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- 05/31/16--12:40: _This Chicago doctor...
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- 05/31/16--12:08: Why President Obama can’t get enough of this small Indiana town
- 05/31/16--13:03: Watch Live: Town hall with President Obama in Indiana
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- Select one location for the family’s most valuable documents, including birth and marriage certificates, identification cards, records of assets (including homes and cars) and Social Security cards. These documents are important, because they’re often needed when filing for reimbursements or opening new accounts, like a 529 college savings account.
- Find a secure place to store all financial accounts, including any debt like a mortgage, investments, college savings, estate-planning documents, life insurance and other assets. This way, you can review them regularly and make any necessary updates or changes. Keep at least one copy of your account details along with any contact information.
- Create a file for work-related benefits accounts, including flex-spending accounts and the related receipts, so you can easily file them each year before the deadline.
- Create a file for the current year’s tax receipts or have a method for storing them digitally (apps like Shoeboxed can help with online storage).
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- 06/01/16--15:45: Gwen Ifill interviews President Obama on Trump, economic recovery
James Kruis grew up on the factory floors of his family’s molding and plastics business in Elkhart, Indiana, the city that President Obama says represents “the story of America’s recovery.”
At age 10, Kruis rummaged through the trash bin for wrongfully discarded parts. As a teenager, he worked the night shift with his brother, Jeff, producing television components that shipped south to an assembly plant in Marion, Indiana. They learned to love building things with their hands.
Now, four decades later, the brothers run Kruis Molding and Engineering, the same company their family founded in 1958, and Indiana Plastics. They learned “many years ago to be cautious and conservative,” said James Kruis, 52. “Our parents ran the business the same.”
In 2009, for the first time, the family business saw a 12 percent drop in sales. The Great Recession was shaking the nation’s economy. But they tried not to panic.
“Everybody was saying, ‘It’s not going to bounce back.’ I always thought we go through these downturns, and it comes back again,” Kruis said. “You’re going to have the highs and the lows.”
Elkhart was the first city Mr. Obama visited as president in February 2009, and he has kept an eye on it ever since. On June 1, he returns to the Midwestern town for the fifth time to speak at a local high school and answer questions at a town hall meeting with PBS NewsHour’s Gwen Ifill.
“Today, Elkhart’s manufacturing industry is back, and the town has regained nearly all of the jobs it lost during the downturn,” President Obama said, according to a recent White House-released statement. “The unemployment rate is lower than it was before the recession, and lower than the national average. In Indiana, more people have health insurance, and few homeowners are underwater.”
But the data paints a slightly more complicated picture.
Rakesh Kochhar is in the business of exploring downturn and recovery. An economist and associate director of research at Pew Research Center, Kochhar analyzed Census data from 2000 and 2014 to better understand how the middle class in 229 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas grappled with the Great Recession. He found that middle-income households in 203 of these areas still haven’t recovered since the recession began.
Part of Kochhar’s analysis included what happened in Elkhart-Goshen, Indiana, where, in March 2009, a staggering 22-percent unemployment rate rattled the region. The manufacturing sector alone — which made up 56 percent of the area’s gross domestic product — lost 24,000 jobs, he said.
In many respects, Elkhart and nearby communities rebounded, and by 2014, they were among the nation’s top 10 spots for middle-income households. Today, it boasts a jobless rate below 5 percent with 19,000 jobs back in manufacturing, which once again supports about half of Elkhart’s output. But had the Midwestern town truly risen unscathed from the Great Recession?
When Kochhar dug deeper into the data, he found something interesting. He looked at how many adults reported being in upper, middle and lower income levels, and, at first glance, data snapshots captured in 2000 and 2014 resembled each other. But when he explored household income data, he found that the average take-home pay in Elkhart-Goshen had dropped 22 percent — down from nearly $74,000 in 1999 to almost $58,000 in 2014.
“There’s been a significant hit on incomes,” Kochhar said. “Jobs have remained, but they are lower wage.”
Kruis didn’t say his family’s business cut wages, but he did say they slashed the prices of equipment they sell to farmers, physicians and musicians to “become more competitive.” They have diversified the products they make and don’t want to pigeonhole themselves the way Elkhart’s recreational vehicle industry did, he said.
In 2010, Elkhart built 60 percent of the nation’s RVs, trailers and pop-up campers. But when the Recession hit, household budgets tightened nationwide, and demand for these luxury items sank, said Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese.
Kruis said during the years immediately following the recession, business remained profitable and gained more customers,but it did so at lower profit margins.
Today, Kruis says he feels optimistic about the factory’s future. Still, he has a handful of engineering jobs that he’s struggled to fill. And he laments that most people in the United States no longer get excited about manufacturing.
“We teach our kids that they have to be excited about being on a computer, not on a bench grinding steel or producing a part,” he said.
Learn more about the people of Elkhart and their thoughts on the state of the nation at 8 p.m ET, Wednesday. Watch “Questions for President Obama: A PBS NewsHour Special” hosted by Gwen Ifill on your local PBS station and online.
The post Why President Obama can’t get enough of this small Indiana town appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
DES MOINES, Iowa — Superdelegates. Closed-off primaries. Complicated caucuses.
Many Americans are not happy with the way presidential candidates are chosen and have little faith in the fairness of either the Democratic or Republican system, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
According to the survey, the public prefers open primaries to those that are closed to all but party members. They like primaries instead of caucuses, and they oppose the party insiders known as superdelegates, who have a substantial say in the Democratic race.
“It’s kind of like a rigged election,” said Nayef Jaber, a 66-year-old Sanders supporter from San Rafael, California. “It’s supposed to be one man, one vote.”
Changing the primary process has become a rallying cry for Democrat Bernie Sanders. Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump has also criticized the system.
According to the poll, 38 percent of Americans say they have hardly any confidence that the Democratic Party’s process for selecting a presidential nominee is fair; 44 percent say the same of the Republican Party’s process.
Just 17 percent of Republicans and 31 percent of Democrats have a great deal of confidence in their own party’s system being fair.
“The common man needs to be included more,” said Gwendolyn Posey, 44, a registered independent from Sparks, Oklahoma, who said she could not cast a ballot for Texas Republican Ted Cruz because she had not changed her registration to Republican in time.
Sanders has little if any chance of catching up to rival Hillary Clinton in votes or delegates, but still hopes to influence the party platform, as well as spark debate about the rules. Trump has also called the Republican process “rigged.”
