign an agreement with FARC – 297 pages long, no detail was left out – and we will start to build a new history.
“War lasted three generations. It robbed us of compassion, the ability to feel suffering of others.
“I thank you in the name of 8 million victims of war over 50 years. The victims were most generous, willing to forgive – they don’t want others to suffer what we have.”
Juan Manuel Santos has been the president of the Republic of Colombia since 2010. Previously, President Santos was minister of defense, minister of finance, minister of foreign trade, designate to the presidency, and chief of the Colombian delegation before the International Coffee Organization. He created the Good Government Foundation (Fundación Buen Gobierno) and founded Colombia’s largest political party, Partido de la U. President Santos was awarded the King of Spain Prize and was president of the Freedom of Expression Commission for the Inter American Press Association. He has published several books, including “The Third Way,” co-written with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and “Check on Terror” (Jaque al Terror). President Santos is a graduate of the London School of Economics, Harvard University, and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
Adi Godrej, Leadership in the Private Sector
Adi Godrej, Chairman of Godrej Group, Godrej Industries Limited, was presented with the Global Citizen Award for Leadership in the Private Sector by Hikmet Ersek President & CEO of The Western Union Company.
Godrej is the vanguard of green development, committed to alleviating poverty, preserving natural resources, and holding 24% of its revenues in a trust for philanthropic purpose, and a motto that “The business of business is goodness. Let’s make Goodness.”
“It’s important to remain a good company,” he said. “We have always actively supported social responsibility. 24% of the corporate funds is in trust that invests in environment and education.”
He said that the company has set three goals for 2020 – train 1 million youth in skills to enhance earnings, build a greener India, generate one-third of potential revenue in products that are environmentally sustainable.
Adi Godrej is chairman of the Godrej Group, a more than 100-year-old family conglomerate, with operations in India and several other countries. Godrej is chairman of the board of the Indian School of Business and former president of the Confederation of Indian Industry. He has been a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan School of Management and a member of the Wharton Asian Executive Board. Godrej is the recipient of several awards and recognitions, including the Rajiv Gandhi Award (2002), the American India Foundation Leadership in Philanthropy Award (2010), The Entrepreneur of the Year for the Asia Pacific Entrepreneurship Awards (2010), Chemexcil’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2010), AIMA-JRD Tata Corporate Leadership Award (2010), Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year (2012), Padma Bhushan (2012), and All India Management Association-Business Leader of the Year (2015). Godrej holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from MIT.
I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas. As we start the New Year. let me tell you about the “hate” part.
I hate that Christmas becomes the one day of the year that is supposed to make up for all the actions that have resulted in the greatest inequality and lowest upward mobility since the Gilded Age and the greatest of all advanced countries. The American Dream has been exported, outsourced, and rendered to myth rather than reality here at home.
This year, Republicans – even as they cling more ardently than ever to Guns and God – don’t even pretend to care about the less fortunate, and promise to perpetuate and make worse the very policies that have resulted in 22 out of every 100 school-age children living in poverty (16 million), while 45% of children live in low income families; and 14.3 percent of households (17.5 million, or one in seven households) were living with food insecurity. Rather than doing anything to correct the societal conditions that promulgate these travesties, they prey on people’s insecurities, foment their fears and anxieties (Ebola! ISIS!), but do everything possible to thwart progress to alleviate the real source of daily desperation.
I particularly hate the obsession with Toys for Tots – as if handing out a gift at Christmas will make up for all the misery and anxiety that children live through the rest of the year.
Many of the same people who make a show of handing out a turkey for Christmas also withdrew Food Stamps and attacked the school nutrition program, two of the mightiest tools in a limited tool chest to keep people out of poverty, while helping children succeed in school (hunger is a viscously powerful impediment to learning) – and not incidentally, stimulating local economies to break the vicious cycle.
“There are neighborhoods in Baltimore in which the life expectancy is 19 years less than other neighborhoods in the same city,” Susan Grisby reported in “The Most Racist Areas in the United States” (Daily Kos, May 3, 2015). “Residents of the Downtown/Seaton Hill neighborhood have a life expectancy lower than 229 other nations, exceeded only by Yemen. According to the Washington Post, 15 neighborhoods in Baltimore have a lower life expectancy than North Korea…And while those figures represent some of the most dramatic disparities in the life expectancy of black Americans as opposed to whites, a recent study of the health impacts of racism in America reveals that racist attitudes may cause up to 30,000 early deaths every year.”
