Huffington Post Reporters Arthur Delaney and Ryan Grim Win December Sidney for “The Poorhouse: Aunt Winnie, Glenn Beck, and the Politics of the New Deal”
January 18, 2011
NEW YORK: The Sidney Hillman Foundation announced today that Huffington Post reporters Arthur Delaney and Ryan Grim have won the December Sidney award for “The Poorhouse: Aunt Winnie, Glenn Beck, and the Politics of the New Deal,” their over six-thousand word investigation into the legacy of Social Security in the United States. Through historical anecdotes, analysis, statistics, and political coverage, Delaney and Grim look at how the New Deal saved millions from the “poorhouse,” and the ways in which its programs are coming under attack today, even by some Democrats and President Obama.
Their findings include:
· Social Security is so effective that the virtual eradication of elderly poverty can safely be attributed to it, even by the most cautious academics.
· The keystone of the Social Security Act, its eponymous retirement insurance, has already been fractured by a deal between Obama and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who this month agreed to a Social Security payroll tax holiday as a method of stimulating the economy. Republicans openly admit that when the holiday's expiration arrives next year, it will be treated as a tax hike, meaning Social Security's dedicated revenue stream, which has never been tampered with before, may now be compromised, at the same time that leading Democrats propose cutting benefits and raising the retirement age.
· Social Security keeps some 20 million people out of poverty, including 13 million elderly Americans. Each 10 percent cut in benefits would lead to a 7.2 percent increase in poverty.
· Social Security works. It is evidence that people can do a better job insuring against life's cruel downturns by working together and pooling resources than by going it alone in the market. If the financial market and its representatives in Washington succeed in undermining Social Security, they will not only have access to trillions of dollars, but will have dealt a blow to a leading symbol of the potential of collective action.
· The program’s opponents say Social Security reform is necessary because its future solvency is in question; as a result of the Baby Boom and advances in medicine, more people are living longer. But the actuaries who set up Social Security in the 1930s forecast with an eerie exactitude how much life expectancies would increase – a detail that is always ignored. And the system was reformed by the Greenspan Commission in 1983, when the first Boomers were nearly forty years old. Social Security's actuaries reported this fall that after 2037, payroll taxes would be sufficient to pay nearly four-fifths of benefits through 2084.
· Currently, the payroll tax stops at a little over $106,000. A shortfall could be made up entirely by applying the payroll tax to more income above that threshold.
"Delaney and Grim’s piece uses history intelligently; it gives a magnificent defense of Social Security; and it explains the danger of the payroll tax holiday to Social Security's future. Right now everyone needs to know these facts,“ said Alexandra Lescaze, executive director of the Sidney Hillman Foundation.
Arthur Delaney has been a reporter for The Huffington Post since March 2009, covering the jobs crisis as the site's Economic Impact Correspondent. Previously he worked as a freelancer for the Washington City Paper, ABCNews, Slate Magazine, and The Hill Newspaper.
Ryan Grim is the DC bureau chief for The Huffington Post. Formerly a reporter with Washington City Paper and Politico, he won the 2007 Association of Alternative Newsweeklies award for best long form news-story. He is the author of "This Is Your Country on Drugs".
For an interview with Delaney and Grim about their story, click here.
The Sidney Award is given once a month to an outstanding piece of socially-conscious journalism by the Sidney Hillman Foundation, which also awards the annual Hillman Prizes every spring. For more information please click here.
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Certificate designed by Edward Sorel
The Sidney is awarded monthly to a piece published in an American magazine, newspaper, on a news site, or a blog. Television and radio broadcasts by an American news outlet are also eligible, as are published photography series.
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