Both parties have complex mechanisms for choosing presidential nominees, with each state holding caucuses or primaries under different rules. Candidates earn delegates to back them at the summer nominating conventions, with a certain number required to clinch the nomination.
Democrats embraced superdelegates in 1982 to make sure party leaders have a say in who is nominated. By giving key insiders more voice, leaders hoped to avoid what some saw as a mistake in 1972, when George McGovern won the nomination but was a weak general election candidate. About 15 percent of the total delegates this year are superdelegates, and critics say this group has given Clinton an advantage. She holds a commanding lead over Sanders, however, even without counting the superdelegates.
Supporters of Sanders are especially incensed about the use of superdelegates, who can back any candidate at the convention regardless of how people voted in primaries and caucuses. Republicans have no equivalent to superdelegates.
Fifty-three percent of Americans say the Democrats’ use of superdelegates is a bad idea, according to the polls, while just 17 percent say it’s a good idea. Among Democrats, 46 percent say it’s a bad idea and only 25 percent say it’s a good idea.
Sanders has also called for more open primaries, slamming states that won’t allow independent voters to participate, as well as ones where people must register with a party in advance. Americans generally also say that open primaries are more fair than closed primaries, 69 percent to 29 percent. Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say open primaries are the most fair, 73 percent to 62 percent.
Caucuses, too, are on the outs with many people. They are often lengthy meetings held at a fixed time, unlike primary elections, which just require a stop at a polling place, if not a vote in advance. Poll respondents preferred primaries 81 percent to 17 percent, with overwhelming majorities of Democrats and Republicans saying so. Sanders has performed well in caucuses, however, in part because his supporters are willing to invest the time in them.
But caucus proponents say these are uniquely intimate political gatherings where people discuss candidates with friends and neighbors. The leadoff Iowa caucuses grew in prominence starting in the 1970s and became a serious stop on the campaign trail after President Jimmy Carter kicked off his path to the White House with an Iowa win in 1976. Caucuses this year were held mostly in lower population places in the west and Midwest.
Looking ahead, both sides are talking about potential changes, though those discussions would likely unfold after the conventions this summer.
Swanson reported from Washington.
The AP-NORC poll of 1,060 adults was conducted May 12-15 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.
Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods, and interviewed later online or by telephone.
The post From caucuses to superdelegates, Americans want nomination system changed appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
CHICAGO — The agitated mom had three kids in foster care and she wanted them back. But she didn’t understand how to parent. She’d never worked. She had a short fuse. She was slow and didn’t seem to learn from experience.
Dr. Carl Bell studied the young woman. Flat cheeks. Thin upper lip. Folds at the corner of her eyes. It hit him like a thunderbolt: She had subtle features of fetal alcohol syndrome.
Bell had seen thousands of patients like this over the past 40 years and been baffled by their explosive tempers, poor social skills, spotty memories, trouble communicating, and learning disabilities.
Now, this psychiatrist realized their behavior might be explained by exposure to alcohol in the womb.
The victims are often misdiagnosed with psychiatric disorders or antisocial tendencies. As kids, they’re stuck in special education classes. As adults, they often end up homeless or in jail. They’re deemed unruly, uncompliant, out of control.
Instead, they may have fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, or FASD.
“No one realizes how common it actually is,” said Bell, 68, who is nationally known for his work exploring the impact of trauma on children in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
His jolt of recognition in 2012 came as other researchers around the country were beginning to look much more closely at fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. The most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published in 2013, includes it for the first time as a condition that needs further exploration.
Today, FASD is widely recognized as the largest preventable cause of birth defects and developmental disabilities in the US.
‘I’ve never been so stunned in my life’
In 2014, a team of researchers led by Philip May of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill published a seminal paper showing that 2 to 5 percent of first-graders in a largely white, largely middle-class Midwestern city had fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
Other people on the spectrum lack these distinctive physical features but are troubled by poor judgment, difficulty planning, impulsivity, and distractibility. They’re often behind in speech and language skills, and have trouble performing tasks in a sequence.
May’s report hit a nerve: Previous estimates of the prevalence of FASD had been much lower. But his calculations may still underestimate the problem. Two new reports, yet to be published, will show that fetal alcohol disorders are more common than May calculated, according to Julie Kable, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Emory University who studies FASD.
Bell suspected the numbers would be higher still in poor, tough, neighborhoods where liquor stores can be found on every other block.
So he conducted a formal study of 611 of his psychiatric patients on Chicago’s South Side. Nearly 40 percent had FASD.
It wasn’t a representative sample of the population, and Bell wasn’t administering sophisticated diagnostic tests, but the results were eye-opening.
“No one had looked at the prevalence of FASD in low-income African American communities before,” Bell said. “I’ve never been so stunned in my life.”
At another Chicago clinic, Dr. Ira Chasnoff, a pediatrician, was testing kids and teens who’d been adopted or were in foster care and having serious behavioral problems. His examinations were more comprehensive, involving a thorough assessment of intelligence, executive functioning, speech and language, sensory processing, and social skills, among other factors. They involved a team of professionals and took a full day or more to complete.
Chasnoff’s findings, published last year: Nearly 30 percent of these youngsters had fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Eighty percent had not received a diagnosis of this kind previously.
Such studies, along with others across the country, are bringing fresh attention to the impact of exposure to alcohol in utero.
Bell “excels at changing the way people think,” said Gene Griffin, a retired professor of psychiatry at Northwestern University’s medical school.
There’s no question that the young African-Americans that Bell is trying to call attention to are engaging in high-risk behaviors, Griffin continued. The question is, how do we explain that — and how do we respond? Are the kids bad? Traumatized? Mentally ill? Marked by adverse environments? Or do we trace their behavior to their exposure, in utero, to alcohol?
“All of these are possible ways of looking at the same data,” Griffin said. By highlighting the brain damage caused by alcohol, Griffin said, Bell is “trying to get us to see these behaviors through a different lens.”
‘I want him to be able to fend for himself’
Susan Earl is still coming to terms with the partying she did in her mid-20s, before she became a mother.
Back then, she used to spend most weekends at clubs with friends. She usually had a few drinks. Her boyfriend at the time encouraged her because it loosened her up.
She was about six weeks into a pregnancy when she learned she was expecting. “I stopped drinking as soon as I found out,” Earl said.
It wasn’t soon enough.
