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Ben Carson Announces Presidential Bid


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The race for the 2016 presidential election widened as retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson on Monday announced his bid for the White House.

Carson is the fourth candidate to formally seek the Republican nomination in the 2016 race. So far, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul have announced their candidacies.

Former Sen. Hilary Clinton is the first Democrat to announce a bid for the presidential election.
Carson frames himself as a “common-sense alternative” to the broken policies of Washington politicians.

A relative new comer to the beltway, Carson challenged President Barack Obama at a prayer breakfast in 2013 and officially changed from being an independent to a Republican shortly afterward. He told a paper that he became a Republican after hearing Ronald Reagan and getting a “sour taste” after Republicans with personal foibles impeached President Bill Clinton over an extramarital affair.
“I just saw so much hypocrisy in both parties, he told a newspaper last year. “I clearly would not be welcome in the Democratic Party, and so that only leaves one party.”

And so it is for the Republicans—their first and only black presidential candidate in 2015.

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State Revenues Slip, But Tax Panel Ready


By Keith M. Phaneuf, CT Mirror

A legislative panel not only recommended hefty tax increases to balance the next state budget, but also endorsed enough to run up more than $300 million in surpluses by 2017.

The reason for that became apparent late Thursday when a new report downgraded how much revenue growth the state can count on in its new budget.

The consensus report delivered by the legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis and by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget staff showed the current fiscal year’s revenues also aren’t meeting expectations.

And with only two months left in the fiscal year, the governor and legislature are running out of time to eliminate the red ink in the current budget. If they can’t, they probably will tap Connecticut’s emergency reserves, borrow, or carry certain expenses into the next budget — where big tax increases already are under consideration.

Nonpartisan analysts have warned for the past year that state finances — unless adjusted — will run $1.3 billion in the red in the 2015-16 fiscal year, and $1.4 billion in deficit in 2016-17.

The legislature’s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee recommended a plan this week that helps to close that gap by boosting state tax and fee receipts by $1.8 billion over the next two years combined. The plan increases income, sales, corporation and other taxes to help support a $40.5 billion spending plan from the Appropriations Committee that restores many of the social service cuts offered by the governor.

The committee plans would also yield surpluses of $315 million over the next two years combined. A significant surplus can be politically difficult to defend when raising taxes by large amounts.

Yet income tax receipts, which had been trending modestly upward until the final week of April, slipped over the past week. And based upon the data in the new consensus report, three quarters of the finance committee’s surplus in the next biennial budget eroded.

Though the finance committee was focused on finding the right mix of revenues to sustain vital programs while not overburdening middle-income households, Rep. Jeffrey Berger, D-Waterbury, co-chair of the finance committee, said an important fiscal “cushion” fell into place. “We saw how the income tax revenues were going and we had to be leery of that,” he said.

The new report Thursday confirmed legislative leaders’ fears.

Though both income tax receipts and overall general fund revenues would grow in each of the next two years, this growth will be less than originally anticipated.

Income tax receipts should climb by about $465 million next fiscal year, approaching $9.7 billion, according to the new report. But that’s about $90 million less than was expected for 2015-16 when the deficit projections were developed.

Similarly, overall general fund revenues now are expected to grow by almost $70 million next year to $17.36 billion. That’s also about $90 million below the level anticipated earlier.

Tax receipts slip this fiscal year as well

The new report also reduced projected general fund revenues for the current fiscal year — which ends June 30 — by almost $70 million from the amount forecast back in January.

The new totals, which primarily reflect reductions in income tax receipts, also are down about $30 million from earlier this month, when nonpartisan legislative analysts estimated the current budget was on pace to finish $178.9 million in deficit.

Though this represents just 1 percent of the general fund — which covers the bulk of the state’s annual operating costs — anything above 1 percent is deemed significant because so much of the budget is fixed by contract or other legal requirements that make it difficult to reduce on short notice.

The governor’s budget office estimate for this year’s deficit is slightly less than that of nonpartisan analysts, standing at $162 million.

Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo must submit his next monthly budget projection on Friday.

Malloy spent much of last summer and fall insisting, as he ran successfully for re-election, that there wouldn’t be a deficit in the current fiscal year or in the next budget.

Though revenues have eroded, the administration also insists it continues to search for new options to cut spending.

