The Blog of the Frances Perkins Center

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Please join us…

In Events on July 30, 2010 at 11:29 pm

You’re invited to the Frances Perkins Center’s 2010 Garden Party

Saturday, August 14, from 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM

It’s a once-a-year event! This year, we’re celebrating the 75th anniversary of the signing of the Social Security Act. Frances Perkins considered the passage of Social Security her greatest accomplishment. We’ve been commemorating her achievement all year with our Social Security Stories Project. At the garden party, you’ll have the opportunity to add to our collection by telling your own Social Security story on camera.

And, continuing our tradition of honoring exceptional women who epitomize Frances Perkins’s leadership, we are very excited to announce the recipients of our three awards: Brooksley Born, Nancy Altman, and Megan Williams, all three of whom will be at the Garden Party. Read all about them below…

Tickets for the Garden Party are $35 per person. If you’d like to be part of the Host Committee, the cost is $75 per person (in appreciation, you’ll receive a very small, very special thank-you gift). Please order your tickets today — we want to be sure that you’re coming!

Order your tickets today!

Intelligence and Courage Award — Brooksley Born

Brooksley Born is the former chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Recognizing the dangers of unregulated derivatives trading, she warned about the potential collapse of the financial system but her warnings were not heeded. Her attempt to save the country from economic disaster is the subject of a PBS Frontline documentary, “The Warning.” Brooksley was honored by the JFK Library last year with a “Profile in Courage Award.” Learn more here.

Steadfast Award — Nancy Altman

Nancy Altman has been working on Social Security policy since the 1980s, when she worked on the 1983 Greenspan Commission on Social Security as Alan Greenspan’s assistant. She has taught at both Harvard’s Kennedy School and Law School and is a founder of the National Academy of Social Insurance, on the board of the Pension Rights Center, and co-founder of She has testified before Congress on Social Security policy on numerous occasions and is the author of The Battle for Social Security: From FDR’s Vision to Bush’s Gamble. (Books will be available for purchase and can be autographed.)

Open Door Award — Megan Williams

Megan Williams is the executive director of Hardy Girls Healthy Women. Named one of the ten people shaping the future of Maine’s economy by MaineBiz last year, Megan was hired to lead Hardy Girls in 2005, a year after her graduation from Colby College in Waterville, Maine. She has nurtured the ten-year-old nonprofit from its local roots into a flourishing organization with programs featuring mentoring, an emphasis on strength and activism, and national workshops and curricula. This year, Hardy Girls Healthy Women was given the Governor’s award for nonprofit excellence. For more information, visit Hardy Girls Healthy Women.

And You’ll Be the Recipient — of Fine Food & Drink and Great Conversation

Refreshments will feature food and wine from local establishments including Weeks End Lobster Bakes, Newcastle Publick House, Damariscotta River Grill, Rising Tide Community Market, Weatherbird, and others. Our sponsors include The Flying Cloud B&B and Bath Savings Bank.

Don’t delay! Order your tickets today! (To ensure delivery, please order by August 7th.)

Tickets may also be purchased by mail by sending a check to FPC Garden Party, PO Box 281, Newcastle, ME 04553.

Five myths about Social Security — busted!

In Political world on July 29, 2010 at 2:19 pm

MoveOn sent out an email to its members today, listing five myths about Social Security that are widely believed though false. They did a great job of succinctly putting these myths to rest — the information deserves to be forwarded as widely as possible.

Here’s the body of their email:

Myth #1: Social Security is going broke.

Reality: There is no Social Security crisis.  By 2023, Social Security will have a $4.6 trillion surplus (yes, trillion with a ‘T’).  It can pay out all scheduled benefits for the next quarter-century with no changes whatsoever.1 After 2037, it’ll still be able to pay out 75% of scheduled benefits—and again, that’s without any changes. The program started preparing for the Baby Boomers’ retirement decades ago.2 Anyone who insists Social Security is broke probably wants to break it themselves.

Myth #2: We have to raise the retirement age because people are living longer.

Reality: This is a red-herring to trick you into agreeing to benefit cuts. Retirees are living about the same amount of time as they were in the 1930s. The reason average life expectancy is higher is mostly because many fewer people die as children than they did 70 years ago.3 What’s more, what gains there have been are distributed very unevenly—since 1972, life expectancy increased by 6.5 years for workers in the top half of the income brackets, but by less than 2 years for those in the bottom half.4 But those intent on cutting Social Security love this argument because raising the retirement age is the same as an across-the-board benefit cut.

Myth #3: Benefit cuts are the only way to fix Social Security.