Quinton Mills, her son, born four weeks early, had the characteristic facial features of fetal alcohol syndrome. His speech was delayed, and in kindergarten he started biting, kicking, and screaming. He was bullied by classmates. He wet his bed until he was 12.
Now 14 years old, an eighth-grader, and a patient of Bell’s, Quinton is in special education, doing work at the second- or third-grade level.
“His thinking skills, they’re not that good,” Earl said on a recent morning at her home in Calumet City, south of Chicago. “If you tell him to take out the trash, he won’t remember a minute later. I don’t know if his mind goes off or what.”
Arriving home from school, the boy mumbled brief answers to his parents’ questions.
“How was class today?”
“Did you have fun?”
As Quinton went back to his room, his stepfather, Nathaniel Earl, became pensive. “I want him to be able to fend for himself,” he said. “But if you ask him who is the president or what is going on [in the world], he can’t tell you. I worry about that.”
A warning to young women backfires
Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised all sexually active women of childbearing age to abstain from all alcohol unless they’re using contraception.
That backlash points to the difficulty of preventing FASD.
Doctors and therapists, including those who deal with children’s learning disabilities and behavioral problems, are extremely reluctant to inquire whether a mom drank while pregnant.
“I can’t tell you how many providers don’t want to ask: There’s so much stigma attached to identifying women who are drinking,” said Kable, the Emory University psychiatrist. “Alcohol is so pervasive in our culture. But no one wants to talk about it.”
Even when physicians do ask, it can be hard to get accurate information. Some women think having a beer or a few glasses of wine a couple of times a week — social drinking, not heavy drinking — doesn’t count. Others think that if they stop drinking when they find out they’re pregnant, they’re in the clear. Others simply deny having had any alcohol.
Conveying the risk of fetal alcohol exposure is difficult, because not every woman who drinks during pregnancy will have a child who is affected. It depends on how much alcohol she consumes at various times during her pregnancy as well as her stress level, her nutrition, how she metabolizes alcohol, and her baby’s genetic susceptibility, among other factors.
But the research is clear: No amount of alcohol can be guaranteed to be safe, even in a pregnancy’s very early stages.
As soon as three weeks after conception, before most women realize they’re pregnant, binge drinking (defined as four to five drinks on a single occasion) can cause the kind of brain damage that underlies the symptoms of FASD.
The more women continue to drink, the greater the risks to a fetus. Studies indicate that alcohol exposure alters the brain’s wiring, disrupts brain connections, and leads to brain cell death, causing permanent injury that interferes with normal development.
Even one drink a week during pregnancy can lead to a child with deficits in thinking, judgment, and self-control, reflected in a tendency toward to lash out, throw tantrums, and ignore rules, according to a 2001 study published in Pediatrics.
It’s not that these children won’t listen to their parents or teachers. It’s that they can’t process what they’re hearing and translate it into action. Their brains are impaired.
“For the most part, the root cause of these children’s problems goes unrecognized, and children end up being blamed for behaviors that are really biologically based, over which they have no control,” Chasnoff said.
Aggressive interventions at an early age can help kids with FASD learn how to regulate their emotions, break activities down into steps, and think through problems. “You have to raise these kids differently than other children,” Bell said.
But that’s especially hard to do in disadvantaged communities where professional help is scarce and getting along day-to-day is so difficult.
Without intervention, kids with FASD often get diagnosed with mental illness and put on psychiatric drugs at a very young age. Or they’re offered interventions at school that don’t address the full range of their deficits. Or they never learn how to control themselves, and when they grow up find themselves in a world of trouble.
Ora Jackson won’t forget the day she took custody of Treshawn Jones. He was two months old and bawling nonstop. Frantic, a teenager who had been taking care of him walked into Jackson’s house and handed him over.
“She gave him to me and ran out the door,” Jackson remembered recently, in her home in a tough South Side neighborhood. “I put him on the bed, and I saw that he wasn’t a bad baby. She just didn’t know what to do with him.”
Jackson, 56, who never had children of her own, loved Treshawn and raised him as her son. But it hasn’t been easy. His mother, Jackson’s great niece, had been living on the streets, drinking and doing drugs throughout her pregnancy.
“I started noticing when he was 3 that something wasn’t right,” Jackson said. “He’d have tantrums like I’d never seen before. I took him to a doctor and they told me he was an overactive child. But I was like, no, I know something is wrong, not just that.”
In kindergarten, Treshawn would get into fights and ignore his teacher. Jackson marched him over to Jackson Park Hospital, where a pediatrician recommended that he start seeing a counselor — treatments that continue, weekly, to this day.
Treshawn was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and started taking Ritalin, which helped a bit. But still, he couldn’t tie his shoes. He mumbled when people asked him to speak clearly. And he kept on having problems in school.
Jackson pulled out her phone and showed a text Treshawn’s teacher had sent the week before: “He’s in rare form today fighting and cussing and everything else will not be quiet in class.” And another: “Acting up again won’t shut up stop talking and focus.”
Two years ago, Jackson took Treshawn back to Jackson Park Hospital, where he was evaluated by Bell. “He cannot sit still, he has a bad temper … [but] this is a nice kid,” the psychiatrist wrote in his initial case report. Treshawn, he wrote, had “a clear history of fetal alcohol exposure.”
Bell’s advice: give the boy vitamin A, folate, omega-3, and choline, a nutrient that plays a role in brain development. Animal studies, and studies of young children with FASD, suggest it might ameliorate some of the brain damage from fetal alcohol exposure.
But there’s no solid evidence that choline can help older children or adults.
“In general, we think that choline helps early on in development, but we’re a lot less clear about later,” said Jeffrey Wozniak, an associate professor of psychiatry and codirector of the FASD program at the University of Minnesota. “It’s too early to even say this is a treatment.”
That doesn’t faze Bell, who likes to be ahead of the curve. “I don’t care, because I’m a clinician and as a clinician I get to do what makes sense to me,” he said. “Academics, they can afford to be purists trying to count the hairs on a gnat’s ass.”
An ‘extraordinarily sneaky’ foe
On a recent morning, Bell strode through the psychiatric ward at Jackson Park Hospital, wearing a green lab coat, black sneakers, and a black baseball cap — part of an extensive collection of hats.
“FASD is extraordinarily sneaky and covert,” he said, before entering a patient’s room.
His diagnostic approach relies on “triangulating” a person’s birth history (prematurity? heart murmur? low birthweight?); their educational history (special education? speech and language problems? explosive temper?); their cognitive skills (can they spell “world” backward and count down from 100 by 7s?); and whatever he can learn about the family background and propensity to drink.
