Social Security benefits are a crucial part of millions of seniors' retirement income.
According to the Social Security Administration, Social Security benefits represent about 39% of the income of the elderly.
Among elderly Social Security beneficiaries, 53% of married couples and 74% of unmarried persons receive 50% or more of their income from Social Security.
Among elderly Social Security beneficiaries, 23% of married couples and about 46% of unmarried persons rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income.
As most people now know, the long term outlook for the Social Security Trust Fund (and for those depending on it for retirement income) is grim.
Yet for the most part, those looking at the Social Security system believed that despite the problems, there was still time to engineer a solution to ensure seniors would continue to be protected in their retirement.
Mitt Romney's speech at the Republican National Convention received a few good reviews, but there was a big drop off in viewers from the 2008 Convention and polls indicated that, of those who saw it, it was ineffective in attracting support.
First, the good news:
Dick Morris, the former top political advisor to President Bill Clinton turned conservative columnist and commentator, said Romney's (pictured) speech was Reaganesque. He said the GOP presidential nominee was "open, approachable, empathetic, and idealistic."
Michael Barone, co-author of the Almanac of American Politics, said "Romney showed the right stuff." He was "inspiring but not slick."
These words are strong praise coming from two of the most respected political observers in the nation.
The Mashable website said the social media numbers for the Convention were impressive: more than 4 million tweets, 2.5 million-plus YouTube views, and 300,000 hours of streaming video.
"These numbers certainly set a high bar for the Democratic National Convention," said Alex Fitzpatrick
Now, the bad news:
The Hill reports that "Television viewership on the final night of the Republican National Convention dropped 22% compared to the same night in 2008."
The Nielsen ratings showed that, in 2008, more than 38.9 million people watched Senator John McCain's acceptance speech, compared with only 30.3 million who watched Romney's speech.
Estate Tax Costs More than it Collects
For many years, efforts to eliminate the federal estate tax or more accurately -- the "death" tax -- have teased seniors with the promise of eliminating the levy on death and the myriad of tax problems that go along with complex estate planning.
As part of the Bush tax cuts, the federal estate tax was phased down to zero by 2010. For the past two years, President Obama and Congress have compromised and extended the federal estate tax to an inflation-adjusted exemption of $5 million, with a 35% top marginal tax rate for the past two years. Unless Congress acts, the estate tax will return to the pre-Bush era tax rates of 55%, with a $1 million exemption on January 1, 2013.
Supporters of the federal death tax have two main arguments for the tax:
First, they claim it raises much needed revenue for government programs. For 2012, the federal estate tax will raise about 0.42% of total federal revenue.
Not only is this a drop in the bucket when it comes to federal revenue and spending, but thanks to charitable deductions and other estate planning tax maneuvers, total tax revenue may be less than would have otherwise been collected had the estate tax not been in place.
This means many families plan for estate tax avoidance by putting assets into less useful investments and deprive the economy of the growth such ventures would create along with additional tax revenue the government could collect.
Labor Day marks the traditional beginning of the fall campaign season and the hottest race below the Presidency in 2012 will be for control of the United States Senate.
Currently, the Senate is made up of 51 Democrats, 47 Republicans and 2 Independents who caucus with the Democrats.
33 Senate seats are up for election in 2012. 21 of these seats are currently held by Democrats, 10 are held by Republicans and both Independents are also up this year.
For Republicans to take control of the U.S. Senate, they must win at least 3 seats in the event of a Romney win and four in the event of an Obama victory.
Real Clear Politics has rated the competitiveness of all the Senate races. Right now, they project 46 seats for Democrats, 46 seats for Republicans with 8 seats rated as toss-up.
Here is a selected sampling of the latest polling from some of the battleground Senate races that will determine Senate control for the 113th Congress:
In Connecticut, the race for retiring Senator Joseph Lieberman's seat is between current 5th District Congressman Chris Murphy (D) and former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon (R).
McMahon (pictured) was the GOP nominee in 2010, losing to Richard Bluthemthal by 11 points.
The most recent poll by Quinnipac and the latest Rasmussen survey of likely voters both show McMahon with a 49%-46% lead.
Real Clear Politics rates Connecticut's Senate race as: toss-up.
What They Said About Obamacare
Excerpts from speeches at the Republican National Convention about Obamacare:
Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan:
The president has declared that the debate over government-controlled health care is over. That will come as news to the millions of Americans who will elect Mitt Romney so we can repeal Obamacare.
And the biggest, coldest power play of all in Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly.
You see, even with all the hidden taxes to pay for the health care takeover, even with new taxes on nearly a million small businesses, the planners in Washington still didn't have enough money. They needed more. They needed hundreds of billions more. So, they just took it all away from Medicare. Seven hundred and sixteen billion dollars, funneled out of Medicare by President Obama. An obligation we have to our parents and grandparents is being sacrificed, all to pay for a new entitlement we didn't even ask for. The greatest threat to Medicare is Obamacare, and we're going to stop it.
In Congress, when they take out the heavy books and wall charts about Medicare, my thoughts go back to a house on Garfield Street in Janesville. My wonderful grandma, Janet, had Alzheimer's and moved in with Mom and me. Though she felt lost at times, we did all the little things that made her feel loved.
