France: Over 1 million march against raising retirement age

Link: https://apnews.com/article/france-retirement-age-limit-protests-866eb86aea5cf0d39894b96d2888c26f

Excerpt:

At least 1.1 million people protested on the streets of Paris and other French cities Thursday amid nationwide strikes against plans to raise the retirement age — but President Emmanuel Macron insisted he would press ahead with the proposed pension reforms.

Emboldened by the mass show of resistance, French unions announced new strikes and protests Jan. 31, vowing to try to get the government to back down on plans to push up the standard retirement age from 62 to 64. Macron says the measure – a central pillar of his second term — is needed to keep the pension system financially viable, but unions say it threatens hard-fought worker rights.

Out of the country for a French-Spanish summit in Barcelona, Macron acknowledged the public discontent but said that “we must do that reform” to “save” French pensions.

….

In a country with an aging population and growing life expectancy where everyone receives a state pension, Macron’s government says the reform is the only way to keep the system solvent.

Unions propose a tax on the wealthy or more payroll contributions from employers to finance the pension system instead.

Polls suggest most French people oppose the reform, and Thursday was the first public reaction to Macron’s plan. Strikes severely disrupted transport, schools and other public services, and more than 200 rallies were staged around France.

….

Under the planned changes, workers must have worked for at least 43 years to be entitled to a full pension. For those who do not fulfil that condition, like many women who interrupted their career to raise children or those who studied for a long time and started working late, the retirement age would remain unchanged at 67.

Those who started to work under the age of 20 and workers with major health issues would be allowed early retirement.

Protracted strikes met Macron’s last effort to raise the retirement age in 2019. He eventually withdrew it after the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Retirement rules vary widely from country to country, making direct comparisons difficult. The official retirement age in the U.S. is now 67, and countries across Europe have been raising pension ages as populations grow older and fertility rates drop.

Author(s): SYLVIE CORBET and JADE LE DELEY

Publication Date: 19 Jan 2023

Publication Site: Associated Press

Millions march in France against Macron’s pension cuts

Link: https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2023/01/20/fxax-j20.html

Excerpt:

Two million people struck or marched in protests yesterday called by union federations against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension cuts. Polls show around 80 percent of the population oppose the cuts, which would increase the minimum retirement age to 64 with a minimum pay-in period of 43 years. Strike calls were widely followed by rail and mass transit workers, school staff, and electricity and refinery workers, and 200 protest marches were held in cities across France.

Trade unions reported that 400,000 people marched in Paris, 140,000 in Marseille, 38,000 in Lyon, 60,000 in Bordeaux, 50,000 in Toulouse and Lille, 55,000 in Nantes and 35,000 in Strasbourg. Moreover, many smaller cities saw large turnouts that surprised police authorities. There were 25,000 in Orléans, 21,000 in Le Mans, 20,000 in Nice, 19,000 in Clermont-Ferrand, 15,000 in Tours, 13,000 in Pau, 10,000 in Chartres, 9,000 in Angoulême and 8,000 in Châteauroux.

Author(s): Alex Lantier, Anthony Torres

Publication Date: 20 Jan 2023

Publication Site: World Socialist Web Site

Pensioner at 43? Turkey introduces Early Retirement

Link: https://www.novinite.com/articles/218274/Pensioner+at+43%3F+Turkey+introduces+Early+Retirement

Excerpt:

Over 2 million Turks will be able to retire at any time as long as they have worked for at least 7,200 days. Critics warn of the dangerous consequences of this pre-election move by President Erdogan, writes Deutsche Welle.

The door of the Pension and Social Security Office in Istanbul’s Unkapani district is locked. However, a long line has formed on the sidewalk in front of it – people are waiting for the lunch break to end.

The 49-year-old toy seller Murat, who is among those waiting, started working at the age of 13. Now he wants to know if he can retire immediately. “Actually, 49 is too early,” he admits. “But if the state gives you such an opportunity, you should take advantage of it,” he adds.

