THE REASON NEO-LIBERALS AND NEO-CONS ARE CLOSING THESE OFFICES IS THAT THEY ARE ENDING SOCIAL SECURITY.
When unions and justice organizations support neo-liberals this is exactly what they are voting for.
STOP VOTING FOR NEO-LIBERALS AND RUN AND VOTE FOR LABOR AND JUSTICE SO WE CAN REINSTATE RULE OF LAW AND RECOVER ALL THIS FRAUD.
The Maryland AFSCME and Maryland AFL-CIO both supported Anthony Brown for Governor and he is THE MOST READY TO PRIVATIZE ALL THAT IS PUBLIC. He as well as the Republican candidate will work with Obama and neo-liberals in Congress to continue this.
Social Security Threatens To Close All Field Offices
May 22, 2014 / Jim Campana
Need to figure out whether it makes sense to retire at 62 or 65? Wondering how much your monthly Social Security benefit will be? Been married three times and wondering what that means for your benefit?
Answers have never been farther than your local Social Security office, where employees are extensively trained to give you accurate and helpful answers. There’s a reason Social Security is the most popular of all government programs.
But that will change if the Social Security Administration’s “Vision 2025” comes to pass. Bureaucrats are mulling closure of most of SSA’s more than 1,000 community field offices in the U.S., where 43 million people sought services last year.
Even as the number of visitors continues to grow, Vision 2025 would virtually eliminate face-to-face service, replacing it with Internet services and an 800 phone number.
Thirty thousand field office employees would be laid off—following nearly 11,000 positions already eliminated. When SSA sought its employees’ input for Vision 2025, they responded overwhelmingly that field offices were vital to the agency’s mission.
Re-Open Closed Offices The Social Security Works coalition, which fights to strengthen the program, is campaigning to reopen recently closed field offices in Florida, Massachusetts, New York, and California.
Director Alex Lawson says, “The public takes a Social Security office closing very badly. It always makes the local news. We want to make sure all the service cuts and office closings together make the national news.”
He points out that Social Security is under threat from many directions. Only after loud objections from the public did President Obama abandon his drive for an inferior cost-of-living formula. The office closures, service cuts, George W. Bush’s try at outright privatization—all, he says, are “part of the same Wall Street-led attack on Social Security.”
Reducing services erodes confidence in Social Security overall, he said, so the office closures threaten the future of the entire program.
Lawson pointed out that documents available at the field offices are “extremely important for accessing other services, like mortgages. A large number affected are seniors in energy assistance programs; they need to get verification of their income to qualify.”
One recently abandoned service was the reassuring document you used to receive each fall, spelling out your earnings for each year of your life and telling how much Social Security you’d eventually get. You could also check it for errors. The Social Security Administration stopped sending the notices in 2011, to save $70 million per year—peanuts for an agency with a $2.8 trillion trust fund.
Jim Campana, a union officer for SSA workers, said, “There were meta-messages that were sent with these earnings records—that the worker has paid into Social Security all these years, and SSA has a record of it, and the worker may be drawing soon, and getting such-and-such an amount because of these earnings—and all this is real.
“And in the meantime the worker is protected now, for disability, and, in the event of the worker’s death, survivors are covered.”
EVERY FIVE YEARS
Pressure from the public and from Congress forced SSA to resume the paper mailings this September to people who aren’t yet receiving benefits, but they will now get them only every five years between the ages of 25 and 60 (annually after that), and only if they’ve never signed up to view their statements online.
“The statements are understated eye-openers that would tend to foster support for Social Security,” said Campana, “but they’ll do so only one-fifth as well if they come only every five years.”
Sign a petition against office closings here.
“Americans are going to be cheated out of what they deserve,” said Witold Skwierczynski, head of the workers’ union bargaining council. “Every Social Security beneficiary deserves the personal assistance they have paid for their entire lives.”
