Now’s the time to address financial security
Right now, many people in New Hampshire and across America are struggling to survive. The costs of food and health care are skyrocketing, families are losing their homes and millions of Americans can’t find work. Americans with retirement accounts are watching the value of their accounts shrink, while others in our state and nation continue to live without any pension or financial plan in place for future retirement. There is little debate that failing financial institutions and the decline in the U.S. stock market have taken a toll on Americans’ financial security and have left many wondering how they’ll ever manage to access quality, affordable health care. Representing more than 53 million Americans, AARP, Business Roundtable, the National Federation of Independent Business and Service Employees International Union joined together to form Divided We Fail, or DWF, to highlight the key issues of health care and financial security. A lot has been done. In New Hampshire in 2008 alone, a dozen community issue and opinion leader forums were held, new volunteers engaged, more than 70 media stories focused on DWF efforts, 2,000 DWF pledges were collected at college campuses across the state and nearly 1.3 million pledges were collected nationwide. President-elect Obama and more than two-thirds of the 111th Congress have endorsed DWF, committing to work across the aisle to provide Americans with access to quality, affordable health care and lifetime financial security. In New Hampshire, DWF received the endorsement of the state’s federal delegation, governor, Executive Council, all 13 mayors, all 24 members of the 2008 Senate, members of the 2008 House, and countless individuals and organizations. With the election decided, Divided We Fail’s work now focuses on ensuring that those endorsements are kept by the new administration and Congress in addressing our nation’s two top domestic issues. We cannot allow campaign promises to work in a bipartisan fashion to fall apart because the election is over. Unless our leaders address the financial security crisis, more and more Americans who retire will end up having to depend on their children and grandchildren for support, or they will wind up overwhelming our already overburdened low-income retirement assistance programs. We need to educate people on what is necessary for a secure retirement. For example, Social Security only provides about 41 percent of the average worker’s earnings. Most experts recommend a minimum income level of 70 percent of the amount earned while employed. What we need are plans to: • Protect worker savings in times of economic crisis; • Help provide all Americans with a simple way to save for retirement at work; • Provide better incentives to encourage more Americans to save • Strengthen Social Security for current and future generations We also need to know how our elected officials plan to address the health-care crisis. America’s health-care system is broken. Health-care costs continue to rise at an alarming rate, retail prescription drug costs are rising three times faster than inflation, 47 million Americans are uninsured and 29 percent of Americans say they have skipped medical treatment, tests or prescriptions because of skyrocketing costs. We believe 2009 will be an important year in DWF’s efforts to achieve health and financial security for all. We will come to the table looking for ways to compromise. DWF’s diverse coalition of members will be the umbrella under which our leaders can come together and hammer out solutions to our nation’s crises. For the next year, DWF will be increasing its grassroots activity by hosting events, being more visible in all forms of media and engaging more volunteers. In other words, being more active than ever. This is our moment in time - to restore America’s commitment to quality of life for all generations. I hope you’ll join me in the work of Divided We Fail, because together we can do anything.
Ally McNair is volunteer state president at AARP New Hampshire.