In July 2008, the George W. Bush presidency was coming to an end and the Arizona State Retirement System Plan was worth about $26 billion. In the fall the stock market crashed and by the time Obama settled into the White House the fund had bottomed out at $17 billion. Eight years later the ASRS Plan is worth more than $35 billion dollars. As a new president awaits inauguration, we can only wait and see what happens to the financial markets. Because ASRS is a defined contribution plan, current retirees will continue to receive full benefits no matter what happens with the market, and those benefits will help stimulate our local and national economies.
Today, I want to talk about another part of our retirement strategy, Social Security. Without a real cost of living adjustment, ASRS retirees can only sit and watch the buying power of their benefit checks go down as the years go by. Fortunately, retirees can count on Social Security, a government investment plan that has been working well for retirees for over 80 years and Medicare, a single payer health care plan helping Americans with medical care for over 50 years.
New Presidents take office and typically have only a short “honeymoon period” to implement their ideas before Congress feels less beholding to the President and more interested in pleasing their own constituents. President-elect Trump, did not make his views on Social Security and Medicare clear during the campaign, but leaders of his party who see Trump’s victory as a “mandate”, want to push forward with their plans to cut what they call “entitlements”, Social Security and Medicare. Republican Representative Paul Ryan wants to reform and privatize Medicare and Social Security. Ryan recently argued that, “because of Obamacare, Medicare is going broke.” This is false. In fact, it’s the complete opposite of the truth. The Medicare trust fund has been extended 11 years as a result of the passage of Obamacare.
In June U.S. Rep. Ryan proposed raising the eligibility age for Medicare to 67 and capping overall government spending on the program, leaving seniors on the hook for future cost growth. Retirees would get a fixed voucher, which they could use to buy Medicare insurance. Ryan also proposes raising the Social Security age for full benefits to as high as 69 or 70, a backdoor benefit cut for future retirees.
Currently the Social Security Trust Fund has a surplus of $2.8 trillion.
Today, the vast majority of retirees have no company pensions. And many Americans are now so saddled with debt that they find it hard to accumulate personal savings for retirement. For many people, Social Security is the only remaining source of certain retirement income.
I am asking you to contact your members of Congress. Remind them that Social Security works. Congress should be working to support, protect and strengthen Social Security, not turning it over to Wall Street money managers. Newly elected Tom O’Halleran and Andy Biggs take office on January 3rd 2017 at noon.
Please visit http://www.azedretired.com/issues-resources to find out more and how you can help.
Find your Representative at the capitol switchboard, 202-224-3121 or Online at http://www.house.gov/