….

Similar queues are currently being seen in many places after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that the minimum retirement age would be abolished. According to him, this will affect about 2 million people. Until now, women had the right to retire at 58 and men at 60. From the middle of January, only the time worked will be taken into account. This means that 7,200 days of service will qualify for retirement.

….

Another problem is that the earlier people receive pensions, the earlier they stop making contributions to the insurance system. So it is in danger of collapsing in the long term, says the woman, who did not want to be named. “This is at the expense of future generations,” economist Senol Babuscu told Turkey‘s Karar TV. “How much damage we are doing to future generations remains to be seen.”

The upcoming costs of the Turkish state are also not yet known. But the Labor Minister predicted the bill would come out to at least €5 billion.

Publication Date: 4 Jan 2023

Publication Site: novinite.com

Macron says 2023 will be the year of pension reform in France

Link: https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/frances-macron-says-2023-will-be-year-pension-reform-2022-12-31/

Excerpt:

The coming year will be one of much-delayed pension reform, President Emmanuel Macron told the French in a New Year’s Eve speech on Saturday.

Reforming France’s costly and complicated pension system was a key plank of Macron’s election platform when he came to power in 2017.

But his initial proposals provoked weeks of protests and transport strikes just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Macron put the initiative on hold as he ordered France into lockdown in early 2020.

….

Macron has long made it clear he wants to raise the retirement age – but this has already met fierce resistance from unions and, according to polls, is deeply unpopular with the public.

Publication Date: 31 Dec 2022

Publication Site: Reuters

Meet the Grinch Stealing the Future of Gen Y And Z

Link: https://www.ineteconomics.org/perspectives/blog/meet-the-grinch-stealing-the-future-of-gen-y-and-z

Excerpt:

There’s one threat that gets far less attention, which has been impacting American workers since the 1970s: wages that just don’t keep up, despite increased productivity. Social Security was designed for wages that rise with inflation – but that’s not happening. In an interview with the Institute for New Economic Thinking, Eric Laursen, author of The People’s Pension: The Struggle to Defend Social Security Since Reagan, breaks down how the program works, why wage stagnation represents a mounting threat, and what can be done to strengthen and update the program for the 21stcentury.

Lynn Parramore: Social Security has been America’s most successful retirement program for the last 87 years. Yet the public is constantly hearing that the program is going to “run out of money.” Is that actually true? Can Social Security actually go bankrupt?

Eric Laursen: No, and the word bankrupt is just about a complete misnomer when it comes to Social Security. The program is funded by contributions that participants and their employers make through their paychecks. It’s also backed by a Trust Fund which is accumulated over time.

That Trust Fund is dwindling now, and it’s expected to run out of money in the early 2030s. But Social Security can’t actually go bankrupt. If the situation arises where there is not enough money either in the Trust Fund or coming through from contributions to fund current benefits, then those benefits can’t be paid, perhaps as much as 25%. In that case, Congress would be faced with a choice to either cut benefits or increase contributions.

There’s a lot of pressure from people who want to cut Social Security to do it now rather than waiting for that point in the future, because at that point, Congress would be under a lot of pressure to make good on what people have been promised.

….

LP: What would you do to make sure that Social Security is protected and remains strong? Does it need to be modernized in some ways to keep it effective?

EL: There are a number of things that can be done. One is to raise the cap. More of income beyond the $147,000 threshold needs to be taxed for payroll tax purposes. Another thing that can be done is passing the Social Security Expansion Act that Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and others have backed. There is a special minimum benefit for Social Security recipients that’s aimed at keeping people who have really low incomes during their lifetimes above the poverty level, and that needs to be improved. That’s not asking a lot. It should be done.

