Social Security Policy in Short
*To read the policy in full, see futher below
"Ask Schriner about Social Security, and he talks more about what's become of the elderly in American society... He contends the elderly have been discarded -- in nursing homes, assisted living communities and in their retirement travel -- because they are no longer valued in their own communities." -The News Gazette, Champaign, IL.
Exerpt from full policy below:
On a stop in North Carolina, we interviewed former North Carolina State University instructor David Kalbacker. He said he gladly pays house insurance, health insurance, car insurance with the hope he doesn't have to collect on any of them. He asks, "Why shouldn't that be the same for Social Security?"
That is, while everyone would pay into Social Security as yet another insurance, it should only benefit someone who becomes disabled during his/her lifetime, or if they really need it in retirement.
Kalbacker said in retirement, drawing Social Security would be contingent on income. If a retiree makes, for instance, $70,000 [arbitrary figure] a year or more, on pensions, stocks, bonds, etc., they shouldn't be eligible to draw from the Social Security Fund.
Social Security Points:
Dynamic programs to reestablish the elderly as active and highly-valued members of their community.
Maintain Social Security Fund -- with some significant changes.
SS Fund should be a lock box, where the money put in shouldn't be diverted for other government projects - which is currently the case.
Look at SS Fund as paying into another insurance fund - the same as car insurance, health insurance and home owners insurance. That is, you collect only if you need it. That is, if someone's yearly income (pensions, stocks, bonds) exceeds, say, $70,000 (arbitrary figure) after retirement then one wouldnt be eligible to draw from the SS Fund that year.
In the face of the significant number of Baby Boomers now moving into retirement, the latter would keep the SS Fund solvent and available for those in need.
Expand SS Fund scope to no interest home loans for those who have paid in over a five-year-period and are trying to get established with home ownership. (Eligibility would be determinant on income as well, with the advantage going to those in low-income brackets.)
Inspire the establishment of many more Community Pharmacies, like one we researched in Monroe, Louisiana. (Local fundraising for medications, nursing homes donate medication after a resident has passed, doctors donate sample medications). This would help keep SS's Prescription Drug Program more solvent.
And push for more Marrilac Clinics, like the one we researched in Grand Junction, Colorado. (Volunteer doctors, nurses and general citizenry doing janitorial work, intake work, secretarial work have set up a comprehensive, sliding fee scale hospital in Grand Junction.) This, in turn, would help keep Medicare, in general, more solvent. *And it would exponentially increase the neighbors helping neighbors orientation, some of which weve significantly lost in this country.
Social Security Position Paper
“I have said consistently all over the country, in speeches and media interviews, that we have incrementally abdicated more and more of our charitable giving, including hands-on, person-to-person helping, to the federal government. As a result, closeness among our family members, neighbors, and fellow church members has diminished in kind. And one of the programs where this, indeed, has had a significant impact is with our Federal Social Security Program." –Joe
"I have traveled America extensively looking for, in the short term, common sense ways to keep the Social Security Fund solvent for those who need it. And in the long run, I have also looked for just as common sense ways to wean us – over time – from the Social Security Fund and back to a more personal and caring society (like in the old days before the Fund). And I have found creative solid answers to both." –Joe
Categories covered below include: 1) The Issues; 2) The Plan; 3) Other Changes: a) Focus on Reducing Dependency on the Fund; b) “Community Pharmacy” to Help Spell Some Reliance on SS’s Medicare Prescription Drug Program; c) Sliding-Fee-Scale Community Hospitals; d) “Medical Care Access Coalition”; 4) Models from across America; 5) Final Analysis: Reordering our Priorities
1) The Issues:
Social Security is in trouble.
According to the Federal Social Security website, a person who is 35-years-old now will receive 26% less in benefits by the time they reach the age of 69. And this is projected to continue to diminish every year after as well.
These projections are primarily attributable to people living longer and waves of “baby boomers” just starting to move into retirement.
To bolster the Fund, also according to the website, four basic alternatives are currently being discussed, either singularly or in combination with each other: 1) increasing payroll taxes, 2) decreasing benefits, 3) using general revenues or 4) pre-funding future benefits through either personal savings accounts or direct investments of the trust fund.
In addition to these possible alternatives, we think there should be other “creative, outside-the-lines” thinking to keep the Fund buoyant in the short term. (And I’ve suggested some in the next section.)
However in the long term, we believe we have to seriously assess whether establishing a Federal Social Security Fund was a good idea in the first place.
That is, with the Social Security Administration have we set up an antiseptic helping system that has significantly diminished the hands on, person-to-person help that so characterized the communities of old in this country?
For instance, when someone became disabled in the “old days,” the family, community, church… rallied around them. This not only created a safety net for the disabled person, but at the same time it strengthened the ties (often exponentially) between family, community and church members.
Likewise, the safety net for the elderly in the “old days” was also family, community and church. However, now Social Security money (and other money) often goes to pay for an elderly person’s prolonged independence, or assisted living, or nursing homes that are now moving the elderly, in many respects, farther and farther away from family, community and church.
