The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted both the severe inadequacy and major inequities in our country's caregiving infrastructure, including the high out-of-pocket costs of long-term services and supports (LTSS). For many families, care demands may become unmanageable, or manageable only at significant cost to family members’ health, well-being, income, and careers.
Emphasizing stakeholder voices and new partnerships The Academy’s 33rd annual policy conference, Pathways to Economic Security: Bringing All Voices to the Table, was held virtually on March 2-4, 2021. Stakeholders' perspectives led policy conversations around economic security throughout the keynotes, panel dialogues, and workshops. (While we are all stakeholders in economic security
Many Americans had reason to be concerned about their retirement prospects long before 2020. For decades, the racial wealth gap between Whites and African-Americans has increased, while the gap between Whites and Latinos has not diminished. Workers of color and low-income workers have long had less stable jobs, which provided fewer supports and exposed them to higher risks.
Now, communities that were already the most vulnerable to being insecure in retirement have been hit hardest by COVID-19. This is especially concerning for women of color, who tend to have low-wage, front-line jobs.
The 2020 Report of the Social Security Trustees, released on April 22nd, notes that, using its best-estimate assumptions, the reserves of the combined Old Age Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds along with projected program income are sufficient to cover projected program cost over the next 10 years. By 2035, however, these combined reserves are projected to be depleted. Unless Congress acts, the projected revenues will be sufficient to pay only 79% of scheduled benefits.
A defining trait of severe recessions is the staggering levels of long-term unemployment that follow. During the last recession, between 2008 and 2009, 8.4 million jobs, or 6.1% of all payroll employment at the time, were lost. Prior to the last recession, the largest share of the unemployed experiencing long-term unemployment was 26.0% in the early 1980s. The same long-term unemployment rate exceeded 40% into the early 2010s, amounting to over 4%of the entire labor force, and is only now falling to pre-recessionary levels.
Significant proposals to enhance Social Security’s long-range financial stability are emerging from a variety of sources. Although there was only one mention of Social Security during the first round of Democratic Presidential debates in June, it is likely to get much more attention from candidates in the coming months.
Recently, I attended the annual Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s Fiscal Summit in DC. (The Peterson Foundation has been a long-time supporter of the Academy’s work.)
The political air is charged these days with claims that various policy ideas, like Medicare-For-All and the Green New Deal, are “socialistic.” Such charges have been made in American history since the late 19th century, often in response to bold new policy concepts put forward to address gaps in income and health care security. This leads us to revisit a fundamental question – what differentiates Socialism from Social Insurance?
Social Insurance as Collective Action
In the words of Robert M. Ball, Founding Chair of our Academy: “Social insurance derives its unique strength from the principle that the best form of self-protection is mutual aid on a universal scale; when everyone contributes, everyone can be protected.” Academy Member and historian Edward D. Berkowitz also quotes Bob Ball:
With most Americans focused on taxes this month, it’s a good time to take a look at the relationship between federal income taxes and social insurance contributions.
Overview of Federal Taxes and Distributional Effects
The latest report by the Joint Committee on Taxation, Overview of the Federal Tax System As In Effect for 2019, provides a comprehensive starting point. This report breaks out the current federal tax system into four elements:
The Academy’s 31st annual policy conference – Regenerating Social Insurance for Millennials and the Millennium – was by all measures a success. It represented a different approach to one of the Academy’s signature events in both style and substance.
“Universal basic income” (UBI) has only recently come into popular usage, but the idea of assuring a base level of income to all is not new. Social insurance programs have been performing a similar function for much of the last century. Social Security and Unemployment Insurance both provide a base level of income given one’s eligibility for receiving benefits. The latter part of the statement is, of course, a defining characteristic of traditional social insurance—eligibility is contingent on one’s paying in.