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View Diary: US already has high elder poverty rate, so why are Social Security cuts even on the table? (223 comments)

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  •  My wife and I try to live on social security (25+ / 0-)

    Both of us are in the twenty years of schooling and they put you on the day shift category. In my case computer aided design no longer requires much input from well trained humans, and as yet neither of us has had enough parts replaced to qualify as a robot.

    We live in Maine where LePage has cut every conceivable safety net to the bone. We  have no health insurance. My wife needs to make it through to May to get on Medicare but that's not a sure thing. We are at present living on the Republican healthcare plan as outlined by Grayson.

    We lost what we had invested in the crash of 2008 and spent what remained of  our savings trying to keep a roof over our heads while we waited for the economy to rebound.

    What were we  thinking?

    Well, we honestly thought that eventually the economy would recover and once again our home would be a valuable asset we could borrow against. It had been our experience that always happened before and we keep hearing that is about to happen now.

    In my case I'm still expecting to spend my golden years living on a mountain on the rocky coast of Maine in a place that will become a great substitute for the islands of the Caribbean and Florida in what used to be winter once Florida sinks beneath the waves.

    Both of us took low paying very physical menial jobs to scrape by. Maintaining our place was a full time job in and of itself but I sold wild mushrooms at the Farmers market, scraped the bottom of boats and did landscaping while my wife cleaned offices in the call center that used to be MBNA.

    Once we got too old and too sick to do that and the unemployment insurance ran out we began selling off
    all the things that used to decorate and now cluttered our lives.

    We forage and salvage and recycle scraps of once useful things trading old computers with Bob of Bob's photovoltaic junkyard which he recycles into photovoltaic inverters in return for metal that we can forge into tools and trade blown down apples for horse manure to be mixed with sawdust and compost for the garden.

    Where we live it feels like everywhere you go is part of an airline calendar. Some of the people who live in this pretty place in summer discard enough useful stuff at the recycling center that you could almost make a full time job out of harvesting it.

    I wonder what would happen if Obama offered to make cuts in discretionary spending by mandating that for all federal employees and people doing business with the Federal government there be a maximum wage ten times the minimum wage.  Would the minimum wage and the cost of living index go up to where old people could afford to eat store bought food?

    Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

    by rktect on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 01:07:47 AM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  Actually, for Civil Servants, it is (16+ / 0-)

      The minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, or, 15K for 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, before taxes. The highest level on the General Service pay scale is GS 15 step 10, with a salary, in 2010, of just under 130K, which is less than 10 times the minimum wage. There is locality pay and some adjustments for merit pay, but Civil Servants don't make the megabucks those in private industry do, for a simple reason: no Federal employee can make more in earnings than the President does, which is 400K. It's the high-level managers at for-profit federal contractors who earn outrageous salaries, because there are no such legal controls in place.

      Keep in mind, however, that since Reagan, all the media have parroted  the GOP talking point that private industry is better than Federal employees for getting the People's work done. So, instead of having civil servants doing the work at their reduced salaries, it's being given out to for-profit corporations, who charge more to do the same job that the government used to do in-house. Add to that the managerial oversight of contractors that used to not be required, and of course federal projects are costing more than they should.

      Now, while there are civil servants who are rude and surly in dealing with the public, for the most part, you'll never meet a group of harder-working, more dedicated people. I say this as someone who worked in the Civil Service as a Physical Scientist (geophysicist) for 15 years until Clinton halved the number of Federal employees (then farmed the work out to private industry), I worked plenty of late nights, weekends and holidays, just because there was work that needed doing.

      Also, I get what you say about the recycling; we did that all the time at the Lab where I worked. It was an unwritten rule to set unwanted supplies out rather than just throw them away. A pile of scrap metal would inevitably disappear, to be reused on other projects. After all, you, the Federal taxpayer paid for it; it couldn't be allowed to go to waste. We had to pinch every penny of our research funds, just as you are doing.

      So, yes, there are projects in the government that cost more than they should, but put the blame where it ought to be: on bad policies and for-profit contractors.

      Radarlady

      •  Federal employee here (17+ / 0-)

        and I just need to chime in.  We haven't replaced the last 9 people who left where I work, I'm working two full time jobs to  cover some of the gaps.  I can't remember the last time my week was the 40 hours it's supposed to be with no extra hours put in just to get half of what needs doing done and, financially, I'm hurting.  The lack of COLA raise hurts.  The increase in Payroll tax  (or loss of the cut) hurts. My insurance premium is going up higher than the .05% raise i'm supposedly going to get at some point this year and health care reform reduced the amount I can put in my flex account, which hurts, because my insurance is so bad that I spend about $6000 out of pocket before I hit my out of pocket catastrophic max, usually by March or April.  And my pension is going to be 30% of my highest three earning years which, at the rate we're going, ain't gonna be all that much.  Assuming Social Security still exists in some form, I will not retire in poverty, thanks to that meager pension, but I won't be spending like a drunken sailor, that's for sure.  