“There are still two months in the fiscal year until June 30th,” Office of Policy and Management Secretary Benjamin Barnes, Malloy’s budget director, wrote in a statement Thursday. “We will take appropriate action to achieve additional cost savings and keep our state’s budget balanced for the year.”

But Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, charged Thursday that bipartisan talks earlier in the year would have led to a stable state budget.

“Month after month, in letter after letter, we have warned Governor Malloy that hesitation will lead to devastation,” Fasano wrote in a statement.  “Despite those repeated warnings, Governor Malloy has been either unable or unwilling to confront our state’s fiscal crisis.  Republicans have offered him solutions and advice, and he has dismissed us time after time. This mess is Governor Malloy’s. It’s a reflection on his leadership. Unfortunately, state residents will be the ones who will have to clean this mess up.”

Though Republican legislative leaders insist they have ideas to close this year’s deficit, they have refused to disclose them publicly, saying they only will do so in negotiations with the governor and Democratic lawmakers.

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Feds Urge Seattle Immigrants to Speak Out About Scams


By Anthony Advincula, New America Media
SEATTLE, Wash. — The call came in on his business phone last month.It was about 4:00 p.m., Kye Lee remembers, when the caller — a man who introduced himself as a Public Utility District (PUD) agent — was demanding that he pay $621.56 for unpaid electric bills.

“If I didn’t comply with the payment right away,” Lee said, “he told me that my electricity would be cut off in a few minutes.”

Baffled, the 64-year-old Korean immigrant says he had to drop what he was working on at the grocery store he owns in Mountlake Terrace, Wash. How could that happen, he asked himself, when he knew he had paid the last bill on time?

“I have never been late paying my utility bills for seven years [since I have had my business],” Lee said through a translator. “But I believed the caller because he gave me a precise amount.”

Scammers getting more sophisticated

Consumer scams like the one that Lee fell for have become more widespread in many cities across the country.

In Washington state, some scammers – from notarios (notary services) and lending companies to debt collectors — prey on immigrants, who may be more vulnerable to their ruses as a result of limited English-language proficiency or simply because they aren’t aware of fraud schemes.

According to Charles Harwood, northwest regional director of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), more than 100 cases of customer fraud were filed nationally in court last year. Most of these fraudulent organizations seemed to have credible and legitimate business operations.

The FTC and other law enforcement agencies, Harwood says, received 2.6 million scam-related complaints, not including those in the Do Not Call registry, a list that consumers can join to alleviate unwanted telemarketing calls to their home and cell phone numbers.

With the use of online tools to get background information on consumers, investigators say, many scams have become more sophisticated — and seem more convincing.

‘We can’t just be quiet’

“We can’t continue this. But we can’t [solve this] without the help from the media that report for these communities. We really, really need your help,” Harwood told a group of ethnic media reporters at a recent news briefing in Seattle organized by New America Media.

He urged people to speak out, especially those who have been victims of scams, saying that it is important to let the consumer advocates and law enforcers know how they can help when the problem occurs.

“We can’t just be quiet when we’re victims of scams because we won’t be able to know about it,” he said.

As for Lee’s case, the fake PUD agent insisted that, in order to continue having electricity at his store, he had to pay at least $450. Although Lee said that the checks that he had sent to the PUD went through, somehow he found himself believing the scammer and did what he told him to do.

“I asked the caller, ‘Why this is such a short notice?’ And he told me that a previous notice was sent in the mail two days ago, but I failed to respond,” Lee said. “He even told me that I was lucky to have been given a day-long extension.”

Lee was then instructed to go to a nearby Albertsons Supermarket and purchase a prepaid card called Reloadit to pay his bills. After the purchase, he called the bogus PUD agent and gave the prepaid number on the back of the card.

He asked for a confirmation receipt but never received it. He never heard back from the caller. Lee informed the PUD and was told that he had been scammed.

“I felt helpless,” he said.

How to avoid being scammed

Many people like Lee are convinced by phone scammers, in part because “the call feels very personal” so it is difficult not to believe them, according to Jennifer Leach, acting assistant director for the FTC’s division of consumer and business education in Washington, D.C.

“Even if the call is random, as a lot of them are, the victims say it feels like ‘they know me,’ because they have some information about them,” she said. “It feels like they have some sort of relationship with them that they easily give up their information.”

The victims, Leach said, may be in denial when it happens to them. But she says that by speaking out to authorities, it helps shine light on the fraud.

