We are reading a lot these days about “Greedy Geezers.” The term is used to describe supposedly self-centered seniors who insist that elected lawmakers get their HANDS OFF! Social Security and Medicare. These affluent old codgers are reportedly bankrupting the nation, leaving nothing but crushing debt and taxes for the nation’s children.
The implication that older Americans don’t need their Social Security and Medicare benefits, and that seniors are demanding theirs at the expense of the young, is a nasty tactic that’s not supported by the facts. According to the Social Security Administration, 50 percent of people age 65 and older have a total income of $24,857 —hardly rolling in dough. Yet, those same seniors spend an average of 15 percent of their incomes on healthcare costs — a portion that is rapidly growing.
Financial losses in real estate and retirement accounts of the Great Recession of 2008 have left today’s retirees and Baby Boomers with far less home equity and assets to draw from in retirement, even though seniors are living longer. Retirements are spanning 25 and even thirty years, but today’s seniors are going into retirement with little savings. A recent Harris poll found that 22 percent of retirees age 65 and older say they have none of their retirement savings left. These people are completely dependent on Social Security and other family members.
Growing numbers of seniors are working longer, and delaying the start of benefits. According to a TSCL survey conducted early this year, 42 percent of seniors who are still working say they plan to delay the start of benefits until age 66 or thereafter. Those who continue to work, continue to pay Social Security, Medicare and other taxes as well.
Seniors and Baby Boomers nearing retirement have every right to object and that doesn’t make anybody greedy for doing so. After 1983, when the Social Security Trust Fund began building up reserves, our government proceeded to use all excess funds, and replaced that money with $2.6 trillion in special non-marketable bonds, or I.O.U.s. Seniors are frequently told those I.O.U.s are backed by the full faith of the U.S. government which has never defaulted on its debt. But now that the U.S. Treasury must borrow to pay the interest due to the I.O.U.s held by the Trust Fund, lawmakers are considering plans that would cut promised Social Security benefits. If a government default on the U.S. savings bonds held by public investors is unthinkable — why is cutting obligations to Social Security beneficiaries any less so?
What you can do. If you come across an op-ed calling seniors “Greedy Geezers” in your paper or hear it elsewhere let’s set the record straight. Send a letter to the editor of the publication where you see it and please send TSCL a copy! Send mail to: The Senior Citizens League, 1001 N. Fairfax St. #101, Alexandria, VA 22314.
Sources: “Income of the Population 55 or Older,” 2008, Social Security Administration. “Health Care On A Budget,” Kaiser Family Foundation, June 2011.