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Ben Veghte
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Benjamin W. Veghte is Research Director at Social Security Works. He is a member of the Scholars Strategy Network and the National Academy of Social Insurance. His research explores how capitalist democracies can effectively mitigate social inequality. Dr. Veghte has published on issues related to Social Security, retirement security, Medicare, health insurance, social insurance, and housing policy. He holds a Ph.D. in European intellectual history from the University of Chicago and an MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School. He taught comparative social policy and comparative politics as an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Bremen, Germany, until 2008, and served as a social policy consultant for the European Union. Since then, Dr. Veghte worked as Research Associate at the National Academy of Social Insurance and as Executive Director of the Scholars Strategy Network at Harvard University.

Entries by Ben Veghte

Social Security Expansion Key to Averting Retirement Crisis

(5) Comments | Posted June 3, 2015 | 4:32 PM

There is broad consensus across the political spectrum that Social Security benefits -- averaging around $16,000 per year -- are low, and that most Americans are not able to accumulate sufficient savings to adequately supplement them. Data from the Federal Reserve reveal that households' accumulated wealth at various...

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It's Time to Restore the Estate Tax

(7) Comments | Posted April 28, 2015 | 7:41 PM

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The estate tax -- a tax on property (cash, real estate, stock, or other assets) transferred from deceased persons to their heirs -- is an essential component of tax policy in any meritocratic democracy. In an era of rising income and wealth inequality,...

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Sen. Sanders' Bold Plan to Expand Social Security

(64) Comments | Posted March 16, 2015 | 1:47 PM

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Last week U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) introduced the Social Security Expansion Act, a thoughtful plan to both ensure greater retirement security for today's workers and retirees and strengthen Social Security's finances over the long term. It achieves these goals in...

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Social Security Policy Responses to Inequality

(0) Comments | Posted February 24, 2015 | 8:15 PM

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Since the late 1970s, economic forces have enabled the privileged few to take home more and more in the form of income and profits, while the wages of average workers have stagnated. Rather than combat this trend, public policies have strongly reinforced it....

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Restoring Minimum Wage Would Strengthen Social Security

(1) Comments | Posted April 2, 2014 | 12:47 PM

Congress should restore the minimum wage to circa its 1968 level and then index it to inflation, as a new fact sheet from Social Security Works explains. This would be a small but important step away from decades-long growth in income inequality, and toward shared prosperity....

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Health Care Consumes Over a Third of Social Security Checks

(4) Comments | Posted January 22, 2014 | 5:07 PM

Growth in seniors' out-of-pocket health care costs has outpaced Social Security's cost-of-living adjustments by more than a third since 1992, according to a new analysis by Social Security Works of data from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Beneficiary spending on Medicare premiums, deductibles, co-pays, all private premiums, and...

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House Ways and Means Committee Misleads Hill on Chained CPI

(0) Comments | Posted November 6, 2013 | 11:28 AM

The House Ways and Means Committee added another chapter Monday to the epic misinformation campaign to sell the chained CPI to Members of Congress, the media and the general public as the basis for Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs). It sent a press release to all Hill offices...

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As Budget Conference Begins, 1.5 Percent 2014 Social Security COLA Underscores Need to Address Retirement Security Crisis

(7) Comments | Posted October 30, 2013 | 3:23 PM

Today Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the chairs of the House and Senate Budget committees, kicked off the first session of the conference committee charged with hammering out a federal budget deal for Fiscal Year 2014. The Social Security Administration also announced today the size of the 2014...

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Republicans' Latest Ransom Note: Cut Social Security or the Economy Gets It

(256) Comments | Posted October 14, 2013 | 2:26 PM

Last week 50 House Republicans, led by Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI), sent a letter to Speaker Boehner urging him to insist on Social Security benefit cuts as part of any deal to avert default. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) echoed this line: In an op-ed in the...

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5 Reasons Why a Grand Bargain Would Be a Grand Betrayal

(20) Comments | Posted October 7, 2013 | 7:18 PM


On October 1, the minority Tea Party faction of one party in one house of Congress forced the entire government to shut down, and the protracted shutdown is now folding into the October 17 deadline for raising the debt limit. Republicans' initial ransom demand was repeal or delay of key components of the Affordable Care Act. As it became clear during the first week of the shutdown that the president was not going to sacrifice access to quality health insurance for millions of Americans, Republicans realized they had to redraft their ransom note. As Tea Partier Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) put it, their goal shifted to simply "getting something out of this. And I don't know what that even is." This week, that "something" is starting to look like a "grand bargain" or at the very least a "mini grand bargain." Yet a grand bargain -- whether large or small -- would be harmful for several reasons.

1. It would undermine our democratic process by rewarding extortionary parliamentary tactics. Making budgetary concessions in exchange for a debt limit increase now would encourage any future minority in Congress to blackmail the majority into submission whenever it disagrees with its will. As Theda Skocpol and Ellen Fitzpatrick have persuasively argued, the extortionary behavior of the Tea Party radicals is unique in modern American history and threatens our "fundamental democratic values." Rewarding their hostage taking with policy concessions would betray the will of the majority, and undermine the democratic integrity of our electoral and legislative processes.