“Scammers are professionals,” she noted. “It’s their job to get your information, to get your money — and they are very, very good at it.”

Studies have shown that there are two main ways to avoid being a victim of a scam, she said: 1.) Tell someone about the offer; and 2.) Take your time before you make a decision.

“There’s something about it when you say it aloud, and it doesn’t matter whom you talk to about it,” she added. “The scammers want to take your money as fast as they can. So if you make it longer for them, they may also move on.”

Targeting immigrants

Many undocumented immigrants may be hesitant to report scams to authorities for fear that it could alert the government about their immigration status.

“We don’t care about immigration status,” assured Leach. “We don’t track it; we don’t report it. We just don’t care about it.”

Awareness is key to avoiding scams, said Shannon Smith, consumer protection division chief of the Washington Attorney General’s Office.

“If you know someone who was a victim of scam, family or friends, it is important to tell us,” she said. “That person was not the first, and I am afraid, won’t be the last.”

In Yakima Valley, about two hours away from Seattle, notarios reportedly have been targeting undocumented farmworkers.

“I have seen thousands of farmworkers who have been impacted by notarios,” said Laura Contreras, an immigration attorney for Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.

For example, after President Obama announced his 2012 executive order on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Contreras recalls, some of the notarios in the valley started charging $100 just to get the form, even though anyone can easily download it from the Internet for free.

“Notarios are long-timers – and they even advertise,” she said.

According to Alan Lai, crime victim service director of Chinese Information and Service Center, some of the worst cases happen when immigrants scam fellow immigrants.

One Vietnamese man posing as a USCIS officer, he said, falsely promised other Vietnamese immigrants that, if they paid him, he would expedite their application to become a U.S. citizen. Dozens of Vietnamese immigrants lost about $100,000 to this scam, Lai said.

Pay back

Do victims get restitution for the money they have lost?

While the FTC does not handle individual cases, Harwood said that the agency has been able to get some of the money back, as part of a lawsuit against the scammers, for the victimized consumers.

Last year alone, Harwood said that through the FTC’s law enforcement efforts, there were about 740,000 consumers who received more than $65 million in restitution.

Some of the victims, however, may not be able to get the full amount that they have lost to scammers, and “it may take two to three years” for a lawsuit to be resolved.

“Even if, say, they only get half of their money back, I believe that justice has been served for them,” Harwood said.

Still, for Kye Lee, his experience with a scammer has made him more determined to help increase awareness in immigrant communities.

“As a victim, I feel humiliated and frustrated. It’s really difficult to get fooled,” Lee said. “But I know better now, and I will do what I can so people would not experience what I did.”

To report consumer scams and fraudulent activities in Washington State, call the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP; or Washington’s Office of the Attorney General at 1-800-551-4636 or 206-464-6684.

This story is part of a series of ethnic media roundtable discussions on consumer scams across the United States, conducted by New America Media, in partnership with Federal Trade Commission and other law enforcement agencies.

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White House Honors East Hartford Teacher


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The White House recently honored one of Connecticut’s best teachers in Washington, D.C.

President Barack Obama honored Cara Quinn, one of 55 teachers from across the nation who gathered in the Rose Garden on a sunny afternoon. a East Hartford resident.

Quinn, who is on medical leave, teaches sixth grade at Sunset Ridge School.

During her career, Quinn has developed programs to prepare students for college, including a college immersion experience. She said she focuses not only on academics, but on character development.

“I think its important to nurture students to be globally aware,” she said.

Last October, Quinn was also named Connecticut’s 2015 Teacher of the Year.

“In her classroom, Mrs. Quinn not only teaches the material, she also teaches her students about their community and about their world,” Former Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said in a press release. “She encourages her students to give back through service and inspires them to make a difference.”

A teacher of 11 years, Quinn was chosen from over 100 district-level Teachers of the Year.

Quinn succeeded the 2014 Connecticut Teacher of the Year,  John Mastroianni. He is a music teacher at William H. Hall High School in West Hartford

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Obama to Meet With Immigrant Youth


WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is set to meet with undocumented youth leaders, who were given a repreive from deportation.

Connecticut resident, Maria Praeli, is one of six United We Dream leaders who have been invited to the White House Wednesday to meet Obama and discuss their families and ongoing political debate about immigrants.

Praeli is a Milford resident and a Quinnipiac student born in Ica, Peru and came to the United States when she was five.

