Friday, August 05, 2005
Temple Israel in Viera sponsors a wide variety of activities for its congregation, including the increasingly popular Prime Time social group for seniors. Prime Time meets the first Monday of every month and provides a stimulating program with time for discussion and socializing. Prime Time is open to everyone, whether members of the congregation, residents of Brevard County, or visitors passing through.
On August 1st, Temple Israel’s Prime Time hosted Florida’s AARP Advocacy Organizer, Mel Rabinowitz, who shared a “brown bag lunch” with the enthusiastic group. After lunch, he spoke about the stance that the AARP is taking toward encouraging President Bush and the Legislature to work toward retirement security for each American citizen. Rabinowitz explained that AARP is devoted to working with both political parties to help ensure that Social Security remains secure for all Americans.
He stressed that AARP is a nonpartisan, non-political, non-profit organization with the mission of enhancing the quality of life for everyone as our society ages. AARP envisions a society in which everyone ages with dignity and purpose and works to help people fulfill their goals and dreams. AARP leads its members toward positive social change and strives to deliver value through information, advocacy, and service, not only to members of the Association, but to all citizens. AARP is a leading organization for people over age 50. With over 35 million members, AARP is not only about reduced rates for life insurance, travel deals, and pharmacy assistance programs.
Rabinowitz offered much more than dry statistics and cold facts. He delighted the Prime Time participants with humor and interesting anecdotes for an hour, then amused and informed, during the question and answer session. Rabinowitz, with AARP, is very concerned about the solvency of the Social Security fund and the direction our government is taking toward Privatization.
He said, “The president has recently attempted to do something. He wants to privatize social security. It’s a beautiful word. It sounds cosmetically wonderful, but the reality isn’t the way it is going to work out or how it has worked out.”
He explained that the people who would be most affected by privatization of the Social Security fund would be employees who would pay three times: once to fund the benefits for those who are currently receiving income from Social Security; once to fund their own future benefits, and once to fund the benefits of those who do not invest well.
Rabinowitz explained that AARP strongly believes that “Private accounts that take money out of Social Security are not part of the solution. These accounts drain money out of Social Security, cut benefits and pass the bill to future generations. And while recent proposals for progressive price indexing begin with a good idea—protecting the lowest-wage workers—they go too far and cut benefits too deeply for middle-income Americans. We will not waver in our commitment to Social Security and will remain firm in our stance against any plan that takes money out of Social Security.”
He told the Prime Time group that Washington D.C. uses scare tactics to convince the public that the Social Security fund is going broke.
“Here we have people in the Administration trying to scare us, by saying that it’s not going to last, that it’s broke. It is not broke! Here are some of the facts on that: by the year 2018, expenditures exceed income excluding interest; in 2020, expenditures exceed income including interest; in 2042, the fund will be depleted and we can still carry on for many more years.”
He sprinkled in jokes about attorneys, doctors, public speakers, and even funeral services to keep his audience interested in an otherwise humorless subject. Originally from New York’s Lower East Side, Rabinowitz has lived in Indialantic for seven years.
“One of the things that they also don’t mention to you is the reason the fund looks depleted, is because Congress has every year, “borrowed” – you know if you are from New York’s lower east side, you know what the word borrowed means when you speak to ‘Gino’. I grew up there. What they are talking about when they say “borrowing” is they take out the money to take care of their pork barrel products or whatever else they want to get done, and they create treasury bonds that pay only 2% interest that can only be used to cover the Social Security.”
AARP is supporting an increase to raise the income cap to $140,000, from the current $90,000, which would only affect 6% of the nation’s populace.
“Now this 6% of the population are the wealthiest in the nation. I said at a recent meeting I attended, that if Vice President Cheney, or President Bush, or any one else in that income bracket, after being charged the additional few dollars on his plan, finds he is having difficulty meeting his budget, I will personally contribute every month and I will run a Jerry Lewis telethon for him,” Rabinowitz said, to a round of applause and laughter.
AARP believes it is important to not rush into any decisions, but to make wise decisions based on sound counsel from a variety of experts. Most Social Security experts believe that the system is not in crisis, but that we cannot wait to create a widely acceptable plan for solvency.
Rabinowitz encourages everyone to call 800-846-8610 to voice their opinions on the subject.
“We can put you in touch with your congress members and your legislators and you can tell them you agree with us. If you don’t, you can call them anyway, and tell them that you agree with them. It’s perfectly okay. That’s what makes America Great”
Mel Rabinowitz, who will soon be moving with his wife to The Villages, said with passion, “I firmly believe that if we cannot take care of our elders who need us, then we have no one to learn from for the future. If we can’t take care of our young, then we have no future to learn for.”
For more information on the Prime Time social group at Temple Israel in Viera, call 636-3484.
For more information on AARP or its position on the condition of Social Security, call 777-1143, or visit their website at www.aarp.org
Sidebar: AARP suggests nine ways to increase Social Security revenue and cut costs.
1. Raise the income cap from $90,000 to $140,000. Currently, about 15% of total earnings goes untaxed. Experts counsel that taxing the higher incomes will help increase the fund.
2. Increase the payroll tax rate to 15% over the next 70 years. This may be one of their least popular suggestions, however.
3. Raise taxation of benefits so that even the affluent recipients will make a greater contribution to keeping the system solvent.
4. Preserve some of the estate tax, dedicating it to Social Security. If this proposal passes, the Social Security shortfall will be reduced by about 27%,
5. Make Social Security universal so that all state and local government employees who are not currently contributing to the fund will help reduce the shortfall by 10%.
6. Invest some of the trust fund in indexed funds, rather than only in government bonds, which yield lower returns than the indexed funds.
7. Adjust the Cost of Living Adjustment to better keep up with inflation.
8. Raise the retirement age as life expectancy rises. Raising the retirement age to 70 would cut the shortfall by about 36 percent.
9. Index benefits to prices, not wages, which rise more slowly; or mix both wage and price indexing to protect the benefits of lower earning workers and reduce the benefits of higher earners.
This link http://www.aarp.org/bulletin/socialsec/ss_ideas.html details each of the nine steps further.