DON’T LEAVE YOUR HOUSE The 800 number, now plagued with long wait times, would likely be automated. Beneficiaries would have to navigate through questions before they could speak with a live representative. And the Government Employees union (AFGE) suspects SSA would outsource the call centers to other countries.
The confusing MySSA website poses its own challenges. Till now, beneficiaries have been able to get documents such as verification of Social Security numbers and verification of benefits received simply by going to a field office and asking for them.
Such records are often needed the same day, to obtain mortgages, apply for jobs, and qualify for federal aid programs. Going through the SSA website, it could take a week or more for the most common types of documents to show up in physical form in a requester’s mailbox.
And later this year, SSA already plans to stop issuing these simple verifications at field offices—requiring instead an online or phone contact, and then a wait.
“The plan makes the assumption that in the year 2025 people will want to conduct all their business via the internet and will not leave their houses,” said Matt Perlinger, a claims rep in Omaha.
“Our offices are busier than ever. People continue to demand face-to-face service in order to understand the complex program that is Social Security. It’s the caring and dedicated SSA employees that take the time to thoroughly explain these programs.”
The loss of in-person services would create a serious hardship for the millions of seniors who do not have a computer or Internet access. It would also increase the distances they will need to travel to get to whatever offices remain.
TRIPPING YOURSELF UP Skwierczynski noted that, according to surveys of SSA employees, many claimants who file on the internet make decisions that could lead to the permanent loss of benefits. SSA employees are trained to catch those mistakes.
Ryan Gurganious, a claims rep for the disabled in North Carolina, cited an example: “When a disabled person is working, we’ll ask them, ‘In your job do you have any special expenses you have to pay to be able to work?’ They might say, ‘I have to get the county transportation service to come pick me up in my wheelchair, and that’s a $40 fee every month.’
“We know that that $40 comes out of the equation when we’re figuring their benefit, so they’ll get a larger SSI check. But the computer’s not going to ask them that.”
Labor Notes staffer Jenny Brown cites a personal example. Her father was originally told he was just shy of the required work credits to get Social Security benefits. He’d worked for many years for a state college that wasn’t part of the system at the time.
But an alert field office worker realized that he was also a World War II combat veteran—and a special rule for those vets put him over the limit to get a monthly check.
David Sheagley, an AFGE representative and SSA teleservice-center representative in Cleveland, notes that SSA workers “assist folks during stress-filled transitions whether it be death, disability, or retirement. In other words, our mission at SSA absolutely requires that human beings be available to talk with the public.”
Another aspect of SSA’s long-range plan is that those who use the MySSA site run risks. The New York Times reported that Experian, the private credit-data company that manages a portion of MySSA user data, was hacked by a Vietnamese criminal ring. Though SSA data were spared that time, 200 million accounts were compromised.
H.R. 3997, backed by AFGE, would put a moratorium on field office closures until SSA provides justification. The bill also requires that the community be allowed to weigh in on potential closures. The bill faces an uphill battle to reach the U.S. House of Representatives, though. As of May 9, it had only 15 cosponsors.
“No one asked for this plan,” said Skwierczynski. “These Social Security benefits belong to all Americans. Our mission is to maintain the level of benefits and service they have earned.”
DEATH BY A THOUSAND CUTS Although needs are expanding as baby boomers retire, SSA isn’t waiting for 2025. Management has already shuttered 80 field offices and reduced hours at the rest by closing at noon on Wednesdays and at 3:00 on other weekdays.
AFGE encourages union members and all who expect to receive Social Security—that is, just about everyone--to push back against Vision 2025. The afge.org/saveoursocialsecurity site includes ways to ask your lawmaker to cosponsor H.R. 3997. Site visitors can send a letter to the editor and find tools to educate their communities.
Jim Campana is an AFGE representative and works for Social Security in Michigan.
WHY IS THE GREEN PARTY THE ONLY VOICE IN OUTING NEO-LIBERALS AND OBAMA ON PRIVATIZING SOCIAL SECURITY WITH myRA? Because the Democratic Party is controlled by neo-liberals---who are not even Democrats.