We are living Charles Dickens “Christmas Carol” but while the classic story sets out the problems, I have always been troubled by the “moral”: that the rich guy who got so rich by exploiting the desperation of others can simply buy presents and give money away to redeem his soul. That’s not the solution.
But the “billionaire class” as Bernie Sanders likes to call them (George W. Bush called them “the haves and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite. I call you my base.”) has no real interest in correcting the institutional causes of systemic poverty – public education system, tax policy, criminal justice system, health care, environmental policy and rigged election system – all of which also bolster the “haves” and “have-mores”. That’s because the demise of the middle class as more and more sink into poverty suits their greater purpose, and what the hey, if you can just throw around some bucks here and there to redeem your soul and your reputation, while lording over everybody else, so much the better.
And because “cash” is increasingly linked with “political power” (the Right Wing Majority on the Supreme Court equated cash with speech and corporations with people for the purpose of buying politicians), the more cash the more power. The converse is the less cash, the more politically silent and invisible you are. People who are juggling multiple jobs and living pay check to pay check tend not to have the same political influence.
The Republicans are working feverishly to increase the invisibility of the underclass, mounting a Supreme Court challenge that will effectively erase unregistered voters from the census altogether, meaning less representation, less funding (which is also apportioned based on that head count).
“Wages are too high,” self-proclaimed billionaire Donald Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner, bellowed in response to a call to raise the federal minimum wage, doing a perfect but unintended imitation of Ebenezer Scrooge.
The United States of America is not supposed to have an aristocracy or a class system of privileges, but these policies have done exactly that. And in the nation with the highest percentage of incarcerated prisoners in the world (5% of population but 25% of the world’s incarcerated), you even have a new criminal classification, “Affluenza” – the “affliction” that resulted in a 16 year old getting off scot free after murdering four people with a car he was driving unlicensed and drunk (he has since fled after violating the terms of his probation). It’s a justice system which sees the very bankers who bankrupted millions of Americans and clawed back pensions and health benefits of bankrupt cities (Detroit), collecting millions of dollars on their parachutes.
It’s “free money” (actually, not really free, it comes out of others’ pockets) that they turn around and “invest” in political campaigns and, yes, in philanthropy.
Some of the most notorious “banksters”, like Madoff and Great Neck’s own Steven Cohen, whose investment company SAC racked up $9.4 billion, are also some of the most generous. Cohen is a $1 billion patron of the Robin Hood Foundation among other philanthropic contributions (museums, hospitals, schools).
Another Great Necker, Leonard Litwin, who made a fortune with his Glenwood Real Estate company, has been a generous supporter of Temple Beth-el of Great Neck, funding the Litwin Challenge that enabled the synagogue to pay off its multi-million dollar mortgage. Glenwood Real Estate was at the heart of the corruption scandal that has (so far) taken down state leaders, Democrat Sheldon Silver and Republican Dean Skelos. In essence, his company made tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions that helped put these politicians in power, then gave favors in order to secure favorable legislation, like tax abatements.
“The money, according to Mr. Dorego, Glenwood’s senior vice president and general counsel, was used to ensure the developer would continue to benefit from tax breaks, government financing and favorable rent laws. One program alone saved them as much as $100 million, he said,” William K. Rashbaum reported in the New York Times (“Albany Trials Exposed the Power of a Real Estate Firm,” Dec. 18, 2015).
“Glenwood also benefited from another state-administered program, using it to obtain more than $1 billion in low-interest, tax-exempt bond financing since 2000, to buy land and construct eight buildings it has put up since 2001, according to testimony at Mr. Silver’s trial.”
This is far from benign, but has a big ripple effect on working stiffs. It is a big reason why New York City, with the richest property in the world, doesn’t raise enough in property taxes to pay for its public schools, but depends New York State aid for 50 percent of its $25 billion operating budget. That $12.5 billion comes from income taxes from the rest of us, and is a major reason why Long Islanders pay such high property taxes (we don’t get 50% of our public school budgets paid for out of state aid). Who pays for tax abatements? Why working stiffs, of course.
