October 06, 2016

September/October Message from NYSARA (EF) President Barry A. Kaufmann


We have arrived at what many people call “silly season” and some people refer to as the most important election in their lifetime. In this election the truth is probably both of the above. For seniors, perhaps more is at stake than at any time in the past and more things that we “assumed” to be secure might not be if some of the people in government and or running for election/re-election are successful in their quest to represent you. Retirement security is an issue that needs to be addressed. There has been a dramatic decline in the number of people that have pensions.  Their replacement with very volatile 401k’s and the economic downturn that has dramatically impacted retirement savings have strained our resources for retirement. When American companies began switching from traditional pensions to self-directed 401(k)-like plans in the 1980s and 1990s, it was supposed to lead to a golden age of retirement security. No longer would workers be at the mercy of the company’s generosity or of Social Security’s solvency; workers themselves would be responsible for saving enough for a comfortable retirement. Some 30 years later, the results are in: The median working-age couple has saved only $5,000 for their retirement, according to an analysis of the Federal Reserve’s 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances by economist Monique Morrissey of the Economic Policy Institute.

In this climate, Social Security is even more critical and the expansion of social security rather than the contraction of our system is necessary to counteract the current realities. To support any politician who works to diminish “our” social security is working against your own self-interest. Diminishment can be disguised in many ways. Those that call for a raise in the age of accessing social security are seeking to diminish social security. We are currently in the midst of a raise of the access age from 65 to 67. This two-year raise diminishes the lifetime benefit by 13%. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-CA), Chairman of the Ways & Means Committee, admits Republicans wants to raise retirement age to 70 over the next 30-35 years which would diminish the lifetime benefit by almost 20% on top of the 13% currently in progress.

Another diminishment is the drive by our opponents to implement the chained CPI as a measure of inflation. The chained CPI has grown more slowly than the traditional CPI by an average of about 0.25 percentage points over the past decade. If the chained CPI were implemented, Social Security benefits would be about $3 per month lower in 2014, and about $30 a month lower by 2023, according to Congressional Budget Office calculations. And by 2033, Social Security payments are projected to be 3 percent lower than they would be using the current measure of inflation. “For Social Security, that policy change would not alter the size of people’s benefits when they are first eligible, either now or in the future, but it would reduce their benefits in subsequent years because of the reduction in the average cost-of-living adjustment,” says Jeffrey Kling, associate director for economic analysis at the Congressional Budget Office. “The impact would be greater the longer people received benefits, that is, the more reduced cost-of-living adjustments they experienced.” Instead, what needs to be implemented is the enactment of the CPI-E (Consumer Price Index for the Elderly) that more accurately reflects the Inflationary pressures that the elderly face by including items that impact the elderly more than the general population. If CPI-E was in place last year there would have been a cost of living increase in Social Security payments and would have not necessitated emergency legislation by congress to prevent Medicare beneficiaries from absorbing a 50% increase in premiums and a 50% increase in deductibles.

Another thing that has the possibility of diminishment is to privatize a portion of the social security to allow the person to invest on their own. This would result in a potential shortfall to the trust fund and with the risky investments and the profit to those you invest with while withdrawing money from our social security system.

Then there are those elected representatives and Governors who believe that we should just cut benefits to people who collect social security because it is an “entitlement program” that needs to be cut to avoid a fiscal crisis. They firmly believe that the average $1,230 monthly benefit is something that America cannot afford, even though 2/3 of all seniors receive ½ of their income from Social Security and 1/3 receive almost all of their income from Social Security.

Medicare is under fire as well. Proposals by the House and the Senate Republicans propose raising the age of eligibility. This puts the age group that most utilizes health care in the medical insurance market where costs are the highest. (Diminishment and life threatening) They propose means testing and to Privatize/Voucherize/Premium Support this would shift the costs to the Medicare recipients. Instead, proposals to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices have been pushed aside. Researchers have concluded that the federal government could save $15.2 billion to $16 billion annually if it negotiated with drug manufacturers and achieved the same prices as those paid by Medicaid or the Veterans Health Administration (programs that receive mandatory rebates on drug prices). Other researchers have suggested that Medicare would save $541 billion over 10 years if prices were negotiated down to the levels paid for prescription drugs by consumers in Denmark.

The potential passage of the TPP also threatens seniors. The lengthening of patent protections, especially on biologics, and the expansion of the things that trigger the return to the beginning of the patent process (ever greening) where a change in the dosage, color, shape etc. of the medication starts the patent clock from the beginning. All these things delaying low cost generic drugs from coming to market. Additionally, under TPP corporations can sue countries if laws prevent them from making a profit or from charging what they consider market value. A tribunal of 3 arbitrators that are lawyers that may represent those same corporations on other cases decides these cases.

My point in this is really only one thing. Seniors are the most reliable voting block in the country. Politicians know that we vote in a much higher percentage than any other demographic. We need to make our vote count. We MUST vote our own interest, we cannot be sidetracked by personal attacks or other ancillary issues. If we do not vote for candidates that affirmatively support our issues, we stand to see the things that enable us to live with dignity and to not have to live in poverty disappear. We MUST reject candidates that seek to take seniors back before Social Security and Medicare. We must support candidates that represent our interests. In the coming months we will be attempting to present the real story on State and Federal candidates for office and their positions on our issues through our facebook page www.facebook.com/newyorkstateara, our website and in our Monday alerts.

I would also like to welcome our new affiliates. Welcome to TWU Local 100, represented on our Board by Michael Tutrone and to the RWDSU, represented on our Board by Paulette Fialkoff-Amedeo.

Also, in the coming months look for information on:

  • 2016 NYS Legislative voting records on our (senior) issues
  • Health Care Ombudsman Program
  • A smart phone application that enables you to instantly contact your federal and state legislator and federal and state legislators from any address in the nation
  • A speakers bureau on Senior issues
  • A Spring conference on Aging issues
  • The issue of a New York State Constitutional Convention that threatens negatively impact the current constitutional protections for unions and for seniors.

If you have any questions of me you can reach out to me at president@newyorkstateara.org.

In Solidarity,


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Topics: President's Message