Payroll Tax Holiday Imperils Social Security

— Sharon Bender

As Congress and the White House hold increasingly contentious conversations about a package of tax cuts, B’nai B’rith International expresses its deep concern about the impact some of the proposed changes could have on the vital senior safety net, Social Security.

The White House and Congressional Republicans are working on a tax plan that could include reducing Social Security payroll taxes-which are worker Social Security contributions-for one year, undermining the steady and reliable worker contribution as a Social Security funding source. This system has worked well-experts agree Social Security is solvent until at least 2039.

“Removing a dedicated funding source for Social Security puts the future of the program in grave jeopardy,” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said. “Once the dedicated funding source is slashed, and people are used to lower taxes, they could easily blame Social Security for any changes. This could endanger future benefits and recreate the severe elderly poverty the system was created to address.”  

More after the jump.
The idea behind this payroll tax holiday is to stimulate the economy-people could use the extra money they bring home each paycheck to make big purchases.  

The Social Security payroll tax may be a convenient way to provide this stimulus, but jump-starting the economy has nothing to do with Social Security and will create an unacceptable risk to an essential program.

As we learn over and over, Congressional “temporary” fixes have a way of becoming permanent. And the real possibility of losing forever part of this dedicated funding is not a risk we can afford Social Security to take.

Once the tax holiday year expires, long-time opponents of Social Security could cast the return to normal payroll tax rates as a major tax hike, instead of the restoration it truly would be. This in turn could lead to unnecessary resentment of a program that millions of older Americans rely on as their only source of income. Social Security could be portrayed as a deficit-buster that we have to tame, when in reality the program does not contribute to the deficit and has nothing more to do with this rate change than being a convenient vehicle for implementing a temporary stimulus.

“Social Security does not add to the deficit, period.” B’nai B’rith Director of Aging Policy Rachel Goldberg, Ph.D., said. “We have very real deficit problems and a stalled economic recovery to tackle, but tampering with this program is not the way to address them. We cannot afford to get used to this tax rebate, and we cannot afford to let the tax holiday threaten the future of Social Security.”

B’nai Brith Encouraged as Deficit Commission Rejects Flawed Plan

— Sharon Bender

The deficit commission failed to get the necessary votes to report recommendations to Congress for a plan which if passed, would have included deep cuts to Medicare and Social Security according to a Chairman’s report introduced in November and finalized this week.  The plan would have left American seniors at a great disadvantage in the wake of a slow economic recovery and continued high health care costs.  Especially troubling aspects were suggested caps on Medicare spending and increased premiums, combined with Social Security cuts that placed vital care and services for older adults out of their reach.

More after the jump.
The Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform had delayed voting until Dec. 3 in hopes of securing the 14 votes needed to send the recommendations to Congress for a vote.  B’nai B’rith is encouraged that the proposal lacked widespread endorsement, as these draconian cuts imperil the health and welfare of millions of Americans who rely on Social Security and Medicare benefits for the income support and fundamental health services they need. However, it is likely that many severe cuts to health and senior services will emerge in future plans to reduce the deficit.

B’nai B’rith International has long been invested in the welfare and concerns of aging adults, and is concerned about continuing efforts to place the burden of repairing America’s growing deficit on those who can least afford to pay by targeting  Social Security and Medicare benefits for unrealistic cuts.

“We are encouraged that they couldn’t get the votes for these harmful proposals,” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said. “Seniors depend on Medicare and Social Security; we should be protecting these programs, not gutting them.”

B’nai B’rith shares President Obama’s concern about the deficit, but firmly believes the approach of the Commission was inequitable, and its focus on Social Security and Medicare was inappropriate.  On the surface, some of the proposals look plausible. But digging deeper, it’s apparent the plan would drastically reduce benefits over time.

“I have no illusions that the failure to get the votes means that these attacks on Medicare and Social Security will go away,” B’nai B’rith Director of Aging Policy Rachel Goldberg, Ph.D., said. “We will remain vigilant and prepared to protect these programs during the next Congress.”

We support the effort to achieve fiscal responsibility and we recognize that it will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve that goal without shared sacrifice. However, we do not believe it can or should come at the expense of the most vulnerable Americans.

UNESCO Withdraws Sponsorship of World Philosophy Day in Iran

— Sharon Bender

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Director-General Irina Bokova withdrew its support from World Philosophy Day events set to take place in Tehran Nov. 21-23. UNESCO’s decision recognizes the unacceptability of Tehran as a location to celebrate peace and free exchange of ideas, given the regime’s long history of censorship, domestic repression, and hateful rhetoric toward Israel, a U.N. member state.

This change in UNESCO’s course followed implementation of new restrictions on Iranian university courses and curricula, including prohibiting the establishment of new departments teaching law, political science, and philosophy-key tenants for discussion within World Philosophy Day events.

“UNESCO has made the right choice in withdrawing support for Iran’s World Philosophy Day events,” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said. “Philosophy cannot be celebrated in an environment where free exchange of ideas is suppressed and hatred reigns.”

“Tehran does not deserve the honor of holding UNESCO-sponsored events extolling freedom and open-mindedness,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “It is impossible to have a philosophical event under a cloud of repression where tolerance is absent.”

Jewish Fraternity honors B’nai Brith’s Glick and Mariaschin

— Sharon Bender

The Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) honored B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick from Huntingdon Valley, PA and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin on August 6 during the AEPi 97th Anniversary Convention.
Glick was initiated as an honorary member of the fraternity and Mariaschin received the Gitelson Silver Medallion, an award which honors AEPi alumni who have committed to practice Jewish community service.

In 2007, AEPi and B’nai B’rith partnered to provide community service, educational, and advocacy programming for fraternity brothers to keep active in the Jewish community after graduating college.

“I am honored to be named an honorary member of a dedicated fraternity focused on values of brotherhood, leadership, and service,” Glick said. “I value B’nai B’rith’s relationship with AEPi and believe that our joint service projects change lives for the better in the communities we serve.”

Mariaschin was a brother in the Delta Beta chapter at the University of New Hampshire.

“I am extremely proud to receive such a prestigious award that represents something I have been passionate about throughout my professional career-service to others,” Mariaschin said. “It is fitting to have this award presented in New Orleans, a place where helping others has become paramount since Hurricane Katrina struck the city.”  

Photo: B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick volunteering in New Orleans Park with the AEPi brothers.

“Partnering with 500 Jewish young men to help rebuild New Orleans’ main park is truly special,” B’nai B’rith
International President Dennis W. Glick said. “B’nai B’rith has been deeply involved in helping New Orleans for
five years. This project will have an immediate impact on the community, and will also teach valuable lessons to
the AEPi brothers about giving back.”

B’nai B’rith’s active history of sponsoring disaster relief programs in New Orleans began shortly after
Hurricane Katrina devastated the city-raising more than $1 million for the Gulf region. B’nai B’rith also
demonstrated its support of the Gulf Coast by holding its annual policy conference in New Orleans in 2006.

The New Orleans City Park project marks the end of a five-year effort to assist in rebuilding homes, houses of
worship, and other projects in states devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

“This project is the culmination of a long-term commitment to helping the Gulf Coast rebuild,” B’nai B’rith
International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “We hope the citizens of New Orleans
enjoy the park’s upgrades and that it becomes a great symbol of the rebuilding efforts in the region.”

B’nai B’rith International, the Global Voice of the Jewish Community, is the oldest and most widely known Jewish humanitarian, human rights, and advocacy organization.  For 166 years, BBI has worked for Jewish unity, security, continuity, and tolerance.