“I sometimes learn the father is an alcoholic, and that’s important because if he’s a drinker, chances are he’s going to influence her to drink,” Bell said.
Outside of his clinic duties, Bell is trying to spread the message about FASD wherever he can. Recently, he gave a talk about it at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, his alma mater. A few weeks later, he traveled to Washington, D.C., to discuss it at a committee of the National Academy of Sciences.
Bell is also trying to convince the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in Chicago to screen youngsters who’ve gotten into trouble with the law for FASD.
In the end, Bell hopes to show that African-American kids who are dropping out of school and ending up on the streets are there because of “social determinants of health” such as alcohol use. Perhaps, then, communities would see alcohol for what it is — a bigger problem than cocaine or heroin — and kids whose brains were damaged in utero would get treatment, instead of being labelled as deadbeats and failures.
But he’s not sure if people really want to hear his message.
“I’ve been told all my life that African-Americans are intellectually inferior,” Bell said. “I’m terrified of what I’ve found, because it might feed into this stigma” by suggesting that brain damage is more common in poor black communities than elsewhere, reinforcing painful stereotypes.
“But what it really says is that if we want social justice, we have to address the fetal alcohol problem.”
This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on May 27, 2016. Find the original story here.
The post This Chicago doctor stumbled on a hidden epidemic of fetal brain damage appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Watch live as President Obama holds a town hall discussion with the residents of Elkhart, Indiana, hosted by PBS NewsHour co-anchor Gwen Ifill. Elkhart was the first town Obama visited after he won the presidency in 2008, and he’s visited the town five times as a politician. The town has been home to a resilient middle-class economy, thanks to the local manufacturing industry, and the White House considers it representative of the nation’s economic recovery of the last eight years.
Gwen Ifill will open the program with an interview with Mr. Obama and then transition into a discussion with the town’s residents. Health care, the economy, social issues – everything will be on the table in the wide-ranging conversation driven by the residents of Elkhart.
Watch “Questions for President Obama: A PBS NewsHour Special” live here and on your local PBS Station at 8 p.m ET on June 1.
The post Watch Live: Town hall with President Obama in Indiana appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
For shame, for shame if you are among the millions of Americans making, or soon to make, the most common of all Social Security blunders: using the “break-even” analysis to decide when to take your benefits and, as a result, claiming early, instead of understanding Social Security as the safest insurance policy on Earth to protect you against the financial ravages of old age.
No intention here to castigate those who simply cannot afford to wait, of course. America has become an ever more sharply divided economy over the past several decades, with the bulk of Americans experiencing little or no real income growth and (not coincidentally?) saving far too little.
But for those who can afford to wait — and that would include anyone with retirement accounts that can be drawn down, penalty-free — the break-even mistake will cost you, on average, thousands of dollars a year; the population in aggregate, billions, so long as you include the enormous value of the insurance Social Security is providing. This is the cardinal warning of “Get What’s Yours,” our “runaway New York Times bestseller,” now revised to reflect revisions in the Social Security law that (some claim) the book itself helped catalyze. And yet the average age at which Americans still take their standard benefits is 64, despite the fact that waiting until age 70 produces a monthly paycheck about half again as large.
What is a break-even analysis? Using simple arithmetic, if you were to start drawing your reduced retirement benefit of, say, $10,000 a year at age 64, you’d have taken a cumulative sum of $60,000, inflation adjusted, by age 70. But your “maximum” benefit, earned by waiting until 70, figures to be about 50 percent higher: $15,000 a year — thanks to delayed retirement credits which add roughly 8 percent a year for every year you wait to take benefits, starting at age 62. (It might be higher still if you keep working at age 66 and raise your Social Security earnings base.) So at a minimum, you’d be getting an extra $5,000 a year, starting at age 70. Five thousand a year more for just 12 years and you’d have earned back the $60,000 you’d left on the table in years 64–70. You’d have “broken even” at age 82. (And no, you don’t have to factor in inflation, since all Social Security benefits are, to repeat, adjusted for the cost of living.)
Note that if you believe Social Security’s own — in my view, conservative — mortality projections as of five years ago (the most recent ones published), life expectancy for a male if he makes it to age 64 is 82.4; for a woman, 85. The punchline: on strictly “break-even” grounds alone, you’re better off waiting. Add in the value of the insurance, and the calculation isn’t even close.
“But wait,” you might be thinking; “I would be earning money on that $60,000 if I invested it myself. That’s worth something, isn’t it? Shouldn’t I be calculating the break-even point, based on a reasonable expectation of the returns I can get on that money if I invested it?”
Yes, market returns matter. But Social Security is providing you with a guaranteed, inflation-protected return for every year you wait that’s better than any alternative investment out there. Break-even analysis, whether or not you incorporate that “opportunity cost” (as economists term it), is simply the wrong way to think about the decision, despite the fact that many — indeed, far too many — people are absolutely convinced otherwise, as are many software programs, including “leading” commercial ones. And as recently as 2008, the Social Security Administration told its public claims representatives to use a break-even framework to help potential retirees decide when to begin taking benefits.
WHY BREAKING EVEN IS BREAKING BAD
But here’s the main point: Viewing Social Security as an investment is economically blockheaded. The message of “Get What’s Yours”: Don’t do it! Instead, think of Social Security as an insurance policy. By waiting to collect benefits until age 70, you are in effect buying extra insurance — insurance against what is perhaps the greatest danger of retirement: outliving your savings. Yes, you are leaving money on the table. (That’s the “cost” of the extra insurance.) But you are “buying” protection against penury in old age.
When it comes to death, your greatest fear should not be dying itself, but the very opposite. It should be the fear of immortality. Or, failing that, fear of an epically long life. That’s because if you’re the typical American who has saved less than $10,000 on average by the time you’re within 10 years of retiring, the longer you live, the greater the danger of your “golden” years turning to lead, weighed down by poverty and its attendant anxieties. According to one survey, more than 20 percent of Americans believe they will die in debt.
If you’re old and poor, you will face rejections by rising numbers of doctors who won’t take Medicare or Medicaid. Your children may face crippling debt to buy you a long-shot cure that no insurance — public or private — will cover. You won’t leave the house without a companion for fear of falling, yet won’t be able to afford one (or even an Uber).