That’s where philanthropy comes in. Charity does not just buy redemption, it also buys respect and resurrects a reputation. Take the Koch Brothers, for example. They are the singularly greatest example of money buying political power (and vow to spend $889 million in the 2016 campaign) in order to direct policy to their own interest and against average people (promoting fossil fuels over renewables, overturning environmental regulations, tax policy that favors the rich especially a repeal of the estate tax, gun rights, anti-reproductive rights, and the latest, criminal justice “reform” so that their companies can pollute and claim ignorance of the law to evade accountability).
They slap their name on everything, from the Smithsonian Institution’s Hall of Human Origins to PBS programming, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, so we are to feel grateful for their patronage, like the Medicis. What we should feel is like peons, increasingly dependent on their largesse while public coffers are bankrupted.
It is especially dangerous when the contributions come with strings – like the Kochs funding economics departments at colleges in order to pick and choose the academics and the particular brand of economic philosophy. Or the Waltons (the six Waltons have more wealth than the bottom 30 percent of all Americans, 100 million people) funding charter schools in order to insert their own particular educational agenda (creationism as science, worker bees instead of independent thinkers).
It is in this same vein that we have Ebenezer Scrooge, who by the end of his spiritual awakening, “solves” the problems of horrendous poverty and inequality by throwing toys and money at it. It is like putting a band-aid on a patient with tuberculosis.
“The world may need a reimagined charter of philanthropy — a ‘Gospel of Wealth’ for the 21st century — that serves not just American philanthropists, but the vast array of new donors emerging around the world,” wrote Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, in a New York Times op-ed, “Why Giving Back Isn’t Enough,” (Dec. 16, 2015).
“This new gospel might begin where the previous one fell short: addressing the underlying causes that perpetuate human suffering. In other words, philanthropy can no longer grapple simply with what is happening in the world, but also with how and why.
“Feeding the hungry is among our society’s most fundamental obligations, but we should also question why our neighbors are without nutritious food to eat. Housing the homeless is an imperative, but we should also question why our housing markets are so distorted. As a nation, we need more investment in education, but not without questioning educational disparities based on race, class and geography….
“Whatever our intentions, the truth is that we can inadvertently widen inequality in the course of making money, even though we claim to support equality and justice when giving it away. And while our end-of-year giving might support worthy organizations, we must also ask if these financial donations contribute to larger social change.
“In other words, ‘giving back’ is necessary, but not sufficient. We should seek to bring about lasting, systemic change, even if that change might adversely affect us. We must bend each act of generosity toward justice.”
What would make a difference to break systemic poverty and inequality? Here are key ones:
Tax policy, which is supposedly “progressive” but in toto perpetuating extraordinary advantage to the wealthiest, taxing wages more than wealth. Raising the cap on income taxed to pay for Medicare and Social Security would alleviate the burden which is disproportionately placed on workers (if all income was subject to tax, you could reduce the percentage by a lot, which would mean a big boost in take-home income for everyone). Transaction tax on securities to de-incentivize short-term investing and make capital function more productively, as it is supposed to; making corporations pay their share, and taking away the incentive to offshore profits and jobs. (See, “For the Wealthiest, a Private Tax System That Saves Them Billions,” New York Times, Dec. 30, 2015).
Promote a living wage: raise the minimum wage and cease the war on unions.
Reform immigrationand provide a path to legal status for the undocumented residents (deal with the question of citizenship separately). This will eliminate a gigantic underclass which presently depresses the wages of everyone while suppressing the economic stimulus that would come from legal status.
Reform criminal justice that unfairly penalizes and imprisons poor people, disadvantaged people, people of color, and destroys families as well as that individual’s ability to get a decent job.
Continue the progress of Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) to make health care more affordable, accessible. Continue putting more resources into prevention and wellness, which will increase productivity and savings. Expand, don’t shut down, Planned Parenthood and access to contraception and reproductive rights. Treat gun violence as the public health crisis it is – not just in the dead, but in the lifetime of lost productivity due to injury, a cost estimated at $228 billion ($8.6 billion in direct costs, $221 billion in indirect costs, according to SmartGunLaws.org),
College affordability – eliminating a barrier to the best ticket to upward mobility, as well as the chains that result from student debt. Now amounting to $1.2 trillion, student debt is like indentured servitude, preventing graduates from buying a home, taking a loan to start a business or even pursuing careers of choice.