She graduated from New Milford High School in 2012. She then graduated in 2014 from Gateway Community College in New Haven with an Associate’s Degree.  She was the school’s first undocumented Student Body President at Gateway.

Praeli is now a junior political science at Quinnipiac University.

The meeting comes after the House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would have immigrant youth like Praeli deported.

 Ann-Marie Adams

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Commish Questions Walmart’s Check Cashing Business


HARTFORD — Connecticut Commissioner of Revenue Services Kevin Sullivan said on Friday that income tax check cashing being offered at some Walmart stores for the first time this year is “just a way to lure taxpayers into spending at Walmart the minute they get their hard-earned refunds.”

As a result, Sullivan’s office contacted Wal-Mart to determine whether this is happening in Connecticut and, if so, under what terms and conditions.

According to its corporate website, Walmart has made a deal with Green Dot Corporation’s Tax Products Group and with Republic Bank & Trust Company so that the big-box retailer can cash in on taxpayer refunds of up to $7,500.  Jackson Hewitt already contracts with Walmart to sell tax preparation centers at store sites, including the tie-in of a $50 Walmart gift card.

The “Direct2Cash” marketing scheme targets low and middle income taxpayers – especially those receiving federal and state Earned Income Tax credits.  For an additional $7 fee at the time of tax preparation and filing, refunds are directed to Wal-Mart’s “banking” partners instead of being mailed directly to taxpayers.

Taxpayers must pick-up their refunds in cash at a store-based Walmart Money Center or customer service desk.  Then, Sullivan said, “It’s welcome to Wal-Mart and good-bye refund.  While pretending to help otherwise bankless taxpayers, Walmart is really just helping itself to turn tax refunds into immediate store sales.”

Additionally, Walmart requires taxpayers to have a “confirmation code” to pick up their refund. Some codes expire in as little as two weeks, which requires taxpayers to return to their preparer and arrange a different refund method.

Sullivan said this is just one more reason why the Department of Revenue Services will also be examining standards and practices for tax preparers.

 

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New Haven Man Busted for Violating State Ethics


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD —  A Mental Health and Addiction Services employee was busted for violating the state’s code of ethics when he used state money and time to do his own business, according to state officials.

State officials said Jason Spann of New Haven violated the Code of Ethics used the state’s resources to operate his own clinical services business.

He was fined $$3,500 by the Enforcement Division of the Office of State Ethics. He was fired for another  related personnel action, officials said.

From 2010 through 2014, while a state employee, Spann owned and operated a clinical services business.  During this time period, Spann utilized state resources, including his state-issued computer and state-provided e-mail account, in order to conduct his private business, according to officials.

Additionally, the investigation revealed that Spann also used another state employee to perform tasks related to his private practice, while using state resources on state time and being paid by the state.

Under the  Code of Ethics, a public official or state employee is prohibited from using state resources to obtain personal financial or other gains.

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Former US Sailor Rocks Boat with Federal Lawsuit


By Aatif Ali Bokhari, Muslim Observer
Being a US sailor allowed Jonathan Berts a chance to travel around the world and study Arabic and Islam, but he says his commitment to faith resulted in mistreatment and an unfair dismissal.

The nine-year veteran filed a federal lawsuit last month in Sacramento for being illegally denied his right to reenlist in 2012 due to his keeping a beard for religious reasons.

The trouble started not long after Berts began keeping the beard. “I didn’t think anything of it. It was just me growing in my knowledge and having a better awareness of Islam. I thought it was necessary to grow a beard so I began doing so,” he said.

Berts had kept a beard earlier in his career for medical reasons; his commitment to the navy was not questioned then. It was only after receiving encouragement from Muslim chaplains to embrace “his faith outwardly as a Muslim” that the 2nd petty class officer said the mistreatment started.

The military allows for beards to be kept at the discretion of commanding officers. His request and appeal for permission were denied, reported the Los Angeles Times.

“Before I grew a beard nobody asked any questions. They would ask why I began wearing a beard, and I said that I wanted to live openly as a Muslim. I started praying and fasting regularly as well.”

Berts had a middling rank and was trusted with being a teacher of military history and a boot camp
instructor in the Chicago area. He was also a fourth generation member of the military, a source of pride for him. He was shocked by what he said happened next.

