Public Policy &
Volume 1, Number 4, July 2007
This bimonthly e-newsletter highlights key developments
and viewpoints in the field of aging policy from a wide variety
of sources, including articles and reports circulating in the media,
academy, think tanks, private sector, government and nonprofit organizations.
The goal of this email publication is to reach teachers, students,
and citizens interested in aging-related issues, especially those
who may not have access to policy information disseminated both
in Washington and around the country.
I. WHATS HAPPENING IN WASHINGTON?
A. The Social Security Board of Trustees Annual Report: This just-released
report on the financial health of the Social Security program shows
a slight improvement in the projected financial status of the program
last year. Click here
B. Coping with the Demographic Challenge, Fewer Children and Living
Longer: The Social Security system is experiencing a declining worker-to-beneficiary
ratio, presenting a significant challenge to policymakers. In this
article, the authors discuss policy implications and some potential
policy solutions to this demographic challenge. Click here
C. Private Accounts, Super-Sized Benefit Cuts and an Inflated Solvency
Gap are the President's Faulty Premises for Unraveling Social Security:
President Bush has proposed Social Security benefit cuts by means
of a plan known as "price-indexing" and has also renewed
his push to privatize Social Security. Click here
II. WHATS HAPPENING AROUND THE COUNTRY?
A. Social Security State Statistics: Newly released in April 2007
from the Social Security Administration, this report includes state-by-state
fact sheets on Old-Age, Survivors, Disability Income (OASDI), Supplemental
Security Income (SSI), and earnings and employment data. Click here
B. Social Security- Beneficiaries, Annual Payments, and Average
Monthly Benefits in North Dakota: Click here
to view this brief from North Dakota State University that focuses
on Social Security beneficiaries of North Dakota and also includes
information on beneficiaries, annual payments, and average monthly
benefits of Social Security for all 50 States and the District of
C. Divided We Fail: AARP's new initiative, "Divided We Fail,"
works to amplify the voices of millions of Americans who believe
that health care and lifetime financial security are the most pressing
domestic issues facing our nation. Click here
III. THIS ISSUE'S MAJOR POLICY STORY: SOCIAL SECURITY
Although presidential candidates are not giving it much attention,
Social Security reform remains a hot topic among policymakers in
Washington and state capitals as well as among academics. The rhetoric
is not as strident as we heard when the President put privatization
high on his agenda for his second term. And the doomsday scenarios
punctuated by generational inequities, so prominent in the media
during the 1980s, are not polarizing positions these days. Instead,
various groups are recommending incremental changes to shore up
the systems finances long enough to cover the last surviving
Boomers monthly check.
This issue of Public Policy & Aging E-Newsletter highlights
the range of options in circulation. It is highly likely that Congress
will look favorably on ideas highlighted here. By making sure that
our readers are well informed, we hope that those committed to a
just, fair society will be in a position to allay residual fears
among the nations vital center concerning the financial health
of the system. I frankly doubt that we can proceed with this nations
REAL policy challengehealth care reformuntil we regain
confidence that social insurance remains the foundation for dealing
with those inevitable risks that ordinary people face from cradle
A. Social Security's Financial Outlook, The 2007 Report in Perspective:
Prepared by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College,
this report includes projections for the Social Security system
over the next 75 years. Click here
B. University of Michigan Retirement Research Center Quarterly
Newsletter: This issue of the Michigan Retirement Research Center
newsletter focuses on Social Security and features a recent analysis
from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that discusses what is
likely to change Social Security in the future and what changes
are needed. Click here
C. The Repeal of the Retirement Earnings Test and the Labor Supply
of Older Men: The Senior Citizens Freedom to Work Act of 2000 abolished
the Social Security retirement earnings test for those aged 65-69.
This paper from Center for Retirement Research at Boston College
examines the impact of the Act on the labor supply of older men.