Still insist on evaluating an insurance policy as an investment, based on a break-even analysis? Consider your house. Does it make sense to buy homeowner’s insurance on a break-even basis? To do so, you would compare the money it costs you in premiums to buy the insurance to the cost to you if your house burns down, multiplied by the vanishingly small chance that it will. If this so-called “expected value” of the policy is less than the premium, the insurance “investment” fails the break-even test. For the purposes of this essay, I performed this exercise with my own home. The cost of the insurance: $1,000 a year. Its expected value? $170 a year. (For numbers nerds, that was a $500,000 total loss times its likelihood per year: .03 percent)
Now, we guarantee that the expected payoff from “investing” in your homeowner’s policy is also less than the premium the insurance company charges you. In short, you can’t come close to breaking even buying homeowner’s insurance. The obvious reason is that the insurance companies charge “loads” to cover administrative and other underwriting costs. Thanks to these loads, the total payoffs from homeowner’s insurance, life insurance, car insurance, health insurance, etc., are always far less than the premiums charged. (Why do you think Warren Buffett’s main business is insurance?) Look, if you focus solely on the break-even, you should never buy any insurance at all.
But that would be crazy. You don’t analyze standard insurance this way because you are focusing, properly so, on the worst-case scenario — your house burns down, your car is totaled, you get cancer.
Very few of us can afford to play the odds of catastrophe. And you’re in no better position when it comes to Social Security longevity insurance.
In the longevity sphere, the worst-case scenario is, to reiterate, living too long — living to your maximum possible age of life and, as a result, outliving your savings and income. Social Security provides insurance against this worst-case scenario. This insurance is safe against inflation and against default. It’s also dirt cheap. There is no close substitute for it in the market.
OUR EARNEST EFFORT TO HELP YOU KEEP MORE OF WHAT’S YOURS
Now if you’re still stubbornly tempted to take Social Security benefits at age 64 and invest them on your own, please consider that you’re not liable to beat even the average market rate of return.
Let’s assume you’re the average investor since, on average, those of you reading this probably are. Well, over the 20 years from 1991 to 2011, the average American investor actually lost money, after accounting for all costs and inflation. The reason would seem to be following the crowd — buying when stocks and bonds are flying high and selling when they tank and sink to new lows. This, of course, is exactly the opposite of investing’s golden rule: Buy low, sell high. But on average, we cannot be trusted to do so.
The average American’s rate of annual loss is only –0.4 percent; however, you shouldn’t subtract anything from that $80,000 you’d have been paid by Social Security for waiting four years. But unless you’re sure you can beat the average investor, which probably means you’re illegally trading on insider information, you shouldn’t add anything, either.
Still tempted? Then let us remind you of the discoveries of behavioral economics over the past several decades, which help explain the fact mentioned earlier: that individual investors, on average, lose money, after you adjust returns for inflation.
The main message of behavioral economics, which is really a branch of psychology: Human beings consistently overestimate their own powers. This bias even has a name: “illusory superiority” or, on public radio, “the Lake Wobegon effect,” after Garrison Keillor’s famous description of the imaginary Minnesota town where “all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” Documented examples abound.
In a survey of faculty at the University of Nebraska, two-thirds rated themselves in the top 25 percent for teaching ability. Nearly 90 percent of MBA students at Stanford University rated their academic performance in the top half of the class.
This is not a new phenomenon. Back in 1976, 70 percent of students taking the annual SATs thought they were in the top half of their peers with respect to leadership ability. Getting along with others? A full 85 percent put themselves above the median, and — we love this — 25 percent rated themselves in the top 1 percent.
And while “illusory superiority” is a worldwide phenomenon, it’s especially acute for those of you contemplating the investment of Social Security money — Americans, that is. A famous survey of drivers half a century ago found that 69 percent of Swedes considered themselves above average in driving skill. Americans? Ninety-three percent! Safe driving? Seventy-seven percent of the Swedes called themselves above average; 88 percent of the Americans.
Twenty-five years later, American self-delusion had hardly budged. Asked to rate themselves by eight different measures, including skill and safety, only one driver in five thought themselves below average.
Applied to the world of investing, the widespread recognition of the consequences of illusory superiority can be expressed in only two words: mutual funds! Mutual fund investment managers — and these are the highly paid “experts” of investing, remember — regularly fall short of where they think they will end up. The results of their actively managed investment funds routinely fail to match even market averages. As a result, low-cost index funds sprang up to purchase large numbers of securities whose performance will match market averages. They do not actively manage their holdings and have no illusions about their superiority. But they have become the dominant standard for retirement plan holdings! If so many of the experts have thrown in the towel on coming out ahead, why should anyone expect Social Security recipients to fare better?
This evidence on overoptimism may come as no surprise, but it should give all of us pause. To repeat, Social Security’s delayed retirement credits add 8 percent a year to lifetime benefits between the ages of 66 and 70 — after inflation, though with no compounding. Even if you love taking risks and therefore ignore our point about insurance, you should protect yourself against self-delusion.
In the spirit of the truism that repetition is the soul of understanding: The greatest danger you as a prospective retiree faces is outliving your savings. The best way for millions of people to avoid a miserable financial future is to wait to collect Social Security.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Summer in the Mediterranean used to be marked by Northern Europeans and Americans flocking to beaches on holiday. But for the past few years, warm weather in the region has meant a rise in desperate migrants taking a deadly journey.
More than 1,000 migrants have been killed trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea in the last week. According to the U.N., it’s one of the highest weekly death tolls since the crisis began in 2014.
Scenes of desperation in the heart of the Mediterranean. Over the past week, rescuers have scrambled dozens of times to reach struggling vessels large and small overflowing with migrants.
A survivor from Eritrea who chose not to give his name says he never imagined the danger.
MAN (through interpreter): All my friends told me it wasn’t easy, don’t try to go. But I didn’t believe them. Now I believe them. It’s very bad. But it would have been the same for me, because if I stayed in my country, I would have been dead.
HARI SREENIVASAN: This latest unfolding disaster off Libya is the newest chapter in Europe’s migrant drama. The U.N. Refugee Agency reports that, so far this year, some 2,500 people have died trying to reach the continent. That’s up from about 1,800 in the same time last year.
WILLIAM SPINDLER, Spokesman, UN High Commissioner for Refugees: This highlights the importance of rescue operations as part of the response to the movement of refugees and migrants in the Mediterranean, and the need for real, safer alternatives for people needing international protection.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Most of the deaths have come on the route from North Africa to Italy, where the odds of being killed are as high as one in 23. The victims come in all sizes.