You can also change the rules for wealthy people. One of the differences between now and 40 years ago is that people in the really high income brackets get much more of their income from investments, stock options, and other business holdings than they do from salaries and wages. We need to figure out a formula for applying the payroll tax to at least some of that investment income – like capital gains and so forth. Definitely, the CPI-E needs to be instituted. There should be an expansion of benefits across the board for Social Security benefits. We need the CPI-E at a base level that’s more reasonable. Another thing I think is important: one of the changes that happened in ’83 that was really bad was that Social Security survivor benefits were ended for children of deceased or disabled workers above the age of 18. It used to be that you could get those until 22 and they would help you to go to college. That was abolished. It would be a very good thing if that could be reinstated so that more people have some level of security to pursue higher education.

Author(s): Lynn Parramore

Publication Date: 20 Dec 2022

Publication Site: Institute for New Economic Thinking

Social Security denies disability benefits based on list with jobs from 1977

Link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/12/27/social-security-job-titles-disabled-applicants-obsolete/

Graphic:

Excerpt:

Every year, thousands of claimants like Heard find themselves blocked at this crucial last step in the arduous process of applying for disability benefits, thanks to labor market data that was last updated 45 years ago.

The jobs are spelled out in an exhaustive publication known as the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. The vast majority of the 12,700 entries were last updated in 1977. The Department of Labor, which originally compiled the index, abandoned it 31 years ago in a sign of the economy’s shift from blue-collar manufacturing to information and services.

Social Security, though, still relies on it at the final stage when a claim is reviewed. The government, using strict vocational rules, assesses someone’s capacity to work and if jobs exist “in significant numbers” that they could still do. The dictionary remains the backbone of a $200 billion disability system that provides benefits to 15 million people.

It lists 137 unskilled, sedentary jobs — jobs that most closely match the skills and limitations of those who apply for disability benefits. But in reality, most of these occupations were offshored, outsourced, and shifted to skilled work decades ago. Many have disappeared altogether.

Author(s): Lisa Rein

Publication Date: 27 Dec 2022

Publication Site: Washington Post

Office of the Chief Actuary’s Estimates of Proposals to Change the Social Security Program or the SSI Program

Link: https://www.ssa.gov/oact/solvency/index.html

Excerpt:

The last 11 Trustees Reports have indicated that Social Security’s Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Fund reserves would become depleted between 2033 and 2035 under the intermediate set of assumptions provided in each report. If no legislative change is enacted, scheduled tax revenues will be sufficient to pay only about three-fourths of the scheduled benefits after trust fund depletion. Policymakers have developed proposals and options that have financial effects on the OASDI Trust Funds. Many of these proposals and options have the intent of addressing the long-range solvency problem.

The Office of the Chief Actuary also develops estimates of proposals to change the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.

We have prepared letters or memoranda for many of these proposals and options. Each letter or memorandum provides an actuarial analysis showing the estimated effect on the financial status of the Social Security program and/or the SSI program.

Publication Date: accessed 4 Dec 2022

Publication Site: Office of the Chief Actuary, Social Security Administration

Social Security Politics

Link: https://marypatcampbell.substack.com/p/social-security-politics#details

Graphic:

Excerpt:

2022 OASDI Trustees Report, plus spreadsheets, etc. https://www.ssa.gov/OACT/TR/2022/

I am graphing the net change in the OASI (that’s the old age benefit part) Trust Fund, year-over-year.

I think you can easily see all those glorious years the Boomer payroll taxes were being stuffed into the Trust Fund… but really flowing right out into current spending for other goodies.

And you can see when that reversed and is now negative, and will continue to be negative until the Trust Fund is exhausted, in the early 2030s.

Author(s): Mary Pat Campbell

Publication Date: 7 Nov 2022

Publication Site: STUMP at substack

German pensions could rise by up to 4.2% in 2023 – proposal

Link: https://www.reuters.com/markets/europe/german-pensions-could-rise-by-up-42-2023-proposal-2022-11-05/

Excerpt:

BERLIN, Nov 5 (Reuters) – Germany’s more than 20 million pensioners will likely see their state benefit rise by up to 4.2% from July 2023, according to a governemt proposal seen by Reuters, lower than the expected inflation rate of 7.0%.

