mrs.st4rbux just mentioned this to me this evening [via msnbc]:
McCain’s 2007 tax return shows Social Security benefits of $23,157 for the year, an average of $1,929.75 a month. He said he started receiving the payments “whenever I was eligible.”
McCain, who will turn 72 next month, was eligible to receive full-retirement benefits when he turned 65. In 2008, the maximum benefit for a person retiring at full retirement age was $2,185.
McCain reported a total income of $405,409 in 2007. As a senator, he is paid $169,300 a year. Last year, he donated $105,467 to charity, his return shows. […] McCain’s wife, Cindy, reported a total income of more than $6 million in 2006, according to the campaign.
I honestly don’t know what to think about this. on the surface, it makes me mad. it makes me mad that he is NOT retired and he’s drawing what is widely regarded as ‘retirement’ benefits. but I guess the truth is that anyone can claim their social security benefits at age 62 and continue to work in whatever capacity they see fit. it’s probably just incredibly rare for anyone in their mid-60’s — or 72 in his case — to have a $169,000 salary. most people in that pay scale with decent retirement planning would have sufficient funds to quit working. it makes me want to say that anyone with $400,000 in income shouldn’t be able to draw SS benefits… but
B.J. Jarrett, a spokesman with the Social Security Administration: “An individual does have the right to refuse his/her Social Security retirement benefit. However, Social Security is an entitlement program and an individual would essentially be forfeiting a benefit based upon contributions during his/her working lifetime.”
right — it wasn’t designed as a welfare program, and it shouldn’t be means-tested because it’s supposed to be the returns on their contributions over their work-life. so I’m wrong to be mad — why wouldn’t he take the payout on his contributions over the prior 40+ years? it would be irrational to refuse. and, in effect, means-testing social security would be like means-testing my 401(k), saying I couldn’t withdraw it after 59.5 years of age if my other income was over a certain threshold. there’s no way that makes sense.
but I’m still angry. I think it’s because he could refuse his benefits, and if nothing else it would be symbolic gesture to show that he really believes the system is broken and is ready to sacrifice personally to help extend it. a gesture that could go a long way when he asks others, as inevitably will, to sacrifice their benefits in order to maintain solvency. maybe more than a gesture; it’s a chance to demonstrate leadership on the issue.
McCain reported over $100K in charitable contributions; forgoing an additional $20K wouldn’t be the end of him — not with Cindy’s $6M in yearly income (2006). I’m not saying he should forgo it simply because he has the means (I’d never argue that), I’m just saying that $20K is a small price to pay to buy the moral high-road on this issue. it’s chumpity-chump change compared to the television spots he’s going to have to buy to spin his current decision.