Categories
Living in Society

Aging in America – Part II

On Aug. 14, 1935, Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law. FDR is rightly credited with leading the United States out of the Depression and re-framing the relationship between government and society. It is hard to imagine what modern life would be like without The New Deal.

By the time I made my first payroll contribution to Social Security in 1968, the program was stable. One hoped to be able to earn a pension or save money for retirement but I didn’t know how that would unfold during my work life. The job I held as a stock boy in the drug department of an early big box store wasn’t intended to pay for the retirement of a 16-year old entering the work force. I knew then Social Security would be there for me when I retired, no matter the financial outcome of a lifetime of work. This freed me to do other things, like being a teenager.

As I wrote in 2017, the Social Security Administration is currently doing fine. It follows a plan that begins to deplete the trust fund in 2034. In the current Trustees Report, that date holds true. The problem is longer term.

Social Security and Medicare both face long-term financing shortfalls under currently scheduled benefits and financing. Costs of both programs will grow faster than gross domestic product (GDP) through the mid-2030s primarily due to the rapid aging of the U.S. population. Medicare costs will continue to grow faster than GDP through the late 2070s due to projected increases in the volume and intensity of services provided.

A summary of the 2022 Annual Reports from the Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees, Social Security Administration website.

The Republican plan to address this can be found in U.S. Senator Rick Scott’s plan to rescue America, in this sentence, “All federal legislation sunsets in 5 years. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again.”

When asked about sunsetting Social Security and Medicare, Senator Scott said, “No one that I know of wants to sunset Medicare or Social Security, but what we’re doing is we don’t even talk about it. Medicare goes bankrupt in four years. Social Security goes bankrupt in 12 years. I think we ought to figure out how we preserve those programs.”

The fact is Democrats are talking about it and have introduced appropriate legislation to address the long-term problems presented by the Trustees. For Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, fixing the program is straight forward, “As Republicans try to phase out Social Security and raise taxes on more than 70 million hardworking Americans, I’m working with Senator Sanders to expand Social Security and extend its solvency by making the wealthy pay their fair share, so everyone can retire with dignity.” Warren and Sanders introduced The Social Security Expansion Act in the U.S. Senate.

The weasel-words of Senator Scott are evident. Rather than offer solutions to long-term problems, he speaks vaguely about the people he knows and what they believe. The only purpose this serves is to raise doubts about choices pensioners like me made over the last 54 years. It is a scare tactic from Republicans’ long list of them.

As much as I’d like to see Democrats and Republicans engage together in solving the long-term issues with Social Security and Medicare, I don’t think that’s possible in today’s divided Congress. As President Joe Biden has demonstrated with a series of recently passed legislation, finding common ground and passing laws is possible even in the toxic political climate of Washington, D.C. We need to do more of it.

Pensioners and other senior citizens vote, so I’m confident Social Security will be addressed at the ballot box. Just give us the facts, without your political spin, and we can make a good decision. Today we appear to be in the spin cycle.

Sorting the facts from bogus assertions is an ongoing issue. Democrats have a good story to tell about expanding Social Security. We need to bring Republicans in, if we can, and solve the long-term problems. If we can’t bring them in, we must solve them on our own.

Categories
Environment

Toward Sustainable Pandemic Recovery

Image of Earth 7-6-15 from DSCOVR (Deep Space Climate Observatory)

The climate crisis continues in the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic with its economic downturn threatens years of progress addressing climate change and sustainability. It’s now or never for the environment.

Governments are expected to spend trillions of dollars in stimulus to get the economy going again. Addressing the climate crisis can’t wait. Climate solutions must be integrated with stimulus spending.

“We now have a unique opportunity to use (the economic crisis) to do things differently and build back better economies that are more sustainable, resilient and inclusive.” said Saadia Zahidi, World Economic Forum managing director.

WEF warned that “omitting sustainability criteria in recovery efforts or returning to an emissions-intensive global economy risks hampering the climate resilient low-carbon transition.”

Sustainability should be integrated into recovery efforts because the health crisis, economy, and environment are inextricably connected. There is only one chance to manage this recovery. Trillions can be spent only once. Given the scope of the climate crisis, its pressing urgency, society must choose to address the climate crisis now.

The International Energy Agency has ideas on how to do that. They developed a 174-page essay titled “Sustainable Recovery.” However, no single solution applies to global matters. We need multiple solutions implemented synchronously.

Global carbon dioxide emissions reduced by 17 percent in April as people sheltered at home, industry reduced production, and automobile use slowed. Since then, emission levels surged back. A conscious decision to integrate smart energy use into the recovery is needed. The issue has been politicized so thoroughly it seems doubtful any such action will be taken in the United States. One is being political whether they say something about climate change or not when discussing the economic recovery. We must persist in demanding a solution.

Fiona Harvey, environmental correspondent for the Guardian reported, “The world has only six months in which to change the course of the climate crisis and prevent a post-lockdown rebound in greenhouse gas emissions that would overwhelm efforts to stave off climate catastrophe.”

No one knows how long we have. It’s common sense that stimulus money could be used in a holistic way. Ideas are out there. What’s lacking is political will.

That few in our government talk about addressing the climate crisis as we “open up” the economy is part of the problem. Oil and gas interests have so infiltrated our government politicians don’t want to hear about solar or wind generated energy, even if they are the least expensive and least damaging regarding carbon dioxide emissions.

Think about it though. When has doing what makes sense gotten so politically out of fashion? Among other things, that needs to change.

Al Gore recently said, “Moving forward from COVID-19 means we have an obligation to rethink the relationships among business, markets, government and society. We must deliver a sustainable form of capitalism.”

That’s not going to happen without a change in our government.

People ask me how I plan to address the climate crisis. My answer?

It’s time to stand up for what is needed in our country right now: moral revival and transformative change. That means voting for Democrats in November.

Postscript: Since I wrote this post Joe Biden released his plan to ensure the future is “‘Made in All of America’ by all of America’s workers.” The word climate is mentioned once in a paragraph to “apply a carbon adjustment fee against countries that are failing to meet their climate and environmental obligations.” I support Biden for president and encourage readers to read his Made in America plan here. Like any plan it will be subject to modification if Biden is elected president. One modification I expect is to integrate addressing the climate crisis in the plan.

~Written for Blog for Iowa