by Clyde Weiss | February 23, 2015
TAMPA – Participating in the first White House Conference on Aging in a decade, Carol Ann Loehndorf, president of AFSCME Retirees Chapter 79 in Florida, said afterward that the nation’s policy leaders need to work hard to ensure that current and future retirees can rely on a secure “safety net” of Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid and pensions.
“Aging is naturally going to happen to all of us, and being prepared for it, and trying to achieve the most satisfaction is important for all of us,” said the 73-year-old retired state social worker, who was raised on Social Security survivor benefits along with her brother.
Focusing public attention on retirement security is especially important as the nation this year marks the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid, and the 80th anniversary of Social Security. Social Security privatization is once again on the political agenda of right-wing lawmakers, while efforts to preserve Social Security and Medicare, and to expand access to Medicaid coverage, are in the daily headlines. Nationwide, pensions are also under attack.
The White House Conference on Aging event in Tampa, on Feb. 19, was the first in a series of regional meetings designed to put a spotlight on the challenges retirees face today.
Loehndorf said she was “quite thrilled” to be invited to the Tampa event. In addition to listening to experts discuss healthy aging, long-term services and supports, and retirement security, she also participated in a break-out session on retirement security. With private sector pensions declining, conservatives and businesses claim that 401(k)-style savings plans can replace defined-benefit employer pensions, Loehndorf responds that you can’t save what you don’t earn.
“So many Americans are not able to save money and plan for the future now” because wages have been stagnant for the last 30 years, she explained.
In addition, those who have pensions, including police, firefighters, teachers and other public service workers, face the loss of promised benefits as state lawmakers hand out tax breaks for corporations, diverting revenue that could have been used to fully fund their employees’ pensions.
“To improve on pension security, you’ve got to make sure that when people have pensions, those pensions stay fully funded,” Loehndorf said. “People need to be able to count on what they’ve been promised.”
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