In all this, the Social Security Fund has helped replace some, if not a good deal, of the hands on help and community building of old.
In my opinion, in the long run we would do well (from spiritual and community building perspectives) to step up local volunteering, and just plain old love, that would move us back toward the days of old in this area.
2) The Plan:
In the short term, to keep the Social Security Fund buoyant in the face of this demographic shift (more baby boomer retirements and less people – percentage wise – moving into the work force), we would propose a series of creative initiatives.
As an example, we would propose a perception change in how we look at the Social Security Program.
In North Carolina, we interviewed David Kalbacker who formerly taught economics at North Carolina State University. He said he “gladly pays” house insurance, health insurance, car insurance… with the hope he doesn’t have to collect on any of them. He asks why shouldn’t that be the same for Social Security?
That is, while everyone would pay into Social Security as yet another “insurance,” it should only benefit someone who becomes disabled during his/her lifetime, or if they really need it in retirement.
Kalbacker said in retirement, drawing Social Security should be contingent on income. If a retiree makes, for instance, $70,000 [arbitrary figure] a year, or more, on pensions, stocks, etc., they shouldn’t be eligible to draw from the Social Security Fund.
We believe this would be an excellent idea and would free up a tremendous amount of money to help keep the Fund solvent and – it would also free up more money for those less fortunate.
In addition, Social Security could expand its scope of programs. For instance, it could add a “No Interest Home Loan Program.”
One thing that would make a lot more people feel “socially secure” in America, especially those on the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum, is: home ownership. A man-on-the street in Cleveland, Ohio, proposed to me that if a person pays into Social Security for, say, five years, they should be eligible to get a low interest home loan from the Social Security Fund.
Our administration would push for this for people considered in the lower-middle-class, or below the poverty line, in this country.
On a campaign stop in Mankato, Minnesota, I met with Keith Luebke, executive director of Mankato’s non-profit Partners for Affordable Housing.
“Many families never become homeowners because they simply don’t have the two to three thousand dollars to put down on a home,” he told me.
3) Other Changes:
a) Focus on Reducing Dependency on the Fund
As I wrote at the end of the issues part of this paper, we would like to see over time an incremental shift away from reliance on the Federal Social Security Program in general. And in its place, we would like to see a lot more person-to-person reliance on family, local community and church.
As president, I would point to a series of models we’ve researched of community, church and family “hands-on” approaches which would incrementally help transition our nation away from the Social Security Fund and more toward a “local solutions” approach.
b) “Community Pharmacy” to Help Spell Some Reliance on SS’s Medicare Prescription Drug Program
As an example, Social Security has a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan. Monroe, Louisiana has a “St. Vincent De Paul Prescription Drug Plan.”
At a campaign stop in Monroe, I met with Cindy Smith who is on the Northeast Louisiana Community Pharmacy Board, which oversees Monroe’s “Community Pharmacy,” which is run by the non-profit St. Vincent De Paul Society.
This local pharmacy serves those who don’t have health insurance. The pharmacy is reliant on local people for financial donations and on area doctors who, for instance, donate free samples, and so on. In addition, Ms. Smith told me area nursing homes also donate unused prescriptions once a person has passed.
I told a reporter from Monroe’s newspaper that there is no reason why almost every county in America couldn’t have a “Community Pharmacy” like this.
And as this local community approach caught on, the more impersonal Federal Medicare Prescription Drug Plan could diminish in kind.
c) Sliding-Fee-Scale Community Hospitals
And as Marillac Clinics, like the one in Grand Junction, Colorado, caught on all over, there would be less and less of a need for Social Security’s Medicare Program in general.
On a stop in Grand Junction during Campaign 2000, we met with Dr. Carl Malito, M.D., who worked at the Marillac Clinic. He explained the Clinic started some 10 years prior with one doctor volunteering a few hours a week in a small storefront.
That grew to a rather large two-story facility with local doctors and nurses volunteering varying amounts of time every week. Other town people volunteer to do intake work, filing, janitorial work… What’s more, they get most of their help with operating expenses – from local fundraising efforts.
Everyone without health insurance can come to the Marillac Clinic for anything from an outpatient visit to surgery, all for a quite affordable sliding fee.
It’s a classic case of a town rallying around their less fortunate, and as a result, town camaraderie has increased significantly, I told a reporter from a Jackson Hole, Wyoming newspaper. And I added that there is no “good reason” every county in the country can’t have a version of a Marillac Clinic.
d) “Medical Care Access Coalition”
In tandem with the Marillac Clinic model, we would propose more “Medical Care Access Coalitions.” On a stop in Marquette, Michigan, Dr. Fritz Hoenke told us the Coalition provides medical care and medication for low-income, uninsured people at little, or no, cost. He said most doctors in the area devote part of their practices to this, and patients are screened for financial assessments before becoming involved in the Coalition system.
