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The Institute for Policy Studies does a tremendous service in a new report by looking at how proposed benefit cuts would impact health industry CEOs versus home health aides. Specifically, how would the industry CEOs who also happen to be leaders in the corporate lobby group Fix the Debt, which is pushing for massive new corporate tax cuts paid for with cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, compare to a typical home health aide, a worker in the fastest growing industry in the country? These jobs are among the lowest paid with the longest hours, dominated by women and minorities, with 40 percent of workers needing public assistance to supplement their income.
The report looks at the retirement security of, the CEOs of CVS Caremark and United Health, Larry Merlo and Stephen Hemsley, compared to home health aide Rhonda Straw. Merlo has a retirement fund of $46 million, and if he invested that in an annuity starting at age 65, he'd get $263,169 a month for life. If he took Social Security, too, he'd get $267,445 a month. Hemsley isn't doing quite as well, with just $18 million in his retirement account. But he'd still get $104,671 from it every month, $108,607 if he takes Social Security. Now for the home health aide, Straw, who at age 50 makes $9 per hour, 40 hours a week. She's only ever had minimum wage jobs. But she has $475 in a 401(k) account, which will net her $2 a month in retirement. With her Social Security benefits, she'll have about $2,704 per month in retirement income for the first 20 years.
Three guesses who will feel the most pain under the proposal Fix the Debt is pushing: chained CPI and raising the retirement age?
If Congress adopts the most draconian approach—a combination of “chained CPI” and raising the retirement age to 70—health aide Rhonda Straw could face a nearly 16 percent reduction in her total retirement payments over 20 years. That’s compared to reductions of only 0.3 percent and 0.7 percent for Merlo and Hemsley, respectively.
How easy is it to tell others they need to have "skin in the game" and share in the sacrifice when your part of the sacrifice is less than one percent of your income? When you have the security, too damned easy. The Rhonda Straws of America should be who our leaders are paying attention to.