McCain drawing retirement benefits — not sure where to begin

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.



Filed under dumbfounded, I believe the children are our future, politics, stupid government

10 responses to “McCain drawing retirement benefits — not sure where to begin

  1. Bryan H

    To your last point, it is an easy way to say “look what i did, I’m a leader”. But don’t expect that from McCain’s crew; recently they can’t seem to get out of there own way when it comes to crafting a cohesive message.

  2. x234

    Pretty disturbing to me. Super-rich people drawing social security… sounds like an oxymoron. (Or at least I wish it was).

  3. “a chance to demonstrate leadership on the issue” makes me chuckle. We hear this phrase a LOT out here in the Silver State… it usually means someone in Carson City wants to take more of my money.
    I really do not think he could win on this. Taking the benefit (which is his money, essentially, right?) he is perceived to be just “part of the problem.” To refuse, however, he would likely be accused of grandstanding. You said yourself that it wouldn’t be rational to refuse, and who wants an irrational leader? (I think we can look to history to see what kind of trouble that begets)
    I am so conflicted this election season. I wish I could be as confident as Jonathan, truly. Just wake me up in January, maybe even January 2017.

  4. it wouldn’t be grandstanding if he had done it quiety, and long before it was an issue — like when he was 65. (which was a long, long time ago)

    but doing it now, in response to this backlash — you’re right, that wouldn’t gain him anything. so I guess he’s got himself in a catch-22.

    regarding irrationality; it would have been completely rational to refuse the benefit at 65 if he had already concluded that Social Security was broken, and the foresight to see that he might be in a leadership position within some administration (or even just in congress) where his decision to not receive benefits would give him an upper hand. he had already run for President once before he turned 65 — you think this might have occurred to him.

    re: rationality of our presidents — anyone who knows enough about the presidency to be in a position to pursue it must know that the power is not unlimited (you set an agenda, but implementation/success is dependent on so many other things, not leastly Congress), the personal exposure huge, you get blamed for all the problems on your shift (Katrina, economy), you have daily reminders of how many people in the country disapprove of you… how can that possibly be worth it? what rational person would pursue it?

  5. Rob

    “anyone who knows enough about the presidency to be in a position to pursue it must know that the power is not unlimited… what rational person would pursue it?”

    Which pretty much explains the two that are left to choose from… and also pretty well explains W, and Bubba before him… and Carter for that matter…

    any chance that we can dig up and revive a founding father?

  6. instead of digging, why not just nominate me — I don’t want the job.

    maybe that would be a better system — nominate people who don’t want the job, and then make it so candidates are forbidden to ‘campaign’ for themselves. any advocate can campaign on their behalf, go on news shows, whatever, but the candidate can only make specific targeted statements for which they will be held legally liable if elected. they’ll swear under oath to the regular oath, plus to uphold this canonical list of things they said they’d do.

    end result would be about the same amount of squawking by everyone with an opinion about what the candidate will or will not do, but a succinct, detailed list of what they are binding themselves to do. and if they deviate from that, then they are thrown out of office for purgery. the list may or may not be very long; if they are smart they would stick to core principles that they live by, and not a laundry list of promises to constituents and cronies.

    nevermind, I just realized how ridiculous that sounds… carry on.

  7. Kevin

    I’m just a little troubled that a man who’s old enough to have been collecting full benefits for 10 years could still be elected president.

  8. Capt Quahog


    I’m only a poor 64-year old shlub who refuses socialist security retirement. Want nothing to do with the system. Will continue work until I drop dead which is probably sooner than later.

    Happen to know two very old men, now in their 80s or 90s who also never bothered to sign up for S.S. payments. These are both working class people who also despise the government at all levels.

    The “G” doesn’t start mailing out social security checks without the retiree making an application for the goodies. John McCain must have made formal application in order to get payments.

    As it stands, McQueeg is playing the system like millions of other slobs. It’s apparently legal to do so. Just curious as to when this weasel worked at a regular civilian job in order to qualify under the common riff-raff social security retirement program? McCain must also get a military pension and a fat Senate retirement cash hand-out at some point too.

    Perhaps it all works out in the end as S. S. pays the old folks in nearly worthless Fed Reserve Inflate-o-Bucks. Like McCain himself . . it’s all a huge corrupt scam!

  9. Michael

    McCain isn’t “playing” the system. He has worked hard like everyone else and payed his social security like everyone else. Now he is collecting his money that otherwise would be forfeited. He earned it.

    In 2007, McCain donated $105,000 to charity. I think that this would be the same as him giving away his social security to help other people.

  10. worked “hard”? hmmm… (debatable. I mean, he is a congress-critter.)

    from what I can see, he most likely paid into the system, as congressmen are not exempt from Social Security deductions. so as I said in the initial post, I don’t blame him entirely for claiming his benefits.

    nice to hear some new voices; I’m almost afraid to ask why McQueeg is a reference to McCain…

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