The state pension in western Germany will rise by 3.5%, while in former East Germany it will increase by 4.2% according to the draft, as the government continues to narrow the gap between the two regions.

Author(s): Holger Hansen, Christoph Steitz

Publication Date: 5 Nov 2022

Publication Site: Reuters

Social Security Needs Saving Again

Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/social-security-needs-saving-again-retirement-planning-wages-earnings-benefits-eligible-savings-11654631767?mod=opinion_lead_pos5

Excerpt:

— Raise the full retirement age further. Starting in 2028, it would go up by one month every half-year until it reaches 68 1/2 in nine years. That means that in 101 years (1935-2036) the full retirement age would have risen 3 1/2 years — far less than the increase in average life span over the same period.

— Raise the early eligibility age. Since the 1960s, all workers have had the option of retiring at 62 with benefits reduced by around 25%. Most retirees now claim Social Security at 62, and the rising full retirement age strengthens the incentive to do so. Once it’s at 67, holding out for higher payments will mean giving up five years’ worth of benefits — a three-year gap will have widened to five.

If my first reform were enacted, the gap would grow further, to an irresistible 6 1/2 years. So Congress should return to the three-year gap by raising the early eligibility age to 65 1/2 as soon as possible.

— Change the way benefits are calculated for new recipients. At a 1983 White House Rose Garden ceremony, I sat next to a Senate member of the Social Security Reform Commission. I told him, “You can fix Social Security by not indexing the bend points for five years.” His response: “What the hell are bend points?”

Bend points determine how much your initial Social Security check will be. First they take the 35 years of your highest income. Thirty-five years ago, you were a junior employee and the dollar didn’t go as far. So each year’s wages are adjusted for inflation to compute an average monthly wage in today’s dollars.

Using the present rules, assume you’re retiring in 2022 and your average inflation-adjusted monthly wage is $6,572. Your first check would be $2,628.96 — 90% of the first $1,024 (or $921.60), plus 32% from $1,024 to $6,172 (or 1,647.36), plus 15% in excess of $6,172 (or $60).

The bend points are $1,024 and $6,172. They were $230 and $1,388 in 1982, when I wrote my constituent newsletter. The growth in benefits could be constrained by indexing the bend points every other year rather than annually for six to 10 years. In addition, the initial benefit should be based on 38 years of wages rather than 35, since Americans not only live longer but work longer, and the inflation-adjusted average wage should be discounted by 5%.

— Slow the growth of benefits for new and existing beneficiaries alike by changing the basis on which they’re indexed for inflation. All indexing of Social Security now uses the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, or CPI-W. Economists agree that the Chained CPI is the most accurate inflation index available. Between 2000 and 2020, the Chained CPI was around 0.3 percentage point lower each year than the CPI-W. The government uses Chained CPI to index income-tax brackets and the higher CPI-W to calculate government outlays, including Social Security cost-of-living adjustments — which leads both taxes and spending to rise more quickly.

— Withhold some Social Security COLAs from higher-income retirees. Those who report income of more than $60,000 (a threshold that itself would rise with inflation) from sources other than Social Security could be denied the COLA every other year for up to six years.

— Give the COLA not annually but every 14 or 15 months using the 12 months of lowest inflation.

— Tax Social Security income for higher-bracket taxpayers, and give them the option to forgo all or part of their monthly payment. The forgone amount could be deducted as a charitable contribution. In high-income-tax states, forgoing Social Security payments would incur little or no cost. Skeptics may be surprised by how many Americans will forgo a part of their monthly checks to assure the system’s solvency for their grandchildren. The election to forgo would be reversible annually.

— Raise the payroll tax by 0.1% of wages every other year — half from withholding, half for the employer’s contribution — for 20 years, a total tax increase of 1%.

