11/07/2012 06:56 am ET Updated Jan 07, 2013

President Obama's Second Term: What Will It Mean For Post 50s?

How will President Obama's second term affect the issues most important to post 50s? The economy and the deficit have been core concerns for older voters, who favored Romney by 12 points, 56-44 percent -- a new high for a Republican, according to an ABC News exit poll. Taxes, Medicare and Social Security are other key areas in which the two candidates differed significantly in their proposals.

Although the election results bring a measure of needed certainty, they don't change the divisive situation in Congress, where Republicans control the House and Democrats hold sway in the Senate. The first order of business: Finding a compromise to avoid the "fiscal cliff" - $600 billion in budget cuts and tax increases slated to go into effect in January to reduce the deficit -- that could rock the fragile economic recovery. Here's a look at other key issues for post 50s:

Economic Recovery

During the campaign, President Obama called on Congress to pass his proposed "American Jobs Act," which was shot down by the Senate in 2011. The nearly $450-million-dollar stimulus package, financed by a 5.6 percent tax on incomes over $1 million, would cut the payroll tax for small business; offer tax credits to firms that hire veterans; and finance improvements to schools, roads, rail and other infrastructure, among other provisions.

The Act would also provide tax credits to businesses that hire long-term unemployed -- those out of work six months or more. That's a particular problem for midlifers -- about 53 percent of unemployed people over 55 have been out of work at least that long. (The average length of unemployment for people 55+ is 57.7 weeks.)

Reducing The Deficit

In 2011, the president proposed a deficit-reduction plan that includes $580 billion from mandatory programs; $1 trillion in savings over a decade from drawdown of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq; and $1.5 trillion in savings from raising taxes on the wealthy, eliminating tax breaks for oil and gas companies and closing various other loopholes.

House Speaker John A. Boehner showed some willingness to compromise on Wednesday, telling reporters that Republicans are open to "increased revenue . . . as the byproduct of a growing economy, energized by a simpler, cleaner, fairer tax code, with fewer loopholes, and lower rates for all" to help tackle the deficit but oppose the president's plan to take "a larger share of what the American people earn through higher tax rates."


Back in 2010, President Obama signed a two-year extension of Bush-era tax cuts. That expires on December 31, and during the campaign, the president said he favored extending cuts again for Americans earning less than $200,000 ($250,000 for couples). But he would allow the top tax rates for the wealthiest Americans to return to 39.6 percent and 36 percent and boost taxes on capital gains and dividends for that group as well. (The rate would remain at 15 percent for those earning less than $200,000, or $250,000 for couples.)

In addition, the president vowed to reform the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), which was created in 1969 to keep the wealthy from skirting income taxes. Because the AMT was not indexed to inflation, it now snares middle-income taxpayers as well. Obama has proposed replacing the AMT with the "Buffett Rule," which would require people earning more than $1 million to pay at least 30 percent income tax.


Obama vehemently criticized Romney's plans for Medicare reform, which would have transitioned the healthcare program from one providing guaranteed benefits to one giving beneficiaries a fixed payment to help them buy their own health coverage. Obama has never called for a major overhaul of Medicare. Rather, he's included various cost-reduction plans into his health care law. The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act aims to extent health coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans beginning in January 2014. To fund the law, taxes will rise on so-called "Cadillac" health insurance plans.

For retirees making $85,000 or more ($170,000 for married couples), Obama has said he would hike monthly premiums. Presently, only about 5 percent of beneficiaries pay higher, income-based monthly premiums for outpatient coverage under Medicare Part B and even fewer pay higher premiums for prescription drug coverage. Obama proposes asking a growing number of seniors to pay the higher premiums over time. He'd also raise the amount of premiums by about 15 percent for higher-income beneficiaries.

The nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation recently completed an analysis of Obama's plan for Medicare, finding that by 2017, a single retiree with income of $86,000 would pay $447 more in premiums for Medicare's outpatient and prescription drug coverage. A married couple earning $175,000 would shell out nearly $900 more by that time.

For new baby boomers, Medicare in the future won't likely be as bounteous as it has been in the past. Due to the Medicare cost shifts, AARP has been critical of the Obama budget plan.

Social Security

While Romney said Social Security should be overhauled, Obama has argued that the system needs some minor tweaks to provide the basic support Americans have been promised. The president has yet to come out with a comprehensive plan, even though the Social Security Administration forecasts that Social Security will deplete its trust fund in 2033. After that, Social Security will only have enough money to pay 75 percent of promised benefits if no changes are implemented.

Obama has repeatedly expressed opposition to privatizing Social Security and has suggested that, as part of a bipartisan plan, those earning more than $250,000 may be asked to contribute more to Social Security in order to keep it viable, possibly 2 to 4 percent more in total (combined employer and employee).

In his 2013 budget proposal, Obama said he was against allowing workers to invest part of their payroll taxes in private investment accounts. When asked about the program during his first debate with Romney, Obama said "it's going to have to be tweaked the way it was by Ronald Reagan and ... Democratic Speaker Tip O'Neill." (In 1983, Reagan and O'Neill presided over the last reform of Social Security, a reform that raised the retirement age gradually and increased the payroll tax rate, among other changes.)



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