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2009 Discussion Archive

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Bright Light in a Dismal Landscape

Alicia H. Munnell
Peter F. Drucker Professor of Management Sciences and Director of the Center for Retirement Research, Boston College

Original Published 3/25/09, The Boston Globe

President Barack Obama has said that overhauling Social Security and Medicare would be "a central part" of his administration's efforts to contain federal spending. But amid all the economic calamity, the Social Security program is functioning perfectly, meeting the crucial economic needs for millions of Americans. When older workers are losing their jobs and their 401(k) accounts are down about 30 percent, the ability to claim Social Security benefits serves as a backstop against severe economic hardship. Therefore, policymakers should tread carefully.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Building on Social Security’s Success

Virginia P. Reno
Vice President for Income Security, National Academy of Social Insurance

The United States needs a new conversation about how Social Security is part of the solution to the growing economic risks American workers face. The key question is: How can we build on the strengths of Social Security – its fiscally responsible design, its universality, progressivity, efficiency, and it effectiveness – to meet the needs of working families in the 21st century?

As employers’ shift away from traditional pensions to 401(k) plans, workers shoulder more financial risks. Social Security offers employers what they want – freedom from financial risk and fiduciary burdens, and it provides workers what they need – economic security.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Longevity Insurance: Strengthening Social Security for People Age 82 and Older

John A. Turner
Director, Pension Policy Center

People in their 80's with low Social Security benefits are economically vulnerable. Few are able to compensate for a loss of non-Social Security income through work. People in this age group may not have sufficient resources to enjoy the last years of their lives with dignity.

Policymakers should add longevity insurance that targets beneficiaries age 82 or older with low Social Security benefits and long work histories to our current Social Security program. Age 82 is approximately the average life expectancy at age 65. Elderly poverty is high among this age group—a third higher than for people age 65-69. People in this age group are at risk of having fallen into poverty even though they had not been poor earlier in life. They have greater difficulty leaving poverty than people at younger ages. Strengthening Social Security for this group would provide cost effective social insurance.

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