      •  Salary.com (8+ / 0-)

        I'm talking maximum not average.

        Current salary for the Chief Justice of the SCOTUS is $223,500 per year, while the Associate Justices each make $213,900.

        If the minimum wage had to be raised to $22,350 a year that would be $10.75/hr, about a 25% bump but much more in line with a living wage.

        The president earns a $400,000 annual salary, along with a $50,000 annual expense account, a $100,000 nontaxable travel account and $19,000 for entertainment. The most recent raise in salary was approved by Congress and President Bill Clinton in 1999 and went into effect in 2001.
        The minimum wage of $7.25 for 40 hrs wk, 52 weeks a year is $15,080; x 10 = $150,080.  

        Some of the things which increase salary are location, (hazardous duty, overseas), specialized training (college degrees, doctor, lawyer, registered architect) time in grade, overtime, civilian contractor, bonus and benefits.

        If we take 1/10 of  the POTUS salary package of $569,000 or $56,900 that's $27.36/hr which would make life a lot easier than trying to subsist of $15,000.

        The median expected salary for a typical Government Affairs Director in the United States is $116,821( but the maximum salary runs about $161,554.
        Government Affairs Director Salary

        Median Salary with bonus

        $140, 640, Maximum, $218, 147

        salary plus benefits

        $188,875

        Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

        by rktect on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 04:52:26 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  You went into more depth (7+ / 0-)

          with your calculations, but, the point remains the same. Even at the maximum, we're not talking million dollar salaries here, which is what was bothering the commenter eking out a subsistence retirement living on Social Security..

          And the minimum wage really should be raised to at least $10 an hour. That it's as low as it is is the result of the continual dismantlement of our economy for the benefit of the wealthy by the GOP, but what is really is is an embarrassment, plain and simple.

          Radarlady

          •  Raising the minimum wage has overwhelming (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            radarlady

            support, just like taxing the rich, maybe even more support. It's one of the best political moves out there for Democrats, who need to do it more often.

            Best, if it's available in your state, is to put it on the ballot as a constitutional amendment so the legislature can't cut it in some way, like the Missouri legislature did to the annual COLA adjustment passed with the last initiative minimum wage increase.

          •  I agree the minimum wage should be raised (0+ / 0-)

            along with our investment in education, social security, medicare, medicaid, unemployment insurance, and all the other safety nets that keep the poor and elderly, the sick and disabled from starving and going homeless.

            What we need is to establish a minimum quality of life that is high enough that people don't need to kill themselves with the abuse of addictive substances such as drugs alcohol, tobacco, and fast foods to escape their misery.

            That would save us billions by making our people more productive, keeping a greater percentage of healthcare preventative rather than therapeutic, encouraging the exploration of entrepreneurial opportunities  that many people can imagine but are dissuaded from pursuing by a lack of capital for investment.

            What the GOP is scared of is our not being internationally competitive with emerging third world economies. In Europe this has led to a race for the bottom with ever more stringent austerity designed to make people willing to compete with India and China for a job telecommuting to provide computer support.

            What might be a wiser policy is global nation building and instead of resource wars cooperation to mediate the climate change which threatens to make all our other struggles irrelevant by 2020.

            Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

            by rktect on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 05:35:28 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  thanks for setting the record straight (11+ / 0-)

        about federal employees...my husband has been one his whole career - 28 years - makes less than he could in academia or private industry - has never worked a 40 hour week - averages 60 with no extra pay - but does it because he loves the work. It is a right wing talking point, perpetuated by Rush Limbaugh that civil servants are overpaid, lazy, fatcats. How rightwing talking points get to Daily Kos, I don't know, but I appreciate your effort to  set the record straight. I'd like to see the same energy that folks use to criticize civil servants go into defense contractors who are eating up our federal budget.

    •  Hang on (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cedwyn, Einsteinia

      Le Page won't last forever.  I was just reading about some non-profit statewide health co-op being started in Maine.  There weren't a lot of details, but it sounded promising.  Did you hear anything about that?  I'm also wondering if any of those clinics that Bernie Sanders sneaked into the ACA have gotten started yet.  I plan to retire to Maine, so I've been trying to keep up with some of that stuff.

      •  My wife is going to Knox County Health Clinic (6+ / 0-)

        Its a free clinic in Rockland, ME started by a doctor retired from Brigham and Woman's. They get no government aid so have to depend on donations.

        They borrow from or share space with a  family planning clinic and depend on volunteers for staff but were able to arrange for diagnostics at Pen Bay; CAT Scan and phlebotomy for about $3 large.

        There may be a free program to help with bills but we aren't in that yet. She will be eligible for medicare in May but had to quit her job because she's already too sick to work.

        Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

        by rktect on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 04:23:16 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

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