Monday, September 19, 2011

Unfinished Business: Poverty Still Common Among Seniors

David Callahan

One last point about the new poverty numbers is that they show that the elderly poverty remains a major problem in the United States. Conventional wisdom holds that seniors are doing just fine in the U.S. and that this is one area where the war on poverty was a big success. Well, not quite. Yes, elderly poverty rates are way down from forty years ago thanks to increased Social Security payments and government health programs. But these rates are still high: 9 percent of seniors live in poverty, according to the new Census data, or about 3.5 million Americans. Several million seniors more live just above the poverty line.

Make No Mistake: The United States does need to set limits on how much of its wealth it spends on its aging population. Other priorities are more important, like investing in future generations and long-term prosperity. That said, a basic goal of lawmakers in the coming budget debates should be to raise all seniors out of poverty. If we can't do that, it's hard to think of ourselves as a truly civilized society. Several budget plans floating around have proposed ways to abolish elderly poverty, including one from the Heritage Foundation (of all places). But so far this thinking isn't part of the budget debate. Clearly, fixing Social Security doesn't just mean shoring it up financially; it also means increasing minimum benefits.

1 comment:

  1. there's no way to eradicate this plague after all. what a shame for our country


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