Below you see my comments to a labor article but also to supposedly 'progressive' organizations that fought Chain CPI and claimed victory in petitioning but failed to say a word about Obama's using the direct route to privatization. You can tell a neo-liberal outlet when they do not shout out for the real issues. Chain CPI is child's play to ending SS with myRA.
You do not mention that Obama's push for Chain CPI was simply a ploy as he always intended to establish myRA to end Social Security. As groups were fighting Chain CPI and claiming victory in stopping that.....Obama simply used executive order telling Treasury to build myRA ----a Republican policy to privatize Social Security but we do not hear that from these same progressive groups. THIS POLICY KILLS SOCIAL SECURITY AND NOT A SOUND FROM LABOR AND JUSTICE.
myRA is a payroll deduction that starts as voluntary but will become the replacement for the payroll deduction that is mandatory with Social Security. myRA takes that payroll deduction and hands it to Wall Street as if it will be safe because of certain restrictions. This is the structure that Republican policy created to transfer Social Security to private hands. It is like Medicare and Medicare Advantage------Affordable Care Act guts Medicare of almost a trillion dollars and with that lots of access to health care for seniors at the same time private Medicare Advantage covers more and looks more attractive. People move to private Medicare Advantage because Federal Medicare no longer covers all people need. This eventually ends Federal Medicare and it is all done by Obama and neo-liberals pretending to fight for low-income health coverage.
We need labor and justice educating people as to what is really happening with these policies. Neo-liberals have to leave the people's Democratic Party and it will only happen if labor and justice run candidates in primaries against these global corporate pols.
Green Party on Social Security Party Platform
ObamaCare sets precedent for market-based social insurance Using a market-based model for health insurance sets a dangerous precedent. Traditional social insurances are provided by the government and are paid for through taxes.The same plan may be in the works for Social Security. In his speech, the President announced a new retirement savings program, MyRA. Although the details of MyRa are not clear, it is based on creating individual retirement accounts (IRAs) for workers who don't currently have them.
What we do know is that Social Security has been under attack throughout the President's time in office. Rather than doing what is needed, raising the cap, or going beyond that and raising benefits, there have been attempts to cut benefits and raise the age of eligibility. The public is being told that Social Security is in a crisis but is not being told that this 'crisis' is intentional. Unlike Social Security, IRAs are managed by financial institutions that profit from them. MyRa is another gift to Wall Street by President Obama.
Source: Green Party response to 2014 State of the Union , Jan 30, 2014
Opposes any privatization of Social Security The Green Party opposes any privatization of Social Security whatsoever. We oppose raising the retirement age above 65 years. Source: 2008 Green Party Platform from 2008 Chicago Convention , Jul 13, 2008
Don’t privatize Social Security The Green Party opposes the “privatization” of Social Security. The Social Security trust fund, contrary to claims being made by Republican and Democrat candidates, is not about to “go broke” and does not need to be “fixed” by Wall Street. The alleged demise of Social Security benefits is based on the wildly pessimistic assumption that the economy will grow only 1.8% annually over the next three decades. At a more realistic 2.4% a year, the fund is flush for the next 75 years.Considering that the bottom 20% of American senior citizens get roughly 80% of their income from Social Security, and that without Social Security nearly 70% of black elderly and 60% of Latino elderly households would be in poverty, it is critical that the public protections of Social Security are not privatized and subjected to increased risk based on misleading projections of shortfalls
I want to point out that Warren is a neo-liberal and supports Bill and Hillary Clinton and global corporations and markets. So, as she makes good progressive points, she seems to support the very pols that will move the privatization of all that is public forward. Please look closely at the big picture with pols......let's wait to see if Warren walks the talk and thank her for her current voice on important issues.
I also want to point out that I have been shouting this since 2010 State of the Union address. We are only hearing it now in most media outlets----2014.
Please think about your labor and justice leaders that are saying nothing-----believe me, your national leaders know what is happening.
