2014 Discussion Archive

Friday, November 21, 2014

25 Million Reasons to Give Thanks for Social Insurance

Elisa Walker, National Academy of Social Insurance

Did you know that this Thanksgiving, there are more than 25 million reasons to give thanks for social insurance? According to Census Bureau data released this fall, more than 45 million people in the U.S., or 14.5% of the nation, lived in poverty in 2013.[1] The good news? Three vitally important social insurance programs – Social Security, unemployment insurance (UI), and workers’ compensation – and a related program, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), kept the poverty rate from being much higher. Together, these four programs kept more than 25 million people out of poverty.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Yes, Americans Do Favor a Revenue-Only Approach to Social Security Reform

William (Bill) J. Arnone, NASI Board Chair

In a blog post on the National Academy of Social Insurance’s new public opinion study, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CFRB) asks, “Do Americans really favor a revenue-only approach to Social Security reform?”

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Posted on November 4, 2014  |  1 comment  |  Add your comment
Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Call for Proposals to Improve the Social Security Disability Insurance Program

Marc Goldwein, Committee for a Responsible Budget

My colleagues and I at the CRFB have been working on an initiative, led by former Congressmen Earl Pomeroy and Jim McCrery, to identify and put forward meaningful improvements that could be made to the SSDI program. The McCrery-Pomeroy SSDI Solutions Initiative hopes to generate the types of reforms that could accompany reallocation, interfund borrowing, or (preferably) a comprehensive Social Security reform package.

As part of the initiative, we have spoken with program experts, advocates, and practitioners of all different perspectives and ideologies. These discussions confirmed what we already knew to be the case: the SSDI program provides a vital support structure for many workers with disabilities and their families. But they also identified several areas where the program and the government could be doing better.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Big Tax Increase Nobody Noticed

Dean Baker and Nicole Woo, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR)

The 2011-12 Social Security payroll tax holiday ended in January 2013, which meant that the vast majority of working Americans faced a two percent cut in their take-home pay. 

Compared to past payroll tax increases, this was an extraordinarily large and sudden one. For example, from 1980 to 1990 the rate was increased gradually by a total of 2.24 percentage points; in no year did the rate rise by more than 0.72 percentage points, or just over one-third of the 2013 increase. (This combines the employer and employee side tax increases. In 2013, the whole tax increase was on the employee side.)

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Posted on September 30, 2014  |  6 comments  |  Add your comment
Thursday, September 18, 2014

Rashi Fein, Ph.D.: A Remembrance

Joel Kavet, MPH, ScD, Madison Park Healthcare Consulting, LLC, Bethesda, MD

Alan B. Cohen, ScD, Boston University School of Management

Harold Luft, Palo Alto Medical Research Institute and UCSF

Victor Fuchs, PhD, Henry J. Kaiser, Jr. Professor Emeritus, Stanford University

Rashi FeinRashi Fein, our longtime friend and colleague, Professor of the Economics of Medicine, Emeritus, at Harvard Medical School, passed away on Monday, September 8, 2014, at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA.  He was 88 years of age, and the cause of death was melanoma.

Rashi was born in the Bronx, New York, and grew up in a number of cities in the U.S. and Canada.  He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and received his Bachelor’s and PhD degrees from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore in Mathematics (1948) and Economics (1956), respectively.

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Posted on September 18, 2014  |  Write the first comment
Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Bring Back Social Security Replacement Rates!

Alicia H. Munnell, Center for Retirement Research, Boston College

Each year, the Social Security actuaries project the system’s financial outlook over the next 75 years, and these projections are published in the annual Trustees Report.  Since 1989, these Reports have included data on future benefits as a percent of pre-retirement earnings – commonly called replacement rates – for workers at different places on the income scale.  That is, the Reports did include these data until this year, when the trustees decided to delete them.

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Posted on September 2, 2014  |  1 comment  |  Add your comment
Monday, July 21, 2014

The Myth of Health Care Costs

James Westley McGaughey, Mills College

The 2014 NASI conference on “Strengthening the Web of Financial and Retirement Security for Today’s Working Americans” was an experience I will not soon forget. No doubt it was inspiring. When I think about the web of financial and retirement security instruments, whereas I used to perceive nothing short of an uncomfortable future, I now feel a bit at ease knowing that so many of the illustrious folks I met at the conference are hard at work safeguarding Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

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Posted on July 21, 2014  |  Write the first comment
Monday, July 21, 2014

How Can Social Insurance Better Respond to the Needs of the Aging Formerly Incarcerated?