Improve access to home ownership – this not only gives a family an asset, a hedge against ever-rising rents, stability, roots, but a connection to community (and likely greater inclination to vote).
Make quality child care accessible and affordable.
Improve mass transportation and safe streets, so that people can get to work affordably, efficiently and without fear.
Give the underclass a voice and a force: Improve access to voting. Make voter registration more efficient and reliable and clear. Make Election Day a holiday, expand voting to include a weekend, overturn arbitrary limitations to absentee ballot. Have standards for polling places and voting machines so that some districts are not forced to wait hours to vote. Make sure the census counts everyone (not just registered voters). Eliminate gerrymandering. Because, just as money is becoming a greater factor in campaigns, politicians are increasingly beholden to maintaining the policies that only add to inequality and social injustice.
It’s scary how much “A Christmas Carol” and Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” still resonate today.
Consider what George Bailey says to Mr. Potter, speaking about George’s father who founded the Building & Loan: “He didn’t save enough money to send Harry away to college, let alone me. But he did help a few people get out of your slums, Mr. Potter, and what’s wrong with that? Why… here, you’re all businessmen here. Doesn’t it make them better citizens? Doesn’t it make them better customers? You… you said… what’d you say a minute ago? They had to wait and save their money before they even ought to think of a decent home. Wait? Wait for what? Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they’re so old and broken down that they… Do you know how long it takes a working man to save $5,000? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about… they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn’t think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they’re cattle. Well in my book, my father died a much richer man than you’ll ever be!”
In essence, such systemic improvements to our society would directly benefit, rather than detract from the wealthiest. It is the “rising tides lift all boats” scenario – not just in requiring less of society’s resources to go to “save” the destitute, but in a healthier, more productive society altogether. There will still be rich, middle class and even poor, but the difference is that poverty would not be as severe, as prolonged, or a generational sentence. Society would restore upward mobility – the essence of the American Dream – and benefit from individuals being able to fulfill their full potential.
So let’s turn to New Year’s resolutions, when we make pledges to be better people. And let’s hope this resolution carries through the Presidential Campaign season which already seems to be a test of who can be the cruelest (which to many interpret as “powerful” and “leadership”).
A new report released today from the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) finds that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, is highly effective at reducing food insecurity—the government’s measure for whether households lack the resources for consistent and dependable access to food. The report highlights a growing body of research that finds that children who receive food assistance see improvements in health and academic performance and that these benefits are mirrored by long-run improvements in health, educational attainment, and economic self-sufficiency. The report also features new research that shows benefit levels are often inadequate to sustain families through the end of the month—resulting in high-cost consequences, such as a 27 percent increase in the rate of hospital admissions due to low blood sugar for low-income adults between the first and last week of the month, as well as diminished performance on standardized tests among school age children.
Each month, SNAP helps about 46 million low-income Americans put food on the table. The large majority of households receiving SNAP include children, senior citizens, individuals with disabilities, and working adults. Two-thirds of SNAP benefits go to households with children.
Today’s CEA report draws on a growing body of high-quality research about food insecurity and SNAP, finding that:
SNAP plays an important role in reducing both poverty and food insecurity in the United States—especially among children.
SNAP benefits lifted at least 4.7 million people out of poverty in 2014—including 2.1 million children. SNAP also lifted more than 1.3 million children out of deep poverty, or above half of the poverty line (for example, $11,925 for a family of four).
The temporary expansion of SNAP benefits under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) lifted roughly 530,000 households out of food insecurity.
SNAP benefits support vulnerable populations including children, individuals with disabilities, and the elderly, as well as an increasing number of working families.
Nearly one in two households receiving SNAP benefits have children, and three-quarters of recipient households have a child, an elderly member, or a member with a disability. Fully 67 percent of the total value of SNAP benefits go to households with children as these households on average get larger benefits than households without children.
Over the past 20 years, the overall share of SNAP recipient households with earned income rose by 50 percent. Among recipient households with children, the share with a working adult has doubled since 1990.
