99ers are starving. 99ers are homeless. 99ers are dying. These truths we hold to be self-evident to anyone with open eyes and a conscience. It is just a simple fact of life with what is happening in the American economy today. A jobless recovery. People exhausting all available unemployment benefits while still being unable to find work. Suffering American citizens that can be counted in the millions and most likely the tens of millions when considering the spouses and children that are also dragged into this unemployment disaster.
Congress sits on their hands and refuses to pass any meaningful relief packages for these unemployed workers. No new jobs bills. No new long term unemployment extensions for millions of 99ers that have seen their lifeline expire. Millions more will soon join their ranks. Our politicians have decided that cutting spending on the backs of dying 99ers is what is important today. Although having heard many times that the Republicans would support an unemployment extension if only it was paid for, I have seen no Republican, or Democrat for that matter, step up with plan to pay for an extension other than out of emergency funds which is contentious at best! And the road to Hell is again paved with good intentions?
I would suggest at least this modicum of a lifeline for the 99ers that are desperate for anything to help them make it to that next job, and that is to alter Social Security laws to allow 99ers to tap into the reserves that they, and their previous employers, have paid into Social Security. The Social Security system already has a threshold established for those that wish to elect early retirement. The change I suggest is to create additional thresholds at lower age limits that are prorated exactly in the same fashion. All funds would be drawn from the 99ers personal accounts and would not impact anyone else’s participation in the plan!
To provide a specific example; a person in their mid-fifty’s that has been paying into Social Security for almost 40 years, who was a high wage earner earning close to the ceiling limit for many of those years, would have contributions into Social Security of approximately $200,000. This is money that they, and their employers, have paid in that they are locked out of accessing. By setting up an annuity, or some type of reverse mortgage so to speak, a bridge loan could be provided to allow these individuals to draw down funds that they have paid in for a period of time. Once the economy recovers and they can get back to work, they can begin paying back into the system instead of drawing from it.
In the above example at age 70, approximately $3,000 a month in benefits would be paid. This drops to approximately $2,300 a month at 66, and $1,700 at age 62. Actuarial tables would need to be consulted by the experts, but roughly extrapolating this out would provide monthly stipends of $1,200 at age 58 and $800 at age 54, etc. Again these are rough estimates, but for those that currently have nothing coming in, these amounts would be a great relief towards seeing them through to the next job!
This is the responsible thing to do! If one looks at staying cold, hard, and rigid about denying 99ers in great need some access to the funds that they worked hard to create, you are essentially taking a position that you hope they just die before they ever get a chance to get any of their money back. Yes, for what other reason could you justify not making an alteration to the system for 99ers who are currently starving, homeless, and dying? Could you argue that Social Security is going to go broke? A system that, if left untouched, is fully funded until the year 2039?(1) In comparison, the need of the 99ers is great, and the cost is small or virtually non-existent, because you are only allowing them to draw down resources desperately needed until they can replace them at a later date.
Survival or retirement? You prioritize, please! Most 99ers retirement plans are already destroyed. They are struggling just to hang on to any possessions that they were able to acquire in the past and most of these items are being sold one at a time just to eat and keep utilities on. They all know that once the economy turns around and they can find meaningful employment, they will have to work many, many years until retirement. Survival until they can find the next job is the key, and short of any other type of support coming out of Congress that will create jobs or extend unemployment benefits through a Tier 5, or some other measure like H.R. 589 – the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Expansion Act of 2011, their plight is truly hopeless! It is time to change that, and the time is today!