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Senior Citizen Politics

Obama White House Posts Agenda for Senior Citizen Programs; No Taxes for Seniors Earning Under $50M

Strongly opposed to privatizing Social Security, will ask those making over $250,000 to contribute a bit more to Social Security to keep it sound

Feb. 16, 2009 – The White House has posted an “Agenda” on WhiteHouse.gov that includes a heading for “Seniors & Social Security,” although it covers more than just the administration’s views on the retirement program.

About the Agenda, the White House says, “Each President is confronted with new and unique challenges. Learn more about the Obama-Biden Administration's positions on everything from health care and the economy to alternative energy and foreign policy.”

 

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One of the proposals likely to get wide support from many retired citizens call for the elimination of all income taxes for senior citizens earning less than $50,000 per year.

“This will provide an immediate tax cut averaging $1,400 to 7 million seniors and relieve millions from the burden of filing tax returns,” according to the statement on the Website.

Medicare, and proposed changes in the health insurance program, are covered under the section on “Affordable Health Care.”

President Obama did not mention Social Security or Medicare in his inaugural address, which has alarmed some seniors that these critical programs and slipped significantly on the new administration’s agenda. This is not, however, totally unexpected with the mushrooming economic problems being fought by the federal government.

Obama Targeting Social Security, Medicare to Constrain Government Spending

Jan. 8, 2009 – The cross hairs of President-elect Barack Obama’s aim on containing federal spending is clearly on overhauling Social Security and Medicare, according to a report by the New York Times.

This is the first time Obama has made it clear “he would wade into the thorny politics of entitlement programs,” according to the Times.

“Speaking at a news conference in Washington, he provided no details of his approach to rein in Social Security and Medicare, which are projected to consume a growing share of government spending as the baby boom generation ages into retirement over the next two decades. But he said he would have more to say about the issue when he unveiled a budget next month.”

>> More at New York Times

Certainly, too, a delay in action on these programs has been slowed by the failure of the administration to name a Secretary of Health and Human Services. The original nominee, Sen. Tom Daschle, withdrew after controversy developed over his late payment of some federal income taxes.

Another heading in the agenda is for “Disabilities,” which does include at least one idea that is very important to many senior citizens.

The paragraph says, “…support independent, community-based living for Americans with disabilities by enforcing the Community Choice Act, which would allow Americans with significant disabilities the choice of living in their community rather than having to live in a nursing home or other institution, creating a voluntary, budget-neutral national insurance program to help adults who have or develop functional disabilities to remain independent and in their communities, and streamline the Social Security approval process.”

Below is the complete content from the page on February 16, 2009. A link to this page and future updates can be found at http://www.whitehouse.gov/agenda.


SENIORS & SOCIAL SECURITY

Protect Social Security

President Obama and Vice President Biden are committed to ensuring Social Security is solvent and viable for the American people, now and in the future. Obama and Biden will be honest with the American people about the long-term solvency of Social Security and the ways we can address the shortfall. They will protect Social Security benefits for current and future beneficiaries alike, and they do not believe it is necessary or fair to hardworking seniors to raise the retirement age.

Obama and Biden are strongly opposed to privatizing Social Security.

As part of a bipartisan plan that would be phased in over many years, they will ask those making over $250,000 to contribute a bit more to Social Security to keep it sound.

Obama does not support uncapping the full payroll tax 12.4 percent rate. Instead, he and Joe Biden are considering plans that will ask those making over $250,000 to pay in the range of 2 to 4 percent more in total (combined employer and employee).

Strengthen Retirement Savings

   ● Reform Corporate Bankruptcy Laws to Protect Workers and Retirees: Current bankruptcy laws protect banks before workers. Obama and Biden will protect pensions by putting promises to workers higher on the list of debts that companies cannot shed; ensuring that the bankruptcy courts do not demand more sacrifice from workers than executives; telling companies that they cannot issue executive bonuses while cutting worker pensions; increasing the amount of unpaid wages and benefits workers can claim in court; and limiting the circumstances under which retiree benefits can be reduced.

   ● Require Full Disclosure of Company Pension Investments: Obama and Biden will ensure that all employees who have company pensions receive detailed annual disclosures about their pension fund's investments. This will provide retirees important resources to make their pension fund more secure.

   ● Eliminate Income Taxes for Seniors Making Less Than $50,000: Obama and Biden will eliminate all income taxation of seniors making less than $50,000 per year. This will provide an immediate tax cut averaging $1,400 to 7 million seniors and relieve millions from the burden of filing tax returns.

   ● Create Automatic Workplace Pensions: The Obama-Biden retirement security plan will automatically enroll workers in a workplace pension plan. Under their plan, employers who do not currently offer a retirement plan will be required to enroll their employees in a direct-deposit IRA account that is compatible with existing direct-deposit payroll systems. Employees may opt-out if they choose. Experts estimate that this program will increase the savings participation rate for low and middle-income workers from its current 15 percent level to around 80 percent.

   ● Expand Retirement Savings Incentives for Working Families: Obama and Biden will ensure savings incentives are fair to all workers by creating a generous savings match for low and middle-income Americans. Their plan will match 50 percent of the first $1,000 of savings for families that earn less than $75,000. The savings match will be automatically deposited into designated personal accounts. Over 80 percent of these savings incentives will go to new savers.

   ● Prevent Age Discrimination: Obama and Biden will fight job discrimination for aging employees by strengthening the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and empowering the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to prevent all forms of discrimination.

Affordable Health Care

   ● Provide Cheaper Prescription Drugs: Our seniors pay the highest prices in the world for brand-name drugs. To lower drug costs, Obama and Biden will allow the federal government to negotiate for lower drug prices for the Medicare program, just as it does to lower prices for our veterans. They also support allowing seniors to import safe prescription drugs from overseas, and will prevent pharmaceutical companies from blocking cheap and safe generic drugs from the market.

   ● Protect and Strengthen Medicare: Obama and Biden are committed to the long-term strength of the Medicare program. They will reduce waste in the Medicare system -- in part by eliminating subsidies to the private insurance Medicare Advantage program -- and tackle fundamental health care reform to improve the quality and efficiency of our healthcare system. They support closing the "doughnut hole" in the Medicare Part D prescription drug program.

   ● Provide Transparency to Medicare Prescription Drug Plans: Many seniors are enrolled in Medicare prescription drug plans that are actually more expensive for them than other available plans. Obama and Biden will require companies to send Medicare beneficiaries a full list of the drugs and fees they paid the previous year to help seniors determine which plans can better reduce their out-of-pocket costs and improve their health.

   ● Strengthen Long-Term Care Options: Obama and Biden will work to give seniors choices about their care, consistent with their needs, and not biased towards institutional care. They will work to reform the financing of long term care to protect seniors and families, and to improve the quality of elder care by training more nurses and health care workers.

Protect and Honor Seniors

   ● Ensure Heating Assistance: Obama and Biden will increase funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) which helps low-income citizens -- many of them seniors -- pay their winter heating and summer cooling bills.

   ● Support Senior Volunteer Efforts: Retired Americans have a wide range of skills and knowledge to contribute to local and national public service efforts. Obama and Biden will engage more interested seniors in public service opportunities by expanding and improving programs like Senior Corps to connect seniors with quality volunteer opportunities.

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