SNAP’s impact on children lasts well beyond their childhood years, providing long-run benefits for health, education, and economic self-sufficiency.
Among adults who grew up in disadvantaged households when the Food Stamp Program was first being introduced, access to Food Stamps before birth and in early childhood led to significant reductions in the likelihood of obesity and significant increases in the likelihood of completing high school.
Early exposure to food stamps also led to reductions in metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions associated with heart disease and diabetes) and increased economic self-sufficiency among disadvantaged women.
SNAP has particularly large benefits for women and their families.
Maternal receipt of Food Stamps during pregnancy reduces the incidence of low birth-weight by between 5 and 23 percent.
Exposure to food assistance in utero and through early childhood has large overall health and economic self-sufficiency impacts for disadvantaged women.
The majority of working-age SNAP recipients already participate in the labor market, and the program includes important supports to help more recipients successfully find and keep work.
Fifty-seven percent of working-age adults receiving SNAP are either working or looking for work, while 22 percent do not work due to a disability. Many recipients are also the primary caregivers of young children or family members with disabilities.
SNAP also supports work through the Employment and Training program, which directly helps SNAP beneficiaries gain the skills they need to succeed in the labor market in order to find and retain work. During fiscal year 2014, this program served about 600,000 SNAP recipients.
Even with SNAP’s positive impact, nearly one in seven American households experienced food insecurity in 2014.
These households—which included 15 million children—lacked the resources necessary for consistent and dependable access to food.
In 2014, 40 percent of all food-insecure households—and nearly 6 percent of US households overall—were considered to have very lowfood security. This means that, in nearly seven million households, at least one person in the household missed meals and experienced disruptions in food intake due to insufficient resources for food.
While SNAP benefits allow families to put more food on the table,current benefit levels are often insufficient to sustain them through the end of the month, with substantial consequences.
More than half of SNAP households currently report experiencing food insecurity, and the fraction reporting very low food security has risen since the end of the temporary benefits expansion under ARRA.
New research has linked diminished food budgets at the end of each month to high-cost consequences, including:
o A drop-off in caloric intake, with estimates of this decline ranging from 10 to 25 percent over the course of the month;
o A 27 percent increase in the rate of hospital admissions due to low blood sugar for low-income adults between the first and last week of the month;
o An 11 percent increase in the rate of disciplinary actions among school children in SNAP households between the first and last week of the month;
o Diminished student performance on standardized tests, with performance improving only gradually again after the next month’s benefits are received.
Administration Efforts to Build on Progress
To reduce hunger and improve family well-being, the Obama administration has been and remains dedicated to providing American children and families with better access to the nutrition they need to thrive. These investments make a real and measurable difference in the lives of children and their families, and ensure a brighter, healthier future for the entire country.
Through the Recovery Act, the Administration temporarily increased SNAP benefits by 14 percent during the Great Recession to help families put food on the table. Reports indicate that food security among low-income households improved from 2008 to 2009 amidst a severe recession and increased unemployment; a significant part of that improvement is likely attributable to SNAP.
The Administration has also developed several initiatives to improve food security and nutrition for vulnerable children. Through the Community Eligibility Provision, schools in high-poverty areas are now able to offer free breakfast and lunch to all students with significantly less administrative burden. Recent revisions to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) added a cash benefit to allow participants to purchase fruits and vegetables, a change that substantially increased the value of the package. The Administration also has expanded access for low-income children to nutritious food during the summer months when school meals are unavailable and the risk of food insecurity is heightened. The results of these efforts have been promising. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) delivered 23 million more summer meals than in 2009. And the Administration has successfully implemented Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children (SEBTC) pilots, which provide additional food assistance to low-income families with children during the summer months. These pilots were found to reduce very low food security among children by 26 percent. The President’s 2016 Budget proposed a significant expansion of this effort.
Finally, this Administration has provided select states waivers to test ways of reducing the administrative burdens of SNAP for elderly households, a population that continues to be underserved. After seeing positive results in participating states, including an increase of elderly participation by more than 50 percent in Alabama, the President’s 2016 Budget included a proposal to create a state option that would expand upon these efforts to improve access to SNAP benefits for the elderly.