Chat about entitlements and seniors with Susan Nielsen
11:51
The Oregonian: 
Welcome to our live chat here on OregonLive. Susan will join us at noon, but you can go ahead and submit questions and comments now. Once we get started, there will be a short delay between submission of questions/comments and their arrival in the chat.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 11:51 The Oregonian
12:01
Susan Nielsen: 
Hi folks, happy Wednesday. I'm looking forward to your questions and comments.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:01 Susan Nielsen
12:02
The Oregonian: 
Susan, your column has generated hundreds of comments on OregonLive, as well as tweets and Facebook messages. What kind of feedback have you been receiving?
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:02 The Oregonian
12:02
Susan Nielsen: 
I heard a real mix of opinions from readers of all ages. I also heard from a lot of seniors who said, essentially, "I worked hard for my money and am frugal and am trying to make my money last until I die, so why are you picking on seniors? If more young people followed our example, the country would be better off." .....
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:02 Susan Nielsen
12:03
Susan Nielsen: 
.... This is a fair point. However, it misses the problem that many of today's jobs are not of the same caliber as yesterday's jobs. Wages have stagnated, private pensions are disappearing, public pensions are far less generous for newer employees....also, health care costs are astronomical. So it is harder for hard-working people to get ahead (or to retire in a financially secure position).
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:03 Susan Nielsen
12:03
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Are you saying that Social Security should be cut so that more can go to poverty programs, or that Social Security should stay as is AND more should go to poverty programs?
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:03 Guest
12:04
Susan Nielsen: 
Social Security is the most successful anti-poverty program in the nation and I am against privatizing it or *significantly* cutting benefits. ....
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:04 Susan Nielsen
12:05
Susan Nielsen: 
.. but I do think that we need to deal with the long-term health of SSN, partly by making the payroll tax apply to incomes up to a higher amount. The longer we wait, the harder it will be on the next generations.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:05 Susan Nielsen
12:05
[Comment From BillBill: ] 
Is raising cap on payroll deductions a viable SS solution?
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:05 Bill
12:06
Susan Nielsen: 
I don't think the cap should be lifted entirely, but raising it to -- say, $200,000 -- is a number often mentioned as fair. It wouldn't solve all of the problem but it would help.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:06 Susan Nielsen
12:06
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
This feels like a false argument. Senior poverty rate is low because social security has been successful. Poverty rate in general is up because of the great recession.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:06 Guest
12:08
Susan Nielsen: 
I agree. I think we're missing the point by arguing about Social Security (though it is does need tweaking to stay afloat). I think the MAIN thing for us to worry about as a society is the growing poverty rate among adults 18 to 64, which relates to a high child poverty rate. More adults are simply not getting by, and are not entering into retirement in a good position. It's an economic and cultural problem.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:08 Susan Nielsen
12:08
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
What is reasoning behind the tax for Social Security only applying to the first $100,000 (or so) of income? This appears to be a blatant sop to the wealthy. The middle class pays the tax for all of their income; wealthy people only pay it for part of their income, in some cases a very small part. This rarely gets discussed.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:08 Guest
12:09
The Oregonian: 
All lines are open. Send in your questions now.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:09 The Oregonian
12:10
Susan Nielsen: 
The cap is related to fairness. Wealthy people get less out of SSN than they put in, and if there was NO cap, they would get ridiculously less than they put it. The whole idea of SSN was to make it more of an insurance program for elderly people, without a lot of variable taxation and related politics.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:10 Susan Nielsen
12:10
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Has there been any innovative thinking in terms of addressing poverty in this country? In India there’s been some success with micro-loans, for example. But in the U.S., you’re either a “taker” or you have to pull yourself up with your bootstraps.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:10 Guest
12:11
Susan Nielsen: 
I don't know if there is any magical solution other than increasing the volume of middle-class jobs, which of course requires the up-front investment in K-12 and higher education.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:11 Susan Nielsen
12:11
[Comment From BillBill: ] 
Since the payout's the same, I'd guess it was regarded as over-taxing success.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:11 Bill
12:13
Susan Nielsen: 
Bill -- The payouts are not the same for everyone. But there is a smaller range. Also, I believe most SS recipients get a lot more out of the system than they put in, because people are living so much longer now. ...
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:13 Susan Nielsen
12:14
Susan Nielsen: 
.. but again, fighting over Social Security is mostly a convenient distraction from the more intractable problem of widespread poverty among adults and families.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:14 Susan Nielsen
12:14
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
How about student-loan reform? Could take make much of a difference?
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:14 Guest
12:15
Susan Nielsen: 
Guest -- what do you mean by student loan reform? You are certainly right that more students are graduating from college with greater debt -- and meanwhile, there are fewer jobs that pay well enough to help them pay off that debt and start saving properly for retirement.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:15 Susan Nielsen
12:15
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
When you say seniors are among society’s most financially comfortable, what do you mean by that? What percentage have money to burn as opposed to “being comfortable” as opposed to just getting by? And how would those categories be determined?
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:15 Guest
12:16
Susan Nielsen: 