D. Social Security Reform Options: The American Academy of Actuaries
offers this paper that provides the necessary historical context
to enable the general reader to understand more fully the implications
of the various proposals of Social Security reform options that
address that program's financial challenges. It presents an objective
analysis, but emphasizes proposed reforms that are currently receiving
the greatest attention in the Social Security debate. Click here
E. The Social Security Fix-It Book: Click here
to view an illustrated, colorful guide from the Center for Retirement
Research at Boston College that outlines the program of Social Security,
its financing issues, and the leading proposals for eliminating
F. Social Security and Retirement Income Adequacy: Retirees generally
need a retirement income of about 70-80 percent of their prior earnings
to maintain their standards of living, yet the current Social Security
program replaces far less than that. This NASI brief focuses on
the role of Social Security in producing adequate retirement income.
- Andy Achenbaum
IV. WORTH NOTING
A. The Retirement Security Project: Click here
to view the website of "The Retirement Security Project":
an initiative dedicated to promoting common sense solutions to improve
the retirement income prospects of millions of American workers.
B. Growing Older in America, The Health & Retirement Study:
The Health and Retirement Study (HRS), sponsored by the National
Institute on Aging under a cooperative agreement with the University
of Michigan, follows more than 20,000 men and women over 50, offering
insight into the changing lives of the older U.S. population. This
longitudinal study has become known as the Nation's leading resource
for data on the combined health and economic conditions of older
Americans. Click here
C. Strategic Action Plan: Click here
to read about the AoA Strategic Action Plan for 2007-2012, which
has established goals that support the continual modernization of
Older Americans Act services.
V. WHAT'S HAPPENING ABROAD?
A. A Global Overview on Social Security in the Age of Longevity:
As an increasing number of countries are affected by population
aging, a key challenge will be to guarantee an adequate level of
income for the older generation without placing excessive demands
on younger generations and on national economies. This paper argues
that social security systems do have the capability to adjust to
the emerging needs of workers and citizens in the unprecedented
demographic, social and economic environment of aging societies.
B. Social Security, The Chilean Approach to Retirement: Chile has
become a case study of pension reform since, in 1981, it replaced
a state-run, pay-as-you-go defined benefit retirement system with
a private, mandatory system of individual retirement accounts where
benefits are dependent on the account balance. This CRS report focuses
on the Chilean individual retirement accounts system. Click here
C. International Update, Recent Developments in Foreign Private
and Public Pensions: Click here
to read an around-the-world update of recent developments in public
and private pensions from the Social Security Administration.
VI. PERSPECTIVES ON POLICY: ROB HUDSON, EDITOR, PP&AR
The most salient social policy development of the past quarter
century has been a dramatic shifting of risk protection against
the so-called vicissitudes of life from the public to the private
sector and from institutions in both the public and private sectors
to individuals and families. Writing of the Reagan years, I once
referred to the 1980s as "the DIP Decade"-decentralization,
individualization, privatization. More recently, Jacob Hacker has
labeled this true period event as "the great risk shift."
Instances of these transfers abound: the federal government shifting
various responsibilities to the states; efforts to claw away at
Social Security through the creation of private retirement accounts;
the abandonment of traditional defined benefit retirement programs
in the private sector in favor of defined contribution plans. Proponents
of these initiatives see merit to lie in fostering individual responsibility.
Those seeing great danger in these developments cite the erosion
of the risk-sharing mechanism represented by social insurance, a
return to an assessment of blame rather than the distribution of
risk in accounting for the "bad things" that can happen
to people, and the fundamental loss of economic security that the
new risk-shifting represents.
View the table of contents of this special issue addressing "risk-shifting
and aging policy" here.
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Newsletter Editors: Ellyn Emsley and Greg O'Neill, National Academy
on an Aging Society; Andy Achenbaum, University of Houston.
The Public Policy and Aging E-Newsletter is supported in part
by a grant from the AARP Office of Academic Affairs.