Oppose the "Cat Food" Commission -- Build the Campaign Against Raising the Retirement Age

Say NO to Cutting Seniors' Benefits - Your help is needed to build opposition in Congress against dramatic Social Security benefit cuts we expect will be proposed by President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. Dominated by conservatives, the group has been dubbed the "Cat Food" Commission because of their apparent intention to push millions of people -- especially women -- out of the middle class and into poverty.

Please send a message to your representative, asking her or him to sign on to a letter to the president from Rep. Raul Grijalva (D- Ariz.) and other House members opposing an increase in the retirement age. This benefit cut would be especially devastating to women -- many of whom work in physically demanding jobs like nursing, waitressing or cleaning and are unable to work until age 70.

In addition, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) has introduced a resolution that opposes raising the retirement age (H.Res.1670). Passage of that resolution would send a strong message to the president and the Fiscal Commission. Speak out in support of the Grijalva letter and Giffords' House resolution.

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Fiscal Commission's Really Bad Idea - The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform will be issuing a proposal on Dec. 1 with suggestions on how to address the national deficit. Though Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit, the commission is focusing on it anyway. The proposal is likely to include a recommendation to raise the retirement age to 70. This increase would piggyback on the 1983 increase from 65 to 67 by the year 2022. If raised further to 70, the loss to an individual over the course of his/her retirement would average 19 percent or $35,419 -- this is on top of the cut of $28,154 sustained by the 1983 retirement age increase (EPI analysis of Social Security Administration, 2009 data). Taken together, these two reductions in benefits would slice one-third off the average retiree's Social Security income!

Life expectancy for some women has dropped, not increased - Contrary to the benefit-cutters' claims, Social Security is not going broke because people are living longer. Rather, a long-range solvency challenge in Social Security comes from the widening income gap between rich and poor. Today, 16 percent of all income is not subject to the payroll tax due to the taxable earnings cap (up to $106,800 annual income) versus only 10 percent in 1983, according to the Social Security Administration. In other words, most of the income for millionaires and billionaires is not subject to the payroll tax. Raising the cap on taxable income or adjusting the payroll tax rate would eradicate the long-term Social Security budget imbalance (National Academy of Social Insurance, 2010), providing a solution that avoids any cut in benefits. Raising the retirement age, said to be justified by a supposed increase in longevity, hurts all workers despite the unequal distribution of increased life expectancy. Men at the top of earnings have experienced a life expectancy increase of 5 years since 1982 while low-income men have seen a life expectancy increase of 1.1 years. For low-income women, life expectancy has in fact decreased.

Often, the monthly Social Security check is the only source of income for elderly women. Many do not have pension income and, after a lifetime of wage discrimination and years out of the paid workforce raising children and caring for sick relatives few women have been able to save and invest sufficiently for their retirement years. If anything, an improvement in Social Security benefits should be made, rather than cutting them.

Giffords' resolution opposes raising the retirement age - Rep. Giffords recently introduced a resolution opposing any raise in the retirement age. If passed by the House, this would send an important message to the Fiscal Commission and President Obama. Rep. Grijalva is circulating a letter to President Obama expressing support for strengthening Social Security and opposing any action that would cut benefits, including increasing the retirement age. Both the resolution and the letter clearly spell out why such action would be harmful and counter-productive to solving our nation's financial dilemmas.

While the national deficit is in need of a solution, Social Security is not part of the problem. By law, Social Security cannot contribute to national debt. And far from being insolvent, Social Security currently has a $2.5 trillion surplus, a figure that increases by $100 billion each year. Benefit cuts will push millions of women and men out of the middle class and into poverty, with workers in physically demanding jobs receiving the brunt of the blow. We must act now to prevent workers from losing benefits that they have been promised and rightfully earned. Hard-working women and men are the fuel behind our economy, and they deserve to have a financially secure retirement.

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