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Friday, June 19, 2009

Don't Worry, Be Happy: Characterization of Social Security Trust Funds

A. Haeworth Robertson
Former Chief Actuary, Social Security Administration, 1975-78

The nature and significance of Social Security trust funds is sometimes misrepresented to the public. This appears to be the case in Social Security Brief #30 issued on May 12, 2009 by the National Academy of Social Insurance. The section of this brief entitled “Where does the Social Security surplus go?” states essentially the following:

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Posted on June 19, 2009  |  6 comments  |  Add your comment
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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Strengthening Social Security Wage Reporting For Farm Workers

Barbara Robles
Associate Professor, School of Social Work, Arizona State University

Farm workers are at risk of not having their work count toward Social Security benefits because their employers may erroneously classify them as independent contractors or simply fail to pay Social Security taxes and report wages. Strengthening Social Security for Farm Workers: The Fragile Retirement Prospects for Hispanic Farm Worker Families supports legislation introduced in the 110th Congress, along with stronger enforcement of existing laws, to strengthen wage reporting. The proposal also notes that the changes would increase tax receipts and benefit the Latino farm worker population by increasing their Social Security benefits, providing better access to the Earned Income Tax Credit, and easing the burden on adult children of farm workers who have the triple burden of school debt, raising children and supporting aging parents.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Increasing Social Security Benefits for Low-Wage Single Retirees

Patricia E. Dilley
Professor of Law, University of Florida Levin College of Law

Single retirees (that is, never married, divorced or widowed) are at high risk of being poor in old age. The decline in private pensions, rising out-of-pocket health costs, and declining housing values can be expected to make the already precarious financial situation of unmarried retirees even worse. Restoring Old Age Income Security to Low-Wage Single Workers proposes a change to the basic Social Security retired-worker benefit formula that would increase benefits for single retirees with at least 30 years of covered employment and low lifetime earnings. A second change would target single beneficiaries over age 85. Those who had at least 30 years of covered work, and received relatively low benefits (less than 75 percent of the average benefit), would receive a 10 percent benefit increase at age 85.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

A New Social Security Minimum Benefit For Low Lifetime Earners

Melissa Favreault
Senior Research Associate, The Urban Institute

Despite a lifetime of hard work, many workers end up poor or near poor in retirement. A New Minimum Benefit for Low Lifetime Earners examines a new minimum benefit that targets workers with long careers and low lifetime earnings, along with a modest credit that compensates for up to three years of low (or no) earnings due to care giving, unemployment, or poor health. The benefit at the full retirement age would pay 60 percent of the poverty threshold for a worker with 20 years of Social Security covered work and increase to 110 percent of the poverty threshold for a worker with 40 years of work. Caregiver credits would be available only in years when a child is under age 4 and only to one parent. The credit would be 60 percent of the average wage in the first such year, 50 percent in the second year and 40 percent in the third year.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Why Do We Call Taxes a `Burden'?

Rashi Fein

This 1996 op-ed, originally published in The Washington Post, is as timely as ever.

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I learn a lot watching C-SPAN. The other night, one of Washington's leading economists was asked about using the tax system to help reduce environmental damage. The response? It certainly would be difficult, because it would increase the `tax burden.'

`Tax burden' is a phrase with which we are all so familiar that we don't stop to think what it means--nor what it implies. At first blush it seems value-free. But plainly a `burden' is something to be lifted. We don't refer to the monies we spend on movies, popcorn, milk or shoes as `burdens.' We refer to them--and think of them--as expenditures, some (movies and popcorn) optional, others (food, shoes) necessary. We don't speak of our `consumption burden.' Why, then, a `tax burden'?

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Posted on April 15, 2009  |  2 comments  |  Add your comment
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