We had help from Medicare, and it was there, just like it's there for my Mom today. Medicare is a promise, and we will honor it. A Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare, for my Mom's generation, for my generation, and for my kids and yours.
So our opponents can consider themselves on notice. In this election, on this issue, the usual posturing on the Left isn't going to work. Mitt Romney and I know the difference between protecting a program, and raiding it. Ladies and gentlemen, our nation needs this debate. We want this debate. We will win this debate.
Mitt Romney may have damaged his election prospects by needlessly antagonizing Ron Paul and conservative delegates on matters of credentials, rules, and the roll call of states at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
In a heavy-handed effort--Richard Viguerie calls it "ham-handed"--the Romney forces won some low-level battles, while losing sight of the bigger picture.
The Romney-controlled Credentials Committee stripped away 10 of Paul's delegates in Maine and replaced them with Romney delegates. The Los Angeles Times reported this outrageous action upset, not only Paul supporters, but also Maine Governor Paul LePage, a Romney supporter.
The Romney-controlled Rules Committee adopted new rules affecting future national conventions and the entire structure of the GOP.
Morton Blackwell (pictured), the longtime Republican National Committeeman from Virginia and a Romney delegate, was livid. In a letter to fellow delegates, he wrote that these rule changes "could fundamentally change our Republican Party--and not for the better."
Blackwell, who has attended every convention Rules Committee meeting since 1972, said, "These rule changes are the most awful I've ever seen come before any National Convention."
When they came up for a voice vote on the Convention floor, many neutral observers thought that, while it was close, the "no" was slightly louder. But the presiding officer, Speaker John Boehner, ruled the "aye" vote had prevailed.
"The question is, will the loud BOOs that erupted at the conclusion of the charade last until Election Day?," ConservativeHQ.com wondered.
Administration's New CAFE Standards adds $2,000 to Car Price
The Obama Administration imposed new regulations on the automobile industry this week with their new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.
Starting with cars and light trucks for model years 2017-2025, the rules require an average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon (mpg) in 2025.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimate that automakers will have to add at least $2,000 per vehicle in order to meet the new standards.
Industry analysts believe the government's figure may be low. For example, in order to maintain the hauling and payload specs for full sized pickup trucks, automakers will have to use diesel engines. This will increase the cost of full size pickups by at least $8,000. Compacts may see just a $1,800 rise, while mid-size cars could ratchet up in price $4,500 to $6,000 to comply with Obama's new standards.
Administration officials claim the new standards will reduce fuel costs by $1.7 trillion over the next 13 years, saving drivers $8,000 per vehicle by 2025.
Public Split on Saving Social Security
A new poll from the Associated Press found Americans are divided on how to cope with the massive long-term funding gap in the Social Security program.
Given a choice of raising taxes or cutting benefits, 53% chose raising taxes while 36% said they would cut benefits.
53% also supported raising the retirement age as a solution to the funding gap while 35% chose to lower benefits.
Current estimates place 2033 as the year the Social Security Trust Fund reaches insolvency and will collect only enough to pay 75% of current benefits.
The poll also asked respondents which of the two major presidential candidates they trusted to deal with the Social Security funding crisis.
President Obama outpolled Republican nominee Mitt Romney by a narrow 47%-44% margin, which was within the survey's margin of error. Most previous polling showed President Obama with a much larger lead.
Democrats, Republicans and Independents all supported raising the retirement age over cutting benefits. However, on the question of tax hikes, 65% of Democrats and 53% of Independents supported higher taxes while just 38% of Republicans did.
Republican Platform Backs Gold, Border Fence
Details about the official Republican party platform have been trickling out in advance of the Republican convention's eventual beginning this week.
In what is widely assumed to be a nod toward the Ron Paul (pictured) wing of the party, the GOP platform will contain a call for a commission to study the feasibility of tying the dollar to gold.
Such a gold commission was part of the 1980 Reagan platform, but gold as a party issue has been missing from the Republican document since 1984.
The Republican-led House passed a bill to set up such a commission recently, as concern has mounted among even stalwart party regulars over the 64% increase in the money supply authored over the past few years by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
The gold commission language was not the only plank in the platform to feel the influence of Rep. Paul's campaign.
The official party document will contain a reiteration of the constitutional stipulation that only Congress can declare war.
Ryan's Medicare Plan: Invented by Democrat Economists
Premium support rather than the current defined benefit model is the hallmark of GOP VP nominee Paul Ryan's plan to reform Medicare.
However, contrary to popular rhetoric, Paul Ryan was not the originator of the premium support model for Medicare.
Matt Miller, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a left-wing think tank, identifies the intellectual father of the Ryan Medicare reform plan:
"Democrats should want the flexibility after 2012 to include ideas like premium support in their own agenda. It was invented by Democratic economists, after all."
A new paper from the Heritage Foundation runs down the history of premium support and addresses some of the criticisms of premium support as it relates to Medicare.
Currently, Medicare consists of four parts: Part A is hospitalization; Part B is physician and outpatient services; Part C is Medicare Advantage and Part D is the prescription drug program.
Parts A and B operate as a traditional defined benefit program, that is Medicare taxes were collected throughout a worker's working life and Parts A and B are the promised medical benefits.
Parts C and D, however, were enacted much later and are both premium support programs.