Short of a formalized Medical Care Access Coalition, we would point to the Dr. Mryon Glick’s of America. Dr. Glick moved his Jericho Road medical practice to the inner city of Buffalo, New York. While I was on a stop there, Dr. Glick told me there is a tremendous concentration of new immigrants there (he’s seen people from 50 countries so far in his practice).
Dr. Glick is a Mennonite and believes his faith calls him to help the poor with the talent God has given him. He operates on a minimal sliding fee scale, doesn’t turn anyone away and his work has inspired some suburban doctors there to come into the city regularly to volunteer at his practice.
Each of these medical initiatives, if multiplied across the country, would significantly reduce even more of the stress on the Social Security Program.
4) Models from across America
In Seneca, Kansas I interviewed Sue Haeg, who lives with her mom Lucille, 89. While Sue is the main caregiver, seven other siblings who live in the area regularly spell Sue and help in a myriad of ways – so the mother doesn’t have to go to a nursing home. “They (her parents) took care of us,” Sue said to me. “This is our job now.” Note: While talking with Sue’s mom, I noticed she was quite lucid at times, then she would suddenly move off the topic to a totally unrelated one (an indication, in some cases, of dementia). I asked Sue what her mom’s formal diagnosis was. She smiled and replied: “Getting old.”
In Marshfield, Wisconsin I interviewed Helen Martin, who is an RN at a local nursing home. She told us because of the skyrocketing price of elderly care facilities, families are starting to move toward much more “in-home care,” combining family member help with professional assistance. To further help defray costs for low-income families trying to keep their elderly in the home, there could be a pool of volunteer, health care professionals, and paraprofessionals, donating time to helping these families. (Groups of medical professionals in Marquette, Michigan and Grand Junction, Colorado volunteer time to treat people without health insurance.)
We also went to San Antonio, Florida where we met with Theresa Walsh. She and her husband Pat turned their basement into an apartment and invited Pat’s parents to move in. She told me it was a tremendous blessing to have the grandparents intimately involved (day in and day out) with her children’s, and her and her husband’s lives. “That doesn’t mean there weren’t challenges as well,” Pat smiled. She added the shared responsibility around raising the children, paying for expenses, and so on, helped alleviate some of your typical American family stress of trying to do most everything alone.
The Amish seldom do anything alone. In fact, on our research trips to Shipshewana, Indiana, Arthur, Illinois, Mt. Hope, Ohio (all heavily Amish)… we learned the Amish build either new additions on their homes, or a new home altogether on the same property, for their “Just Married” children.
While the Barbosa family in Amarillo, Texas, hasn’t built additions, or two homes on the same property, they have done the next best thing to stay together. Since 1965 the family has lived on South Seminole Street after “Flo” Barbosa and his wife Shelley married and moved to a modest one-story home here. They raised four children. While we were on a campaign stop Amarillo, the Barbosas told us their children went to local schools, participated in local sports and clubs under the supportive eye of their parents and community. After getting married themselves, a daughter and son have moved into homes on the right, and left, of the original family home. They share common meals, lawn equipment, time watching the grandchildren… the “sense of place” is palpable.
Now, some elderly will never have family around them, for various reasons. In this case, “Little Brothers and Little Sisters (Friends of the Elderly)” is an excellent replacement. While researching one of the chapters of this non-profit program in Hancock, Michigan (Upper Peninsula), Executive Director Mike Aten told me the program matches an elderly person and a volunteer “friend” to spend weekly “quality time” socializing at home, going shopping or on social outings, doing chores around the elderly person’s house…
5) Final Analysis: Reordering our Priorities
I once wrote a column for the News Democrat newspaper in southern Ohio. It was titled: “Maybe It’s Time To Come Home.” The column noted that fairly frequently (like with Amarillo’s Barbosa family) American youth grow up developing quite a rapport with parents, friends, neighbors, teachers, coaches… then at age 18 they trade much of this family and community building away for a trip to college, then a position across the country where the highest paying job is. I suggested that what this says is, more often than not, money and a quest for status in general, has become more important than ongoing family and community building in our hometowns. Yet, astonishingly enough, we’ve come to simply accept this (“Oh, Mary is in Chicago, and John is in Phoenix, and Ryan is in Tampa…,” a parent these days will often say – without thinking twice.)
Connecting the dots: If you could mobilize (over time) a significant reuniting of family in the U.S. on a grassroots level – which, among other things, would inherently include much more house sharing, vehicle sharing, appliance sharing, energy sharing… – you would diminish living expenses in kind. As a result practically: the amount of money needed in the Social Security Fund for the elderly would diminish in kind.
And more importantly, with this reuniting in a much more dramatic and tangible way, the elderly, as a rule, couldn’t help but feel much more “socially secure,” loved, and yes, even esteemed (in a: “Honor thy Father and Mother” sense), within their families and communities. Not to mention, family and community life in general would be enriched exponentially in America.