Conor McGovern, National Council on Aging

I spent most of the 2014 NASI Conference reflecting on the implications of protecting and expanding social insurance programs for low-income seniors, particularly older Americans of color and women. However, in the course of my research, I have found that one – unfortunately large – group of older Americans gets overlooked when speaking about the ways we can improve our social insurance programs: formerly incarcerated people. So, (barely) conquering my morbid fear of microphones, I asked one of the panels about the role of social insurance for these people.

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Posted on July 21, 2014  |  Write the first comment
Monday, July 21, 2014

Following California's Lead: The Expansion of Paid Leave Through Social Insurance

Elizabeth Pandya, University of Maryland

As this particularly harsh winter draws to a close, millions of American workers have again spent another flu season faced with the challenge of choosing between paid work and caring for themselves or sick loved ones. According to a report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics last month, nearly 2.9 million full-time workers worked only part-time this past January due to illness-related absences and another 1.2 million traditionally full-time workers missed a week of work entirely.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Response to Larry Kotlikoff

Larry Thompson, Founding Board Member, National Academy of Social Insurance

Larry Kotlikoff advocates replacing the current defined-benefit [Fixing Social Security, May 20, 2014], mostly-pay-as-you-go Social Security system with a system of funded individual accounts financed by mandatory contributions. This general approach was first adopted by Chile almost 35 years ago, and soon became popular among that set of economists most enamored with the universal superiority of markets as a mechanism for allocating resources. In the latter half of the 1990s, the approach was promoted internationally by the World Bank.

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Posted on May 20, 2014  |  15 comments  |  Add your comment
Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Fixing Social Security

Laurence J. Kotlikoff, Boston University

Social Security is America's most cherished public policy program and one of the most successful. Today, and for several decades before, Social Security accounts for 55% of the annual income of U.S. households headed by adults ages 65 and older. The improved financial strength of our seniors has helped preserve a viable standard of living for many of them. In addition, it has reduced the financial and emotional stress of families trying to support multiple generations.

But past success is a poor yardstick for measuring the current viability of a social insurance program. Moreover, failure to identify current issues with Social Security and offer solutions can leave Congress under-informed and under pressure to produce a “quick fix.” No good can come of that.

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Posted on May 20, 2014  |  1 comment  |  Add your comment
Friday, May 9, 2014

Harry Clay Ballantyne, a Great Contributor to Social Security

Stephen C. Goss, Social Security Administration

Harry was such a class act. Many of us in the Office of the Actuary, where Harry served his entire career, learned so much from Harry, as we did from the Bobs- Bob Ball and Bob Myers.  Harry was a mentor to several generations in the office.

As longtime actuary at SSA, he worked on all components of the OASDI program. Harry was involved in every detail of the computations and the presentation and was hugely respected by all.  Harry was soft spoken, but he was strong and decisive.  His work until 1982 in the Short-Range estimates component of the Office of the Actuary spanned several major reforms, including the 1972 and 1977 Social Security Amendments.  His leadership and ability to command the respect and confidence of policymakers vastly expanded the ability of the office to assist and influence policy in Congress and in the Administration. 

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Posted on May 9, 2014  |  9 comments  |  Add your comment
Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Denying Unemployment Insurance to Millionaires

Stephen Wandner, Urban Institute and W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research

“Unemployment compensation should permit such a worker, who becomes unemployed, to draw a cash benefit for a limited period during which there is expectation that he will soon be reemployed. This should be a contractual right not dependent on any means test.”

Report to the President of the Committee on Economic Security, January 1, 1935, p. 14.[1]

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Honoring Bob Ball on his 100th birthday

Tom Bethell, National Academy of Social Insurance

Robert M. Ball had every intention of living to 100, and he almost made it. Born on March 28, 1914, he was just two months shy of his 93rd birthday when he died in 2008. Until the very end he worked ceaselessly to promote the evolution of social insurance and to protect the programs he had administered and championed — notably Social Security and Medicare — against every attempt to weaken them. His name may have been unfamiliar to most of the Americans whose security he made his life’s work, but, as Senator Edward M. Kennedy said of him: “Few if any in the long history of our country have done so much for so many for so long.”

Bob Ball devoted his entire adult life to public service, which he saw as a high calling. Now, as we mark his centennial on March 28, how would he most want to be remembered?

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Posted on March 24, 2014  |  5 comments  |  Add your comment