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photo credit: Per-Olof Forsberg

Old and Broke in America? It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way, Says Sanders

‘At a time when half of all older workers have no retirement savings,’ argues presidential candidate, ‘we need to expand, not cut, Social Security benefits so that every American can retire with dignity.’

by: Jon Queally

The Social Security system is plagued with disadvantages for poor recipients and ranks of those depending solely on SSI is increasing as economic inequality continues to mount. (Photo: digitalskillet/iStock 360 via Getty Images)

Are the baby boomers going bust?A new report by the Government Accountability Office released Tuesday shows that the savings and overall financial stability of Americans older than 55 has dropped dramatically in recent decades, leaving a worrisome situation as the ranks of the elderly are set to increase even more in the years ahead.”Social Security is the most successful program in our nation’s history. At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, we have got to demand that the richest people in this country pay their fair share.”—Sen. Bernie Sanders According to the report, more than half of this age group have no retirement savings whatsoever and most of these also have no pension (sometimes referred to has a defined benefit (DB) plan) or other spare savings to rely on once they stop working. The GAO says that Social Security currently provides most of the income for about half of households age 65 and older.But with Social Security payments not keeping pace with the cost of living, experts worry that without finding ways to increase Social Security’s reach the current crisis could turn into a full-blown disaster.

As the Huffington Post notes, “In 1975, most workers with employer-sponsored retirement plans had pensions that provided a lifetime ‘defined benefit.’ As of 2012, such plans had 40 million participants, while 91 million workers had retirement savings plans such as 401(k)s, which are based on workers’ own contributions and offer no guarantee of lifetime income.”

The GAO study was requested by Sen. Sanders, now a presidential candidate for the Democratic nomination, who earlier this year was the lead sponsor of legislation designed to increase Social Security benefits for recipients.”This report makes it clear that there is a retirement crisis in America today,” Sanders said in response to the GAO findings.  “At a time when half of all older workers have no retirement savings, we need to expand, not cut, Social Security benefits so that every American can retire with dignity.”While Republicans and many austerity-friendly Democrats have openly discussed making cuts to Social Security, Sanders has been among those lawmakers who joined progressive-minded economists and social justice advocates to instead demand that Social Security be bolstered by increasing the cap on what high income earners pay into the program’s trust fund. Currently that cap is set at just $110,000 which means that people who earn more than that pay a much lower share of their income into the fund annually.

According to Sanders’ office, the Social Security Expansion Act‎ he put forth “would make the wealthiest Americans pay the same share of their income into the retirement program as other wage earners.” That change, Sanders argues, would extend the solvency of Social Security through 2065 while allowing monthly payments to Social Security recipients go up.  Under his proposal, Sanders says the average benefit would increase by $65 a month, cost-of-living adjustments would more accurately measure inflation, and an increase to the minimum benefit could lift millions of vulnerable seniors out of poverty in their final years.  “Social Security is the most successful program in our nation’s history,” Sanders said. “At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, we have got to demand that the richest people in this country pay their fair share.”

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Source: Old and Broke in America? It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way, Says Sanders | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

‘He Should Get the Nobel Peace Prize’: Ellsberg Champions Snowden’s Profound Impact

“[T]he first time…this mass surveillance that’s been going on is subjected to a genuine debate, it didn’t stand up.”

by: Nadia Prupis

Renowned whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg spoke with The Guardian about the changing landscape of U.S. surveillance. (Photo: Steve Rhodes/flickr/cc)

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden should be credited with helping change U.S. surveillance law, Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers, said Monday in an interview with The Guardian.”It’s interesting to see that the first time… this mass surveillance that’s been going on is subjected to a genuine debate, it didn’t stand up,” he said.Ellsberg was charged under the Espionage Act for disclosing secret U.S. military documents related to the Vietnam War in 1971. Snowden, who leaked a trove of classified NSA documents in 2013 and has been living in political asylum in Russia for the past three years, also faces prosecution under the Espionage Act.Asked what should happen to Snowden, Ellsberg replied, “He should get the Nobel peace prize and he should get asylum in a west European country.”Although “there is much more support for him month by month as people come to realise how little substance in the charges that he caused harm to us…that does not mean the intelligence community will ever forgive him for having exposed what they were doing,” Ellsberg continued.Ellsberg is currently on a week-long European speaking tour with several other renowned U.S. whistleblowers, including Thomas Drake, who helped expose fraud and abuse in the NSA’s Trailblazer program; Coleen Rowley, who testified about the FBI’s mishandling of information related to the September 11 attacks; and Jesselyn Radack, who disclosed ethics violations committed by the FBI and currently serves as the director of National Security & Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project.Although the sunset of the Patriot Act on Sunday has forced the NSA to end its domestic phone records collection program, the agency will likely retain much of its surveillance power with the expected passage of the USA Freedom Act, a “compromise” bill which would renew modified versions of Section 215 and other provisions.The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month that the NSA’s bulk phone records collection program “exceeds the scope of what Congress has authorized” under the Patriot Act. Referring to that decision, Ellsberg said Monday that “even the USA Freedom Act, which is better than the Patriot Act, still doesn’t really reflect the full weight of the circuit court opinion that these provisions have been unconstitutional from their beginning and what the government has been doing is illegal.”Drake also spoke to The Guardian on Monday, stating, “This is the first time in almost 14 years that we stopped certain provisions… The national security mindset was unable to prevail.”The USA Freedom Act, meanwhile, “effectively codifies all the secret interpretations, a lot of the other authorities they claimed were enabled by the previous legislation, including the Patriot Act,” Drake continued.In a press briefing on Monday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that despite the sunset of the Patriot Act, the Obama administration would not change its view that Snowden “committed very serious crimes.”But the importance of the Senate’s rejection of the legislation cannot be discounted, said Ellsberg, and Snowden’s influence on the changing political landscape in the U.S. deserves credit.”This is the first time, thanks to Snowden, that the Senate really stood up and realized they have been complicit in the violation of our rights all along—unconstitutional action,” Ellsberg said. “The Senate and the House have been passive up until now and derelict in their responsibilities. At last there was opposition.”

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Source: ‘He Should Get the Nobel Peace Prize’: Ellsberg Champions Snowden’s Profound Impact | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community