Wednesday, Feb 12, 2014 11:57 AM EDT
Elizabeth Warren vs. the neoliberals: The battle over Americans’ retirement security The left’s plan to expand Social Security butts up against old “centrist” ideas that favor the small-bore and cheap
Michael Lind Salon
Elizabeth Warren (Credit: Reuters/Joshua Roberts)
In the last year or two, something remarkable has happened in American politics. After decades in which future deficits, mostly caused by healthcare costs and conservative tax cuts, were invoked by those seeking to slash Social Security benefits for reasons of ideology or pecuniary interest, the national conversation has changed. Preceded by intellectual pioneers like Atrios and Social Security Works, Sens. Tom Harkin and Mark Begich have proposed to slightly expand, rather than contract, Social Security benefits. My New America Foundation colleagues Robert Hiltonsmith, Steven Hill and Joshua Freedman and I have proposed a more radical expansion, coupled with caps on 401(k)s and other tax-favored retirement savings programs, which chiefly benefit the richest Americans. By endorsing the concept of expanding Social Security, Sen. Elizabeth Warren lent credence to an idea that has gained the support of mainstream pundits like Ezra Klein and Matthew Yglesias.
Unfortunately, nobody has told President Obama.
In a speech in Pittsburgh on Jan. 29, the president fleshed out the My Retirement Account (MyRA) proposal he mentioned in his State of the Union address. The president’s remarks begin promisingly enough:
Today, most workers don’t have a pension in America,” he added. “Just half work for an employer that offers any kind of a retirement plan. A Social Security check is critical, but oftentimes, that monthly check, that’s not enough. And while the stock market has doubled over the last five years, that doesn’t help somebody if you don’t have a 401(k).
All of this seems like a lead-up to a Warren-like endorsement of proposals to expand Social Security benefits, right? Well, no.
President Obama, you must remember, is not a progressive, notwithstanding his occasional support for progressive measures like universal pre-K or a higher minimum wage. The president is a neoliberal in the tradition of Bill Clinton and the old “New Democrats,” an “Eisenhower Democrat” not a “Roosevelt Democrat,” determined to be perceived as centrist at all costs.
And during the last generation, the formative period in which the president rose in his career in American politics, the official “centrist” position on Social Security called for cutting Social Security benefits while increasing tax-favored defined-contribution savings plans like 401(k)s and IRAs — thereby shifting risk from the government to the individual. In the echo chamber of the mainstream media, this position was portrayed as the reasonable, respectable, responsible center — midway between the irresponsible right, which sought to completely abolish Social Security and replace it with tax-subsidized private accounts, and the allegedly irresponsible left, which sought, not to expand benefits, but merely to pay Americans the future Social Security benefits they have been promised.
Call these three schools of thought about Social Security, from right to left, the abolitionists, the cutters and the defenders. The defenders of present-day Social Security, from the 1980s until recently, have been treated as representing the furthest acceptable liberal position. During the last few decades, those who occasionally proposed going beyond merely defending Social Security from the cutters and the abolitionists, and suggested actually boosting benefits to some degree, were excluded from the elite conversation. They were not invited to panel discussions; they were not asked to join commissions; they were not subsidized by think tanks; they were ignored by the major media. The Social Security expanders were treated as members of the lunatic fringe, as though they were Trotskyists proposing the nationalization of industry or Bryanite agrarian populists demanding a bimetallic currency.
This powerful orthodoxy undoubtedly explains Obama’s own position on Social Security — which is that of a cutter. In an earlier budget the president endorsed a favorite proposal of the Social Security cutters — using chained CPI, an alternate measure of inflation, as a stealthy, indirect way of cutting benefits for most working-class and middle-class elderly (on the evident assumption that they would be too ill-informed to notice that their benefits had cumulatively been cut).
Typically members of the Cut Social Security school combine proposed cuts in benefits with this or that expansion of the ever-proliferating number of tax-favored private savings schemes and a few generous-sounding token subsidies to the poor. America’s Cutter-in-Chief Obama is no exception. Having already proposed using chained CPI to cut Social Security benefits, he now proposes yet another tax-favored defined-contribution scheme that is supposed to help the poor in particular.