The humanitarian organization Sea Watch released this photo yesterday of a baby who drowned off the coast of Libya.
RUBEN NEUGEBAUER, Spokesman, Sea-Watch (through interpreter): If we as a European community don’t want to see such photos, we must stop producing them. The European Union uses the Mediterranean as a sort of graveyard, where boats filled with corpses are used to scare those who are still living and would maybe want to follow.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Aid officials also say the rising death toll suggests smuggling gangs are using even riskier tactics than before.
Today, prosecutors in Sicily announced the arrests of 16 suspected smugglers. They were on board a boat carrying nearly 900 people who were rescued over the weekend.
MICHELANGELO PATANE, Prosecutor, Catania (through interpreter): These smugglers make remarkable profits. If we consider the great number of migrants they manage to squeeze into those vessels, the earnings are substantial, especially compared to the low value of a dinghy and the value of a low-power engine.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Some survivors say Libyan smugglers appear to be trying to earn extra cash before the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, when daytime fasting may curtail sailings.
Meanwhile, the human flow between Turkey and Greece has dropped sharply. In March, Ankara signed an agreement with the European Union to stem illegal migration.
For more on this, I’m joined now by David Miliband, CEO of International Rescue Committee.
David, why is this happening? Why this surge that we’re seeing in the last couple of weeks?
DAVID MILIBAND, Former British Foreign Secretary: I think there are two main reasons that explain this terrible, horrific wave of death in the Mediterranean from North Africa.
The first is the increasingly desperate tactics of the smugglers themselves. I think that the official who just spoke about their tactics got it absolutely right. These are desperate people and they’re being exploited by smuggling gangs.
The second thing, obviously, is that, as the weather has got better over the last couple of months, the number of people flowing from North Africa into Italy has grown. About 50,000, 46,000, to be precise, have come into Europe from North Africa this year.
And although this crisis doesn’t get much attention to the Syrian crisis, the people from Africa are coming from Nigeria, from Somalia, from Gambia, from Cote d’Ivoire, from Eritrea, like the man in the film. And you are therefore seeing that this is a global refugee and migration crisis, not just a Syrian crisis.
HARI SREENIVASAN: But could this be a bigger wave, considering all of those countries that you just listed?
DAVID MILIBAND: Well, we know that the world is experiencing the biggest wave of refugees since the Second World War. Twenty million people are refugees at the moment. That means they’re fleeing their countries of their homeland as a result of violence and conflict; 40 million people are displaced within their own countries.
We as an international aid organization are working in all of these fragile and conflict states, be they in Africa or in the Middle East. And we know, to our cost, that the amount of need far outstrips the ability of the system to respond, and that’s why we say there doesn’t just need to be more money going to international humanitarian aid. There needs to be a new approach to the way refugees are handled and dealt with, not least to prevent the appalling loss of life that’s taken place on the shores of Europe.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Some part of this has to do with the fact that the route has changed now, and the deal that Turkey struck with the E.U. to try to limit the number of people coming from Turkey crossing into Europe, and now they seem to be taking a route directly through Libya and across even more treacherous waters.
DAVID MILIBAND: I’m glad you raised that, because we have no evidence that that is the case, either from our own people on the ground or from the U.N. figures.
If you look at the 150,000 people who have arrived in Europe this year from — through Greece, you will see that they’re made up predominantly 46 percent of Syrians, then Afghans, then Iraqis. If you look at the 46,000 who have arrived in Italy from Africa, they are Somalis, Gambians, Cote d’Ivoire, Eritrea.
So, although it’s a good point you make that the clamp-down in Europe and in Turkey might, in time, bring people to seek an alternative to the Greek route, to come — instead of going from Turkey to Greece, across the Aegean Sea, they will try and make the journey through Egypt to Libya and then across into North Africa, from North Africa, into Europe.
At the moment, the people in Turkey who are fleeing the Syrian conflict predominantly are not seeking to make that route. They are biding their time in Turkey. There are reports of very large numbers in Izmir, one of the Turkish ports that is as an entrepot, as a transit route for this.
But at the moment up, you have got two distinct waves, one from Syria and the Middle East and Afghanistan into Greece, and then the other from Africa through North Africa into Italy.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, how are the Europeans dealing with this now new wave of humanity washing up on their shores?
DAVID MILIBAND: I think that the European approach has three elements at the moment.
As regard to the Middle East, they’re banking a lot on the so-called deal with Turkey, which is showing a lot of strain. Remember, for your viewers’ sake, there are a million asylum-seekers in Germany from last year who are having asylum and having their claims processed in quite an orderly way.
There are 55,000 people in Greece who are currently waiting for their claims to be dealt with. So, the deal with Turkey is designed to stem that flow. But when it comes to the North African side of things, the search-and-rescue is much weaker. The legal routes that might eventually be available are much less clear.
And that’s why you’re seeing the increasing desperation for the thousand-mile — thousand-kilometer crossing from North Africa from Libya to Lampedusa, which is the Italian island where the boats are aiming for.
So, at the moment, Europe is really fighting on all fronts, while trying to deal, cope on all fronts, and is also coping with the backlog from last year. And that’s why the European Commission have said they are going to come forward with new proposals last week.
Organizations like mine, an international aid agency and refugee resettlement agency here, say that you need first clear legal routes. Secondly, you have got to tackle the problem at its source by having proper humanitarian aid in the countries in conflict and in the neighboring states, and, thirdly, Europe has to deal with those who have already arrived in Europe. And those that have a genuine claim to refugee status need to be properly accommodated.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, David Miliband, CEO of the International Rescue Committee, thanks so much for joining us tonight.
DAVID MILIBAND: Thank you very much, Hari.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Good evening. I’m Hari Sreenivasan. Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff are away.
On the “NewsHour” tonight:
DONALD TRUMP (R), Republican Presidential Candidate: I don’t think it’s anybody’s business if I want to send money to the vets.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Responding to media scrutiny, Donald Trump accounts for the nearly $6 million he raised to benefit veterans groups.
Also ahead: More than 1,000 migrants lost their lives attempting to cross the Mediterranean just last week, marking a surge in journeys as the weather turns warmer.
Plus: Brazil’s favelas become the stage for bold policing experiments aiming to push out violent drug gangs before the Olympics.
MARIO ANDRADA, Communications Director, Rio 2016: We don’t want the Games to be an island of success and perfection. We want the Games to transform Rio, and to make Rio a safer city in the years to come.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All that and more on tonight’s “PBS NewsHour.”
