Editorial: Will You Help Fix the Retirement Crisis? It Will Affect All of You, Eventually

Covering the retirement crisis is our top priority in 2014.

Photo Credit:

Yes, every organization is beating the drums for end-of-the-year contributions (including us). All of that fundraising is for general support, which is very important. But we want to offer you an alternative way in which to invest your money for the future. 
Unless we get serious and do something about it now, we are quickly heading for a massive retirement crisis—not just for the huge population of aging boomers, but for generations to come. It has to be fixed, but our leaders are intent on making it worse. 
Two-thirds of working Americans will not be able to maintain their standard of living when they retire, sending many into poverty or near-poverty. And none of this is our fault. Millions of boomers, Gen Xers and so on have not been able to save for the future. Pensions have disappeared. Wages have been flat. Healthcare costs have spiraled. Private plans like 401(k)s and 403(b)s haven't kept up. There have been recessions, waves of high inflation and unemployment. 
Social Security and other benefits have to be fixed and expanded. The frustrating part is that it is all easily fixable. But the political establishment from Barack Obama to the billionaire propagandist Pete Peterson to the Washington Post editorial page, are hard at work to make it worse, by cutting benefits instead of expanding them.
AlterNet has pledged to make covering the retirement crisis a top priority in 2014. 
We will work on this issue relentlessly. But we need it to be funded by our readers. We have no grants for this work. We will produce dozens of articles and explain what everyone can do to change the political dynamic. Already, Elizabeth Warren has taken up the cause. If you can give us $10 or more for this work, we will list your name at the end of every article (with your permission). Will you give whatever you can right now ?  
To sum up the problem and the solution, here are nine key facts about the crisis to keep in mind:
  1. Americans over age 65 are projected to increase from 14 percent of the current population to about 21 percent of the population by 2035.
  2. The Social Security Trust Fund had a surplus of $2.54 trillion in it at the end of 2011, and is projected to be solvent until 2033.
  3. Though most people don't know it, Congress has cut Social Security payments by 24 percent since 1983, via delayed cost-of-living increases and higher taxes.
  4. One-third of seniors live only on SS benefits, which is an average of only $1,274 a month per retiree. For two-thirds of retirees, the Social Security benefit is more than half of what they live on.
  5. The wealth gap is skewed extraordinarily by race. For every dollar a white person has in savings, a Latino person has only 6 cents and a black person has only 5 cents.
  6. Gender is a huge issue: Seven out of 10 seniors living under 125 percent of the federal poverty line ($14,360) are women.
  7. Social Security is also the largest federal government program helping children, with 6.5 million recipients, totaling 8 eight of every 100 children in the U.S. in 2012.
  8. Many people don't realize that no Social Security taxes are paid on incomes over $117,000—so the wealth get off very easily. Slightly raising Social Security payroll taxes would more than cover and sustain the expansion of Social Security.
  9. Huge numbers of Americans support Social Security reforms, with 87 percent of the population in favor of scrapping the $117k cap and 82 percent in favor of slight Social Security tax increases.
Why do wealthy power brokers want to cut Social Security taxes which they themselves grossly underpay? That is the question at hand. There is no other issue in America where those in power are so out of sync with the voters and the people. 
A series of simple, fair-minded fixes would not just make Social Security solvent for decades, but would allow us to expand the benefits so no Americans fall into poverty as they age. That is a worthy goal for all of us, don't you think?
Please, if you agree that the retirement crisis requires very effective public education and organizing, then please support our Retirement Crisis Campaign. Every little bit helps. You will be working in your own interest and on behalf so many fellow Americans in need. Please make a contribution before 2013 ends. 
Lots of love for 2014,

Don Hazen is the executive editor of AlterNet.

Stay Ahead of the Rest
Sign Up for AlterNet's Daily Newsletter
+ sign up for additional lists
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Rights & Liberties
Personal Health