“The line of questioning from my seniors was inappropriate. They started asking me my ideas about the constitution and about Osama bin laden. They started asking me if I knew who Nidal Malik Hasan was, the guy who killed 13 people at Fort Hood. They stared making jokes at my expense – winking and smiling, smirking. They called me a towel head and the n-word. They tried to associate me with bad people.”

“I was put in charge of supervising an abandoned building. There were mice running around and no running water at times. Lots of times I saw cockroaches. The last six months of my time were pretty crappy,” said Berts. A video shared by Berts with News 10 ABC appeared to confirm the dismal condition of the building he was tasked with guarding.

“It’s definitely new ground,” said Brice Hamack, a civil rights coordinator with CAIR’s northern California office. “Our co-counsel, Alan Reinach, the executive director of Church State Counsel, thinks it’s a strong case and is definitely achievable. Jon approached Alan first and Alan thought to involve CAIR.”

“I think people are really afraid to come forward, so I can only guess that such a situation is more widespread. We’ve only had a few soldiers come forward, often due to fears that their situation could quickly spin out of control,” he added, noting that due to the preliminary state of the lawsuit Berts’ alleged opponents could not be named at this time.

Berts explained that he had originally tried to work within the military system that allowed soldiers to put in complaints to their commanding officer. Berts said that he submitted paperwork. Unfortunately for him he said the paperwork had to go through the person calling him names. He also tried to make his complaint through an “equal opportunity advisor”. This civilian role is supposed “to encourage diversity,” explained Berts. “The person is a civilian outside the chain of command. However, I complained to him about five times regarding my treatment, but each time the paperwork mysteriously disappeared.”

Berts said that in my final evaluation he received a poor report. “People said that I was making a lot of noise and trouble. The final evaluation was more or less the final nail in my active duty career. I was denied reenlistment.” Since then the high-school graduate has been trying to find work and is studying property management.

“Whenever someone comes to us with a claim we want to see some evidence,” said Hamack. “The biggest thing Jonathan showed us was cell phone video of the building he was forced to be in.

Based on the evidence he gave us we felt it was substantial that he had a case. I think if the military thought he was a horrible person then why would he be put in a position of training recruits?”

The former naval officer has no intention of shaving off his beard or otherwise capitulating to bigotry.

“I’ve had two friends that gave their lives in Iraq, and they were Muslims. There are many Muslims who have died. You pray with them, you eat with them. At Friday prayers in Kuwait we’d have 20 to 30 guys. Especially in the last 10 years the military has made an effort to hire Muslims as cultural ambassadors, whether in Afghanistan or Iraq.

“Islam doesn’t equal being a terrorist. Islam is about ordinary people trying to live their lives according to what is correct.

“There are six million Muslims living in America and they are just trying to go about their lives.
“The story of Islam in America goes back hundreds of years. We’re not going anywhere.”

 

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CT Drivers Get Extension on Renewing Licenses


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — In wake of the severe snow storm set to blanket the state, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Monday announced an order that will allow drivers an extension of renewing thier driver’s licenses.

The governor’s action covers expiration dates and periods of validity for motor vehicle registrations, licenses, permits, certificates and other forms of credentials issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles and runs through Jan. 30.  This also covers emissions test late fees, officials said.

Malloy said that it is understandable that residents may not be able to meet certain DMV-related deadlines and expiration dates if they are impacted by the storm.”

The extension period runs from Jan. 24, when a snow storm shuttered DMV offices, to midnight on Jan. 30.

On Jan. 31, all required late fees and penalties will resume.

The Department of Motor Vehicles also announced today that all knowledge and road skills tests for license applicants are canceled for Tuesday and Wednesday (Jan. 27 and 28) due to storm conditions.

To reschedule a test, residents are asked to visit http://ct.gov/dmv/qsc and enter their personal identification number and then follow the instructions.

 

  • Knowledge Test – Customers should wait for an e-mail from DMV regarding then cancelation, then visit http://ct.gov/dmv/qsc, enter their personal identification number and then follow the instructions.
  • Road Test – Customers should call 860-263-5700 within the Hartford area and those outside the Hartford area can call toll-free at 800-842-8222. DMV will also be contacting customers with appointments.

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Study: Women, Minorities Pay Higher Effective Social Security Rate


By  Paul Kleyman,

Improving retirement security was among the many proposals in President Barack Obama’s State of the Union message on Tuesday. But advocates for older Americans say Obama should ask Congress to strengthen the nation’s principal middle-class retirement support – Social Security –especially for women, minorities and low-income workers.