Author(s): Rudy Boschwitz

Publication Date: 7 June 2022

Publication Site: WSJ

The triple lock will condemn Britain

Link: https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/the-pensions-triple-lock-will-condemn-britain

Graphic:

Excerpt:

The triple lock says that each year the state pension will increase by inflation, average earnings, or 2.5 per cent, whichever was highest in the year before. It is hugely popular with the Conservative party’s elderly base. It is also a fiscal and economic millstone around the British government’s neck.

The last two years have amply illustrated the basic problems with the design of the scheme. The first is that it was clearly not created with unusual economic circumstances in mind. In 2021, wages dropped in a short but deep recession. The next year, they went back up again. In economic terms, very little had changed. The rule used by the triple lock, however, treated this like a period of strong economic growth. If it had been left untouched, pensions would have increased by 8 per cent. And thanks to the ratcheting effect of the triple lock mechanism, they would have retained that boost against UK GDP into the long term.

In the end, the government ended up suspending the triple lock for a year, only to fall right into another unusual situation: stagflation, where economic activity stagnates but inflation skyrockets. Again, the triple lock recommends a large boost to pensions when government finances are already under strain, and again, this would lift up pensions as a share of GDP long term. And again, the government should suspend the rule to avoid this. But it seems Liz Truss has bottled it. 

You would have thought it tempting for the Conservative party to wave these away as two unusual years; in normal times – when GDP, inflation, and earnings increase together – then everything would be fine, right? Well, no. The way the triple lock is designed means that whenever you have a downturn, pensions will tend to rise as a share of GDP. And whenever you have a boom, they keep pace. The net effect is a constant ratchet where pensions,  in the words of the work and pensions select committee, take up an ‘ever-greater share of national income’.

This is not sustainable. Spending on the state pension is already set to rise significantly as a share of GDP over the coming decades; as the population gets older, there are more people claiming pensions and fewer working to pay for them. Add the triple lock into the mix, and you double the expected increase in demand. Scrapping the arbitrary 2.5 per cent element doesn’t do a lot to help, either; you still have significant growth through the ratcheting effects of the first two elements.

Author(s): Sam Ashworth-Hayes

Publication Date: 19 Oct 2022

Publication Site: The Spectator UK

What Social Security Should Really Be Paying to Survive in This Economy

Link: https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2022/10/what-social-security-should-really-be-paying-to-survive-in-this-economy.html

Excerpt:

Inflation continues to rise in the United States. Although gas prices have recently fallen since their record high over the summer, the cost of groceries rose by 11.4 percent over the last year, and there is no expectation that they will fall back to reasonable levels. Prices overall have risen by 8.2 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index report covering September 2022 as compared to the same month last year. While most working Americans are not getting hefty wage raises to compensate for inflation, seniors will see their Social Security benefits—which are pegged to inflation—rise next year. Starting in January 2023, beneficiaries will see an 8.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) bump in their Social Security checks.

Conservatives are scoffing at this automated increase, as if it were a special treat that the Biden administration has cooked up to bribe older voters. Fox News reported that there was a “social media backlash” against White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain’s tweet lauding the upcoming increased COLA benefits for seniors. The outlet elevated comments by the conservative America First Policy Institute’s Marc Lotter, who retorted to Klain, “Nice try Ron. Raising benefits next year does not help seniors with the higher prices they are paying today or the higher prices they’ve been paying since you took office.”

But Social Security benefits have risen automatically with inflation since 1975 by design, precisely so that the livelihoods of seniors are not beholden to partisanship. This is an imminently sensible way to ensure that retired Americans, who spent their working lives paying Social Security taxes, can have a basic income.

If conservatives are complaining that an 8.7 percent bump is not enough to counter inflation, one might expect them to demand an even greater increase to Social Security benefits.

Author(s): Sonali Kolhatkar

Publication Date: 15 Oct 2022

Publication Site: naked capitalism