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No matter who wins the Presidential election and which party controls Congress, the rising focus on income inequality has changed the political dynamic in ways that will continue to provide opportunities for change for workers, seniors, families and caregivers. Of course, it will be more difficult if those who favor more tax breaks for the wealthy are in control, but it is quite clear that there will be major resistance to any such efforts to further the gap between the wealthy and the middle class and the poor. If progressives are either in charge or have a strong position in Washington and state capitals the push for economic reform will be even greater.
This has already played out in New York as we saw earlier this year with the enactment of a minimum wage increase to $15.o0/hour in New York City and downstate counties and $12.50 in upstate regions. The passage of paid family leave also was a landmark victory for families and caregivers. Both of these proposals were considered to be going nowhere just a year or two ago.
Other issues are playing into the mix though. Talk of increasing Social Security benefits particularly for those with lower incomes was never even mentioned before but now, it is in the platform of the Democratic Party. Even though the Social Security system has financial problems and won’t be able to pay full benefits in 2034, that problem and an increase for lower income retirees could be paid for by lifting the earnings cap of $118,000. Workers making above that no longer pay the tax when they reach that level each year in their salaries.
The high price of prescription drugs and increasing premiums and cost sharing in health care plans are opening the door for bigger discussions again about allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and also about expanding Medicare and allowing younger workers to buy-in. That idea is also in the platform for the Democrats. Insurance companies are dropping out of the Affordable Care Act and that is raising questions about whether universal health care would cut out a lot of administrative overhead and profits. That issue is on the ballot in Colorado and controlling drug prices is on the ballot in California this November.
Then, there is the book I mentioned last week called Unretirement. This book claims that Baby Boomers, rather than being a drain on the economy, will have many members who keep working because they want to and some because they have to. Some will be entrepreneurs free to start their own businesses in retirement. In other words, they will continue to be contributing to Social Security and Medicare and will be benefitting the economy.
When have we heard that idea presented? Usually, all we hear is that older people and retirees are a burden, not an asset. The ground is shifting because of our advocacy and messaging. Baby Boomers are not going to allow themselves to be cast off as “burdens,” no longer able to participate and contribute. No matter the election result, it is clear that our advocacy for workers, seniors, retirees and caregivers has a progressive agenda to pursue and to fight back against those who want to marginalize people with ageism.