As a retired Illinois teacher I can’t collect Social Security. Why should I care if the GOP agenda is to destroy it?


When Donald Trump issued his executive order putting a temporary stop to the federal payroll tax, it also stopped payments into the Social Security system.

His actions are supposedly temporary and they may be challenged in court. But like many things connected to the pandemic, his actions shine a light on the corporate agenda and, in this case, how it targets those my age.

First, a word about Illinois teachers like me who are retired.

For all my teaching career (Chicago teachers have their own pension system) I paid into the Illinois Teacher Retirement System (TRS) nearly 10% of my pay. The pension I receive is instead of Social Security.

Illinois teachers don’t get Social Security.

Unlike private employers, neither my school district nor the state pay anything into Social Security, saving school districts billions of dollars over the years.

The state of Illinois consistently fails to meet its pension payment obligations. Former Illinois Republican attorney general Ty Fahner said the practice would have landed a private employer in jail.

Let’s return to Trump’s executive action stopping the payroll tax.

Trump’s claim is that his executive order would put more money now into workers paychecks.

Put aside for a moment that due to Trump’s leadership there are nearly 40 million newly unemployed workers who no longer receive a paycheck.

And put aside for a moment that the payments to Social Security will have to be made up at a later date.

The payroll tax essentially funds Social Security and Medicare.

Trump’s order will stop nearly $350 billion in payments to Social Security.

If Trump is reelected and a Republican Congress eliminates the payroll tax permanently, as is the plan, it is estimated that the system will be broke by the end of Trump’s second term.

No more Social Security or Medicare.

Retired teachers in Illinois and around the country who depend on a state pension rather than Social Security battle repeated efforts, often initiated by Democrats, to reduce or eliminate state pension retirement benefits.

Now those who are depending on Social Security are also facing a scary future.

It’s the same fight.


18 thoughts on “As a retired Illinois teacher I can’t collect Social Security. Why should I care if the GOP agenda is to destroy it?

  1. I’m also a retired teacher and I receive a diminished social security payment because I always had part time work. I also am eligible for Medicare which is important to me. I want to see Social Security and Medicare continue to be viable for me and for others. I feel we need to back things that are good for the overall society so that we have a strong country. As a single person I supported taxes for schools even though I did not have children. I enjoy reading your blogs and I hope you reconsider your stance on this issue.

    1. & you are misreading what Fred wrote. The title of this post is purely sarcastic. We retired teachers also want Medicare for All. For ALL!

  2. Agreed that promised pensions should be funded. Observed that funding promises have not been kept. Agreed that Social Security and public sector pensions are on a trajectory to becoming pay-as-you-go. Observed that the same thing happened in the private sector, and that the PBGC is also going broke. Observed that many are retiring earlier and living longer and that many others have minimal savings and no pensions. Finally agreed and observed that wealth disparity is great.

    Would you support means-tested pensions for all? In lieu of the current system? Wealth taxes would have to be at the federal level to deter tax-based migration. Accordingly, the means tested pensions also would have to be at the federal level. It would probably have to be implemented gradually to allow expectations to adjust (up or down). It would have to be free from political tampering so it should go into the US Constitution. Such a constitutional amendment would require widespread support. Whaddya think?

    1. I support a Universal Basic Income. But as for the Illinois public pensions, leave them alone for now except address the inequality of tier 2. They are 60% underfunded but not threatened by insolvency. They have ben 60% underfunded for decades. Reamortize the debt and pay it off over 40 years.

      1. Is there any reason to believe that future politicians would do better than their predecessors in meeting the funding promises? And how do we justify imposing greater debt on future generations? Sooner or later all Tier 1’s will die off but the future generation will have a harder time funding their own pensions together with those promised in the past as those Tier 1 liabilities escalate via COLA and increasing medical costs. As things stand (and if I’m correctly informed) the Tier 1 payouts annually exceed the Tier 1 contributions already and that’s with unrealistic actuarial assumptions.

  3. Why do you care about Social Security for the reasons you state?
    Did you care that taxes paid for your schooling, elementary and until recently helped enormously, sometimes – which seemingly only Bernie remembers in its entirety for college education. When people care about each other and work together for the common good, good things happen to all.
    My view: the problem with this country now in large part is because people care about themselves to the exclusion of any one else. Hopefully those who have their retirement benefits other than S. S. in which they paid will continue to have those benefits also. I would not bet on that either.
    Personally I am at the point that virtually anything that Trump does is anathema. Admittedly that is bias now but he has well earned that repugnance.
    The Republicans have wished to destroy S. S. since Newt Gingrich at least. And now Trump adds Medicare to the list. Bernie suggested how S.S. could be paid for for a long time. If Medicare is abolished, one will continue to pay humongous “taxes” to the head honchos of corporate “medicare” making millions from you and others. Again, we pay twice as much as other industrialized nations AND get poorer results. If one does not care about others vote for Trump and the policies which have put us where we are now.

      1. I profoundly apologize. NO, I did NOT read it in its entirety. I read the headline and Trump has so infuriated me I erred completely. It is the sad truth of what happens when we let our emotions rule our heads. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

    1. Ah. Glad you brought that up. You better hope you die first, because if your spouse dies first you get no spousal benefits.

  4. The actual order that has been signed it for people who make less $100k per year will not pay the that tax for the balance of 2020 (less than 18 weeks). The employers matching tax of the 6.2% wagers is payable as the wagers are paid. The Medicare tax of 1.4% of all wages for both the employee and employer will continue.

    Unlike the Tier 1 Illinois pensions this has SS has fully funds (collected) till 2034 –

    Believe what you will but they collect both sides from each paycheck – understand the SS benefit paid about a 1/5 of the Tier 1 and you have to wait till at least 62 to get anything.

  5. Entitlement basics: raise taxes and/or cut benefits. There’s no other way. What’s been accumulated so far won’t last forever. The bucket empties faster than it can be filled. Social Security is reduced if you start benefits before your own normal retirement age. The discussion about how long the current systems will last reveals more self-interest than anything else, given that the youngest Tier 1 is probably over 50. I’m several years older than the Real Fred and never worked in the public sector so I have a taxpayer’s and a father’s and a grandfather’s perspective.

    Even assuming you succeed in raising taxes, what is the rationale for the position that the revenues should be dedicated to pensions for public retirees or to social security benefits for private sector retirees? Sure there are legal arguments and reliance interests but when there’s not enough to go around I think there should be some shared pain as opposed to filling your own plates ahead of the others in line. What’s wrong with means testing (as suggested elsewhere in these comments)?

    If this post gets published, I hope someone will articulate replies to these essentially ethical questions in the context of our society’s already distorted allocation of wealth.

    1. The Social Security wage tax cap is currently set at $137,700. As Bernie suggests, raise the SS wage tax cap or eliminate it and problem solved, SS will be good for generations. Oh wait, there is the GOP which has been against SS since the 1930s and the current GOP is hell-bent on decimating SS. Even if the SS trust fund is depleted, SS still could pay about 80% of benefits; the trust fund is currently worth about $2.9 trillion. They are not worthless IOUs, they are special issue treasury bonds as valid as the cash in your wallet, as valid as the treasury bonds which tens of millions of Americans own. I bought treasury bonds years ago and was gifted some by relatives, are they worthless IOUs? I think not.
      SS is a positive good for all working class Americans, period.

  6. Since the 1980s, I’ve read various articles stating the demise of Social Security and Medicare, by 2020. 😮

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