HARI SREENIVASAN: In the day’s other news: The State Department put out a fresh warning to Americans traveling in Europe this summer: Watch out for terrorist attacks.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said there’s no specific threat, but major upcoming events could be targets.
JOHN KIRBY, State Department Spokesman: We took the opportunity, since it’s the beginning of summer, to make — to make our concerns known about the potential risk to — of terrorist attacks throughout Europe, particularly when you have got the Tour de France starting up, you have got this European football championship, and, of course, Youth — World Youth Day, all of which is happening in June and July.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The alert is an extension of one that was issued after the March terrorist attacks in Brussels. Now it will run through the end of August.
Elite Iraqi forces held off a fierce counterattack by Islamic State militants in Fallujah today. Government troops began advancing into the city yesterday, trying to end two years of ISIS control. Today’s fighting erupted on the southern edge of Fallujah. ISIS fighters used tunnels, snipers and car bombs in an attack that lasted about four hours. An estimated 50,000 people are trapped in the city. The U.N. Refugee Agency says ISIS is using some as human shields.
In Syria, heavy airstrikes blasted a pair of hospitals in the northern city of Idlib. Activists put the death toll at 23 and likely to rise.
Diana Magnay of Independent Television News reports.
DIANA MAGNAY: In the mayhem of rescue, after a series of airstrikes on this civilian neighborhood of Idlib, a moment’s relief for a life spared, a little boy, his eyes wide with fear, his world changed suddenly by the savagery of a bomb.
MAN (through interpreter): The Russian warplanes make several airstrikes on Idlib. We can’t tell yet how many are dead or injured. We know there are dozens.
DIANA MAGNAY: Russia says there wasn’t them, but Idlib is in rebel hands, and only Russia and the regime have airpower. Whoever it was, they hit two hospitals.
The bombing of hospitals in Syria is now happening so often, it’s almost commonplace. February’s cessation of hostilities seems meaningless now, Russian and regime warplanes still a feature of Syria’s skies, and, on the ground, rescue workers busy saving whoever and whatever they can.
HARI SREENIVASAN: In Washington, the White House condemned the hospital attacks and said, the international community needs to get to the bottom of this.
North Korea’s latest attempt to launch a ballistic missile failed today. It’s the fourth failure since April. U.S. and South Korean officials said the intermediate-range missile could have the range to reach Japan or Guam. The U.S., South Korea, Japan and China all condemned the North’s actions.
On Wall Street today, stocks struggled to make much headway today. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 86 points to close at 17787. The Nasdaq rose 14 points, but the S&P 500 dropped two.
Still to come on the “NewsHour”: what’s leading to a spike in migrant deaths; Brazil’s efforts to eradicate gang violence ahead of the Olympics; Texas braces for record flooding; and much more.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: The Republicans’ presidential nominee-to-be declared today that, when it comes to veterans, he has indeed put his money where his mouth is.
Lisa Desjardins has our report.
LISA DESJARDINS: It was something relatively rare for Donald Trump, going on the defensive, as he held a news conference at his New York hotel.
DONALD TRUMP (R), Republican Presidential Candidate: I have raised a tremendous amount of money for the vets, almost $6 million, and more money is going to come in, I believe, over the next little while, too, but I have raised almost $6 million. All of the money has been paid out. I have never received such bad publicity for doing such a good job.
LISA DESJARDINS: This goes back to January, when Trump boasted about a fund-raiser he held for veterans while boycotting a Republican debate.
DONALD TRUMP: We just cracked $6 million, right?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LISA DESJARDINS: But, for months, reporters have asked for proof and specifics. Today, Trump revealed where that money went, an array of more than 40 organizations, from work with service dogs to scholarships for families.
And he quickly turned to going on attack against journalists covering the story.
DONALD TRUMP: I have to tell you, the press is so dishonest. This sleazy guy right over here from ABC, he’s a sleaze.
QUESTION: It seems as though you’re resistant to scrutiny, the kind of scrutiny that comes with running for president of the United States.
DONALD TRUMP: But you know what? When I raise money…
QUESTION: You raise money for veterans.
DONALD TRUMP: Excuse me. Excuse me. I have watched you on television. You’re a real beauty.
LISA DESJARDINS: Trump did get some supportive words today from the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), Majority Leader: Well, I think Donald Trump is a phenomenon.
WOMAN: Really? You don’t think our party changed their views on those issues?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL: Look, I haven’t changed my views. And I don’t believe Donald Trump is going to change the Republican Party in any fundamental way. My view is that Trump has earned the nomination because he went out and got the most votes. And we need to be respectful of the electoral process that has produced this nominee.
LISA DESJARDINS: Meanwhile, Democrats were all offense and metaphor in California. Bernie Sanders showed up to support the Golden State Warriors in their must-win and did-win NBA playoff game last night. He tweeted: “Last week, Golden State was down three games to one. Tonight, they finished off a great comeback in California. I like comebacks.”
Today, in San Francisco, Sanders was surrounded by nurses, one of his biggest sources of union support, as he talked health care.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, Democratic Presidential Candidate: How can we be satisfied when 28 million people in this country today have zero health insurance?
LISA DESJARDINS: Hillary Clinton’s offense? It came from California Governor Jerry Brown, who surprised many by endorsing her today, a big coup for the front-runner, who has changed her travel schedule to focus more on the Golden State.
But the candidate herself stopped short of predicting victory in California. She spoke by phone to MSNBC.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), Democratic Presidential Candidate: Well, I’m feeling very positive about my campaign in California. We are working really hard.
LISA DESJARDINS: Clinton is now 71 delegates away from clinching the nomination.
For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Lisa Desjardins.
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WASHINGTON — Seven years ago, newly elected President Barack Obama came to a blighted stretch of northern Indiana and predicted a tough but certain recovery — if the country embraced his approach to re-juicing the economy. He returns Wednesday seeking credit for having lifted the U.S. out of the doldrums with policies Democrats are now rallying behind as they work to elect his replacement.
Obama’s appearance — his eighth in Indiana since being elected — could be viewed as an early foray into the 2016 campaign. In excerpts of his remarks released before his speech, Obama cast the election as a choice between the paths that Democrats and Republicans want to take on the economy.
“If what you really care about in this election is your pocketbook, if what you’re concerned about is who will look out for the interests of working people and grow the middle class, then the debate isn’t even close,” Obama said.
