What needs fixing? Pensions or poverty?

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State Sen. Heather Steans, Jacki Robinson-Ivy of the City Club of Chicago, Adam Schuster of the Illinois Policy Institute, Kristen McQueary of the Chicago Tribune, and Civic Federation President Laurence Msall pose after Monday’s discussion on public pensions. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

The experts were talking pensions yesterday at the City Club.

State Sen. Heather Steans, Jacki Robinson-Ivy of the City Club of Chicago, Adam Schuster of the Illinois Policy Institute, Kristen McQueary of the Chicago Tribune, and Civic Federation President Laurence Msall.

Experts on what?

Certainly not about being old and poor.

Not this bunch.

Whenever somebody asks me why state public workers deserve a good pension, I always answer that every worker deserves one.

Even progressives don’t mention poverty among the elderly very often. Nor do they talk a lot about pensions. When was the last time you heard it mentioned in a Democratic debate?

Very few speak for us but us.

But here are the facts.

According to the United States Census Bureau, in 2017 there were 7.7 million seniors, or 9.2 percent of all adults aged 65 and older living at or below the official poverty threshold of $11,511.

The standard measure of poverty is likely an underestimation of the true burden because it doesn’t adjust for expenses such as housing and out-of-pocket medical expenses.

To address this issue, the U.S. Census Bureau created an alternative measure called the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) that takes these variables into account. The SPM estimated that 7.2 million seniors, or 14.1 percent of all adults aged 65 and older lived at  or below the poverty threshold in 2017.

Of those aged 65 and older, around 80 percent have at least one chronic condition and more than half have at least two chronic conditions.

According to the official poverty measure for 2017, seniors from the following populations had a higher prevalence of poverty:

  • Older seniors: Among seniors aged 80 and older 11.4 percent lived in poverty, compared with 8.2 percent of seniors aged 65 to 69.
  • Women: More than 2.8 million women aged 65 and older were living at or below the poverty threshold compared with 1.6 million men.
  • Race: Both black and Hispanic seniors experienced higher poverty with 18.7 percent and 17.3 percent, respectively, living at or below the poverty threshold when compared to white seniors with 6.9 percent.

None of this was discussed at the City Club yesterday.

Nothing but a bunch of bean counters.

2 thoughts on “What needs fixing? Pensions or poverty?

  1. I just read an article about many elderly poor Americans being too proud to accept charity in the form of food…preferring to go hungry rather than face the shame of class based poverty.

    Viewing the picture above …I wondered…I wondered if any of them have ever even known a hungry person…personally.

    I also wondered the amount of combined wealth among the pictured…which made me realize they are all “class immune” from ever experiencing the devastating effects of poverty.

    If ever the poor awaken in mass…the shame of poverty will become the flame of revolution.

    Bean counters are exquisitely aware of that fact…have no doubt.

  2. You mean Kristen “Chicago needs its own Hurricane Katrina” McQueary. As if we need to know anything more about her views of poor people of color. And, by extension, the views of her employer. Can you imagine if a Tribune employee said something like “Chicago needs it’s own tumbrels?

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