Public Policy & Aging E-Newsletter

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. WHAT’S 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 to view.

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 to view.

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 to view.


II. WHAT’S 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 to view.

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 Columbia.

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 to view.


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 system’s finances long enough to cover the last surviving Boomer’s 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 nation’s vital center concerning the financial health of the system. I frankly doubt that we can proceed with this nation’s REAL policy challenge—health care reform—until we regain confidence that social insurance remains the foundation for dealing with those inevitable risks that ordinary people face from cradle to grave.

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 to view.

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 to view.

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. Click here to view.

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 to view.

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 the shortfall.

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. Click here to view.

- 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 to view.

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. Click here to view.

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 to view.

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.

To purchase the current issue of PP&AR, or to subscribe, click 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.