First some numbers: According to federal Census data, the poverty rate for kids is about 22 percent. The poverty rate for adults 18 to 64 years old is nearly 14 percent, the highest in about 50 years. Meanwhile, the poverty rate for seniors has plummeted from nearly 30 percent in the late 1960s down to about 8.7 percent today. Also, the proportion of poor people who are seniors is at a historic low as well. About 92 percent of the people living in poverty in the United States right now are NOT seniors ....
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:16 Susan Nielsen
12:17
Susan Nielsen: 
... second, Social Security provides (small but) steady paychecks, and Medicare provides steady health insurance to cover many (not most, but many) health problems. This puts seniors in a better position than many adults 18 to 64 who have part-time jobs with no benefits.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:17 Susan Nielsen
12:18
Susan Nielsen: 
Guest-- you raise a good point that many seniors do not *feel* financially comfortable, even if they are living above the poverty line. Many are very, very worried about their money running out.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:18 Susan Nielsen
12:18
[Comment From KK: ] 
I have to say, I'm anxious about my retirement years. With pension programs disappearing and Social Security's stability in question, it's hard to imagine what will be left to support senior citizens 40 years from now. How can we protect the next generation of seniors?
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:18 K
12:19
[Comment From ThomasThomas: ] 
If we JUST lift the income cap for Soc Sec, it would be solvent in perpetuity
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:19 Thomas
12:21
Susan Nielsen: 
K -- I'm anxious about my retirement for the same reasons. I'm also anxious about my children being burdened by the hard decisions we are putting off now. It's a real pickle for us as a country (which is why I think having an accurate understanding of poverty is so important to the national debate).
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:21 Susan Nielsen
12:22
The Oregonian: 
We're going to go for about another 10 minutes. Send in questions and comments now.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:22 The Oregonian
12:22
Susan Nielsen: 
Thomas -- I think that would have been true a few years ago. Not sure if lifting the cap entirely would still have the same payoff, because of the delay. (The AP has a great series about that this summer.) The power of every reform weakens over time as more people retire and there are fewer workers to do the heavy lifting.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:22 Susan Nielsen
12:22
[Comment From dickdick: ] 
I undersatand those in lower economic levels are "known " to have shorter life spans (as a group) so they actually receive less.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:22 dick
12:23
Susan Nielsen: 
Dick -- That may be true, or it might work out fine in the wash. The point of SSN was never for each person to get out exactly what they put in. The point was to protect the elderly against destitution.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:23 Susan Nielsen
12:24
[Comment From elviselvis: ] 
I am 50 - my worry is 3 fold - I want someone to protect my 401K from a bubble bursting that I had nothing to do with, I want a health insurance plan that is affordable, and I want some of what I put into in SS. I don't think that is unreasonable - but the GOP seems to want to privatize all of that.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:24 elvis
12:25
[Comment From dickdick: ] 
Thomas, agreed and here are so many other ways to tinker with the system, even if not lifting income cap, that could make system solvent into perpetuity. It takes collective leadership (but starting at the top) to acknowledge these and accept outcries (including reelection threats) from each group impacted by any of these. Now pres doesn't need to be reelected, so can lead in this.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:25 dick
12:25
Susan Nielsen: 
HI elvis -- I also share your worries. Also, most of the plans I've seen to privatize Social Security have been terrible. Shifting all the risk to the poor and middle class, etc.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:25 Susan Nielsen
12:25
Susan Nielsen: 
Dick -- great point.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:25 Susan Nielsen
12:26
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
How much of our general rising poverty comes from our collective inability to make good financial choices? There seem to be a lot of people who have trouble making rent or paying their mortgage but they always make sure they have the latest iPhone.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:26 Guest
12:27
Susan Nielsen: 
Hi guest -- like you, I am amazed by the number of people who don't make very much money but still seem to have premium cable and smart phones. But I think blaming people's consumerism only gets you so far. It is part of the problem ....but so is the last of good middle-class jobs with good benefits, pension, health care, etc.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:27 Susan Nielsen
12:27
The Oregonian: 
Any more questions out there?
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:27 The Oregonian
12:28
Susan Nielsen: 
By the way, the Oregon Center for Public Policy has some interesting state data as well. The overall poverty rate in Oregon was about 13 percent in 2007. In 2011, it had worsened to 17.5 percent. By 2011, about 660,000 Oregonians lived below the poverty level. The OCPP says, "If poverty were a city in Oregon, it would be the state's second biggest city." (Actually, if we stuck to the official population of Portland within the city limits, poverty would actually be the BIGGEST city.) Astounding.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:28 Susan Nielsen
12:28
[Comment From KK: ] 
Susan, has the response to your column surprised you?
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:28 K
12:30
Susan Nielsen: 
I was a little bit surprised by the volume of the response.

I was saddened, but not surprised, to see *some* readers online using the column as a springboard to fight with each other over who is to blame.

I was heartened by a lot of the thoughtful feedback from people of all ages. Many people do want us to tackle these economic and cultural problems in a thoughtful bipartisan way.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:30 Susan Nielsen
12:31
The Oregonian: 
Thanks everyone for participating. We'll have another op/ed chat next Wednesday.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:31 The Oregonian
12:31
Susan Nielsen: 
Thanks very much to everyone who asked questions or sat in. I really appreciate it. And feel free to email me any time at snielsen@oregonian.com or call at (503) 221-8153. Thanks.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 12:31 Susan Nielsen
 
Powered by google translate
English  English
简体中文  简体中文
Dansk  Dansk
Deutsch  Deutsch
Español  Español
Français  Français
Italiano  Italiano
日本語  日本語
日本語  한국어
Nederlands  Nederlands
Norsk  Norsk
Português  Português
Русский  Русский
Svenska  Svenska
Close