Reality: Social Security doesn’t need to be fixed. But if we want to strengthen it, here’s a better way: Make the rich pay their fair share.  If the very rich paid taxes on all of their income, Social Security would be sustainable for decades to come.5 Right now, high earners only pay Social Security taxes on the first $106,000 of their income.6 But conservatives insist benefit cuts are the only way because they want to protect the super-rich from paying their fair share.

Myth #4: The Social Security Trust Fund has been raided and is full of IOUs

Reality: Not even close to true. The Social Security Trust Fund isn’t full of IOUs, it’s full of U.S. Treasury Bonds. And those bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States.7 The reason Social Security holds only treasury bonds is the same reason many Americans do: The federal government has never missed a single interest payment on its debts. President Bush wanted to put Social Security funds in the stock market—which would have been disastrous—but luckily, he failed. So the trillions of dollars in the Social Security Trust Fund, which are separate from the regular budget, are as safe as can be.

Myth #5: Social Security adds to the deficit

Reality: It’s not just wrong—it’s impossible!  By law, Social Security’s funds are separate from the budget, and it must pay its own way. That means that Social Security can’t add one penny to the deficit.8

Defeating these myths is the first step to stopping Social Security cuts.  Can you share this list now?

Thanks for all you do.

–Nita, Duncan, Daniel, Kat, and the rest of the team


1.”To Deficit Hawks: We the People Know Best on Social Security,” New Deal 2.0, June 14, 2010

2. “The Straight Facts on Social Security,” Economic Opportunity Institute, September 2009

3. “Social Security and the Age of Retirement,” Center for Economic and Policy Research, June 2010

4. “More on raising the retirement age,” Washington Post, July 8, 2010

5. “Social Security is sustainable,” Economic and Policy Institute, May 27, 2010

6. “Maximum wage contribution and the amount for a credit in 2010,” Social Security Administration, April 23, 2010

7. “Trust Fund FAQs,” Social Security Administration, February 18, 2010

8.”To Deficit Hawks: We the People Know Best on Social Security,” New Deal 2.0, June 14, 2010

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Buying deficit reduction

In Political world on July 1, 2010 at 8:10 am

In a Bloomburg article this morning, Peterson’s $1 Billion Investment Shows Returns as Deficit Concerns Mount, reporters Max Berley and Brian Faler take a look at Wall Street billionaire Peter G. Peterson’s largely successful attempt to influence the discussion around the deficit, Social Security, and other social programs.

Peterson has committed $1 billion of the fortune he made as co-founder of the New York-based private-equity firm Blackstone Group LP to his personal crusade: raising the alarm about the $13 trillion national debt, Bloomberg Businessweek reports in its July 5 issue.

He is paying the bills at a foundation that bears his name, supports a network of like-minded advocacy groups, backs The Fiscal Times, an online newspaper, formed a commission of experts, and organizes conferences with marquee guests such as former President Bill Clinton. The crusade appears to be in sync with the concerns of most voters, with a June 4 Gallup poll showing that the federal debt and terrorism were tied for first place (at 40 percent each) as the biggest threats to Americans’ future well-being.

It may be that fears about the future damage of the federal debt do worry Americans. However, Peterson’s prescription–cut Social Security benefits, Medicare, and Medicaid–may not receive the same level agreement.

His fortune also was the major funder of the America Speaks national town meeting, Our Budget, Our Economy, last Saturday, which I attended.

Interestingly enough, while Beltway officials and pundits may be falling for the Peterson rhetoric around cutting priorities, the general public seems less gullible. Yesterday, Tom Frank, in his Op-Ed, Avoiding the Austerity Trap: Deficit reduction is an unhealthy obsession in the Wall Street Journal reported the results of the town meetings:

The event took place as scheduled last Saturday, with thousands of citizens meeting in different cities. They duly absorbed a booklet alerting them to the danger of deficits. They deliberated. And then something funny happened on the way to the consensus.

According to a preliminary compilation of results, participants supported “an extra 5% tax” on incomes of greater than $1 million per year (by 68%) and an increase in the corporate income tax rate (59%). They thought a “carbon tax” was a good idea (64%) as well as a “securities transactions tax” (61%). On Social Security, austerity was nowhere in sight as 85% backed raising the limit on taxable income, and only a miserable 27% thought that we should “create personal savings accounts.” Majorities favored cutting defense spending and expressed support for further recovery measures even if they increase the deficit.

These liberal results have been brought to you in part by a distinctly conservative foundation—bipartisanship at its best. Will Washington listen? Probably not. One reason we are rushing to austerity these days is because that’s what the comfortable people who chat so amiably in the green room are utterly certain we ought to be doing. The deficit numbers, they think, are just too big, too frightening. And deep in their hearts, they also know that the costs of austerity will always be borne by others.