Obama’s MyRA proposal (already being pronounced “Myra” as in Gore Vidal’s famous transsexual Myra Breckinridge, rather than “My RA”) is an unintentional parody of Clinton-Obama neoliberalism. To satisfy the requirements of classic neoliberalism, a proposal has to meet the following tests:
- It must be symbolic rather than serious. Rather than actually solve a major social or economic problem, the policy should merely signal that the neoliberal politician “feels your pain.”
- It must be small-bore and cheap. A token gesture of neoliberal reform must not cost very much money, because, in the words of Bill Clinton, “The era of big government is over” and neoliberals do not want to be confused with big-government tax-and-spend progressives.
- It must be unnecessarily complex and easily gamed. Alexander the Great, who cut the Gordian knot with a single swipe of his sword, was more like a New Deal liberal than a New Democrat. Neoliberal Democrats are more like Michael Meyers’ Dr. Evil, who prefers devising an overly complicated death by contraption for an enemy he could dispatch more quickly and simply with a bullet. Neoliberals love what the political scientist Steven Teles calls “kludgeocracy” — that is, the design of public policy equivalents of Rube Goldberg machines.
- If possible, it must funnel money from taxpayers to rent-seekers in the FIRE (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate) sector, where the donors behind neoliberal Democrats tend to be found. Neoliberals never want government to carry out a program directly, simply and cheaply, when it could be contracted out at greater expense to fee-collecting private corporations or banks or, as in the case of the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, to rent-seeking private insurance companies, who might, just might, recycle some of their rents as campaign contributions to serving politicians or corporate board pay to former officials.
To begin with, Myra (as we’ll call her henceforth) is symbolic, cheap and small-bore. The president proposes that qualifying employees be allowed to hold some safe government securities for a maximum of 30 years or a mature investment of $15,000. Divide $15,000 by 30 years of retirement and you get $500 a year or an extra $41.66 a month. I’m sure the poor elderly will be grateful for the small but kind neoliberal gesture.
Myra is also unnecessarily complex and subsidizes the money-management industry. As Michael Hiltzik points out in the L.A. Times, “Once the accounts reach $15,000 in value, they would have to be rolled over into a conventional Individual Investment Account. That’s a sop to the financial services industry, which makes billions from managing IRAS.” But from the perspective of neoliberal Democrats, who raise far more money from Wall Street than their progressive rivals, a program for the poor that incidentally subsidizes the fee-raking money manager elite is ideal. In the words of Gore Vidal, the creator of the other Myra, the American system is socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor.
Sadly, this is the kind of thing that we have come to expect from President Obama, at least when it comes to retirement security. His idea of a centrist, after all, is the right-wing Republican Alan Simpson, whom the president appointed to co-chair his National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, and who described Social Security as being “like a milk cow with 310 million tits!”
The good news is that the national conversation about Social Security seems to be changing, even if the Obama White House has not received the memo.
Nobody but a few libertarian die-hards and dead-enders still hopes for the complete replacement of Social Security by a radically new system of private accounts. George W. Bush’s push for mere partial privatization of Social Security stalled because of resistance from Republicans in the Republican-controlled Congress. The dream of the ’90s privatizers lives on only in the Portlandias of the right like the Cato Institute and AEI.
If the Social Security privatizers drop out of the conversation, and the Social Security expanders muscle their way in, the entire debate changes. Suddenly the position of Social Security cutters like President Obama ceases to be the centrist position and becomes the new right-wing extreme position. At the same time, the defenders of Social Security as it now exists — formerly the utmost respectable left — find themselves positioned at the new center, while the Social Security expanders — formerly the lunatic fringe — become the respectable center-left with arguments that must be taken seriously. And that’s real progress.
Michael Lind is the author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States and co-founder of the New America Foundation.