“He could lift or ideally call for the elimination of the Social Security cap on how much income can be taxed,” said Eric Kingson, co-author of the new book, Social Security Works: Why Social Security Isn’t Going Broke and How Expanding It Will Help Us All.

Kingson, a Syracuse University sociologist and leading analyst of Social Security policy, explained that the amount of anyone’s wages subject to the payroll tax this year is limited to the first $118,500. Anything made over and above that amount is not taxed.

Because more of the nation’s earnings have shifted to the richest Americans and wages have stagnated for workers at the bottom, fewer earnings have been taxed to support Social Security.

“That is the major reason we have a projected shortfall in the Social Security trust fund and dramatic increases in inequality over the past 30 years,” Kingson stated.

Millionaires Stop Paying By Valentine’s Day

A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) shows how today’s limit on earnings subject to the Social Security tax actually widens the U.S. wealth gap. While wealth above $118,500 goes untaxed, Social Security goes deeper in debt, leaving those on the lower rungs of the wage scale – women and minorities disproportionately – to take bear the burden of any future cuts in the program.

The CEPR report shows that increasing the amount of taxable earnings above $118,500 – or even “scrapping the cap” entirely, as Kingson and others urge – would not only close or eliminate Social Security’s long-term funding shortage, but would end an effective tax discount that more affluent Americans now receive.

For instance, the CEPR report explains, people who make twice today’s $118,500 limit –or $237,000 per year – “pay the Social Security tax on only half of their earnings, so they no longer pay it after July 1st.” And those who rake in over $1.2 million dollars annually finish their Social Security tax obligation by Feb. 6 – more than a week before Valentine’s Day. In effect, they pay a far smaller Social Security tax rate than those who pay through New Year’s Eve.

“In other words, workers who earn $118,500 or less per year pay a higher Social Security payroll tax rate than those who make more,” say the authors of CEPR’s report, Nicole Woo, Cherrie Bucknor and John Schmitt. They produced the study based on U.S. Census Bureau’s latest (2013) data from the American Community Survey.

CEPR’s economists note that the Social Security Administration’s Chief Actuary analyzed Democratic legislation proposed last year to phase out the income ceiling over five to 10 years. He found that the plan would reduce Social Security’s long-term shortfall by 70-80 percent.

Others in Congress have proposed lifting the cap – not ending it. For instance, recent legislation to increase the amount subject to the Social Security payroll tax to $250,000 is similar to a proposal by former U.S. Senator Barack Obama, during his 2008 presidential campaign. This plan would eliminate about 80 percent of the long-range shortfall, say CEPR’s economists.

Few Latinos, Blacks Earn Enough to Pay More

According to their analysis, just over 9 million U.S. workers (6.1 percent) earn more than the $118,500 taxable limit. (That’s not counting unearned income, such as from stocks.)

Among them are a higher percentage of whites (7.4 percent, or 7.2 million people), and 10 percent of Asian workers (1 million). That compares with only 2.4 percent of Latino taxpayers (381,000), and 2.3 percent of African Americans (383,000).

The racial divide widens, says the study, farther up the wealth ladder. If the Social Security payroll tax tapped up to $400,000, merely 0.2 percent of black and Latino taxpayers would have to pay more, compared with 2 percent of white and Asian earners.

Men pocket the lion’s share of savings in the current system, according to the study. In 2012, 6.9 million U.S. male workers (8.8 percent) made $118,500 or better, versus 2.1 million (3.1 percent) of women.

CEPR’s economists explain that the Social Security trust fund is now large and growing, but it will peak soon at about $2.9 trillion, before being drawn down by the retirement of the huge baby boom generation. Without change, says the report, after 2033 there would only be enough in the program to pay retirees about 75 percent of promised benefits.

The report stresses that fully funding Social Security’s future obligations would cost only an additional 1 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) spread over the next 75 years. At its peak – in 2035, when the youngest boomers surpass age 70 – the program’s spending will amount to just over 6 percent of GDP.

Kingson, also cofounder of the advocacy group Social Security Works, noted that while President Obama proposed to help Americans save more to supplement Social Security for a more secure retirement, he also should address the need for greater equity in the program itself.

“He could talk about Social Security as an instrument of justice and decency that is fully affordable as our economy continues to grow,” Kingson said.

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