2. Giving in to them now would not be the end of it. Most Tea Party Republicans harbor a hatred of government that transcends the kind of rational opposition that is subject to democratic compromise. The hatred is fundamentalist in nature; many view government as evil. If they were to achieve spending cuts in a (mini) grand bargain, they would not be content to return afterward to the normal legislative order. Rather, this would only convince them that further concessions are attainable, if they only remain steadfast. Further shutdowns and holdups would ensue whenever they were dissatisfied with what was achievable through the regular democratic order. Our economy and polity would be perpetually at risk.

3. Deficits are already under control. The Obama Administration drastically cut spending through the Budget Control Act of 2011, which ushered in the sequester that began in March of this year. Under President Obama, the deficit has shrunk from 11.1 percent of GDP in 2009 to 7.4 percent in 2012, and is projected to drop to 2.2 percent by 2018 -- far below the average of 3.8 percent of GDP since 1970. The "clean CR," or continuing resolution that would end the shutdown, would continue to implement these cuts. In short, if deficit reduction were the goal, passing a clean CR and continuing current government funding levels would more than suffice to achieve that goal. In fact, however, that is the wrong goal for a country trying to recover from a deep recession. Stimulating economic growth and getting people back to work is the best way to reduce deficits.

4. Further austerity would run the economy into the ground. This year alone, CBO estimates that sequestration will reduce economic growth by about 0.6 percentage points, or about $90 billion, and cost about 750,000 jobs. Moreover, due to lack of stimulus and hence untapped productive capacity, we are needlessly foregoing close to $1 trillion a year in output, condemning millions of American workers to un- or underemployment due to economic malfeasance. What is needed now to get the economy going again and to put people back to work is stimulus spending, not further budget cuts.

5. The mini grand bargain being currently proposed would exacerbate already intolerable levels of social inequality. A grand bargain is supposed to contain a mixture of tax increases and spending cuts. But what House Republicans are proposing -- and willing to accept -- is only one half of this, and thus no bargain at all. It would likely contain real cuts to Social Security and Medicare in exchange for broad principles of tax reform which would most likely be revenue neutral. Such a "bargain" would undermine retirement security for current and future generations of retirees, who are expected to rely on Social Security and Medicare even more than their parents did.

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With pensions disappearing and 401(k)s and IRAs providing meaningful retirement income to only the top third of earners, most Americans are in dire need of greater retirement security. In this context, it makes no sense to cut Social Security benefits or to increase seniors' out-of-pocket health care costs.

In sum, Democrats must hold firm and refuse House Republicans' attempt to extort a grand bargain. With 11.3 million Americans unemployed, the economic recovery fragile, and two-thirds of Americans facing the prospect of downward social mobility in retirement, agreeing to cut Social Security and Medicare in exchange for raising the debt limit would be a grand betrayal of the democratic process and the American...

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America's Retirement Security Crisis and the Need to Expand Social Security (Infographic)

(0) Comments | Posted September 27, 2013 | 4:26 PM

One of the primary accomplishments of American civilization in the 20th century was the construction of a system of economic security that safeguards the dignity of Americans beyond their economically productive years. Social Security erected an old-age insurance infrastructure through which, from the 1930s onward, virtually all workers were given...

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Rep. David Cicilline Is Right About Social Security, PolitiFact Was Wrong (Again)

(253) Comments | Posted May 24, 2013 | 3:51 PM

U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) is right: the share of wages in the economy covered by Social Security has declined in recent decades from 90 to 83 percent due to rising wage inequality. Moreover, raising the Social Security tax cap (currently $113,700) to its historic level would go far in...

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Orszag Underestimates Chained CPI Cut

(2) Comments | Posted May 16, 2013 | 3:01 PM

President Obama's first budget director, Peter Orszag, chimed into the debate on the chained CPI last month with an analysis in Bloomberg View suggesting that the chained CPI COLA cut -- as well as the resultant cost savings -- might turn out to be less than projected by...

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Chained CPI Cuts Average Social Security Benefits by $15,615 - Even With Bump-Up for Older Retirees

(113) Comments | Posted April 24, 2013 | 9:41 AM

Social Security's cost of living adjustments (COLAs) hardly keep pace with inflation, and cutting them is bad policy -- even with a bump in benefits for the oldest old.

A new analysis by Social Security Works finds that if the Administration's proposed switch to the chained CPI for...

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Don't Be Fooled by Misleading Report Calling for Chained CPI

(54) Comments | Posted March 24, 2013 | 5:42 PM

The Peterson syndicate has just released another volley in their campaign to undermine Congressional support for Social Security -- this time a report from its Moment of Truth arm entitled "Measuring Up: The Case for the Chained CPI." It makes a series of specious claims to support switching...

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