In Elkhart, a town of about 50,000 not far from South Bend, Obama will encounter a community whose experience during his presidency has mirrored the country’s broader economic revival: uneven and bumpy, with both winners and losers.
Though the job market has picked up and Elkhart’s housing crisis has ebbed, the area has fallen short in its aspirations to diversify beyond its reliance on the niche recreational vehicle industry. On the campaign trail, Donald Trump has hammered Obama over free trade policies that Trump blames for air conditioning manufacturer Carrier Corp.’s decision to ship 1,400 jobs from Indianapolis to Mexico.
To Obama, who has often held up Elkhart as a microcosm of the U.S., those lingering challenges aren’t enough to forestall a planned victory lap on the economy. Arguing that his controversial $840 billion stimulus package was ultimately vindicated, Obama will call on the next president to be willing to spend big to enable further economic growth despite the objections of small-government conservatives.
“If we get cynical and just vote our fears, or don’t vote at all, we won’t build on the progress we’ve started,” Obama planned to say.
Obama and his aides have long signaled frustration that as the economy has improved, the public’s perception of his decision-making hasn’t tracked the same trajectory. The White House sees his opponents’ begrudging refusal to give credit where due as a symptom of their decision early on to reflexively oppose all of his ideas.
Elkhart County Commissioner Mike Yoder, a Republican, paused for 15 seconds and laughed when asked whether Obama deserved any credit for the recovery. He said government plays a role, but that politicians must be cautious not to overinflate their contribution.
“At the bottom of the day, I think most elected officials — and I’m guessing the president would say this himself — that it is the local communities and the local businesses and workers that really are the major reason that a community will turn around,” Yoder said.
In Elkhart, where unemployment hit 19.6 percent at its peak during the recession, joblessness has dropped precipitously to about 4 percent — lower than the national average. The foreclosure rate, too, has diminished, and manufacturing has picked up.
Still, it is places like Elkhart that illustrate just how stubborn opposition to the president can be — especially in conservative stretches of the Midwest. Though Obama won Indiana in 2008 in a shocking victory, he lost the traditionally Republican state decisively in 2012.
In late April, ahead of Indiana’s primaries, just 42 percent of Indiana adults in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll said they approved of the job Obama’s doing. That’s lower than his approval in the country as a whole. A few weeks later, 51 percent in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll said they approve, in line with other recent surveys.
Indiana’s Republican governor, Mike Pence, said Wednesday that Elkhart had rebounded “in spite of Obama’s policies” and that those policies inflicted onerous federal burdens on Indiana.
“There are many reasons for the remarkable economic recovery that has been created in Indiana but I believe most of the credit belongs to the hard-working people of this community and the state,” Pence wrote in an editorial in the Elkhart Truth. Neither Pence nor his re-election opponent, Democrat John Gregg, planned to attend Obama’s speech.
For Democrats, Obama’s renewed popularity nationally is enough that the party is firmly embracing his policies in the presidential election, especially on the economy. Hillary Clinton has proposed steps that build directly on Obama’s actions while Bernie Sanders has praised his accomplishments. The notable exception is free trade, where both Clinton and Sanders say they disagree with Obama.
Associated Press reporter Josh Lederman wrote this story. AP News Survey Specialist Emily Swanson in Washington and Associated Press writer Tom Coyne in Elkhart, Indiana, contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s heated war with the media reached new heights as he turned the brag-worthy feat of raising $5.6 million for veterans’ charities into a sparring match with reporters pressing him on the issue.
“The press should be ashamed of themselves,” a defensive Trump railed during a Tuesday news conference at Trump Tower, called to announce a list of 41 charities that received a cut of the money he raised during a highly publicized January fundraiser.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee had previously declined to disclose which charities had received the $6 million he’d claimed to have raised, and his campaign had gone back and forth about how much pledged money had come through. The Washington Post had pressed for an accounting of the donations, and several charities said they received checks just last week.
Throughout Tuesday’s 40-minute question-and-answer session, Trump accused the media of being “unbelievably dishonest” in their treatment of him.
“I sent people checks of a lot of money. … And instead of being like, ‘Thank you very much, Mr. Trump,’ or ‘Trump did a good job,’ everyone’s saying: ‘Who got (the money)? Who got it? Who got it?’ And you make me look very bad,” he complained. “I have never received such bad publicity for doing such a good job.”
While Trump has frequently made the media a punching bag, calling out reporters during his signature rallies, the taunts Tuesday were intense, even for him. The billionaire mogul interrupted his recitation of the list of groups receiving portions of the money to complain about the way reporters had called up charities to try to verify his contributions. He called the political press “disgusting” and dismissed one ABC News reporter as “a sleaze.”
While Trump’s fundraiser, held opposite a Fox News debate he chose to boycott, should have been a positive story for Trump, his campaign’s refusal to disclose details about the money raised became a sticking point. Trump insisted Tuesday that “most of the money went out quite a while ago,” but that didn’t seem to be the case.
The Associated Press spoke or left messages with each of the organizations Trump named. Of the 30 groups that responded by Tuesday, about half said they had received checks from Trump just last week.
Several said the checks were dated on or about May 24 and shipped out overnight — the same date as a Trump interview with The Washington Post, which for weeks had been pressing his campaign to disclose the recipients of the millions raised during the splashy telethon-style fundraiser in Iowa.
Indeed, more than a dozen big checks were rushed out of New York early last week, bound for veterans’ charities around the country. The largest, a $1 million check dated May 24 and drawn from Trump’s personal account, was addressed to the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation, a small Tuckahoe, New York, group that provides scholarships to the children of fallen Marines. The foundation had presented Trump with an award at its 2015 gala held at a ritzy New York hotel.
Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, had originally told the Post that the Iowa event had raised about $4.5 million — less than the $6 million originally announced by Trump — because some who’d pledged contributions had backed out.
Appearing Tuesday on CNN, Democratic presidential front runner Hillary Clinton said she was glad Trump had finally given out the promised money.
“The problem here is the difference between what Donald Trump says and what Donald Trump does,” Clinton said. “He’s bragged for months about raising $6 million for vets and donating $1 million himself, but it took a reporter to shame him into actually making the contribution.”
Trump repeatedly insisted during the news conference that he didn’t want “credit” for the contributions. However, he hadn’t appeared shy about giving away poster-size checks at campaign events in the weeks after the fundraiser.
On Jan. 30, just before the Iowa caucuses, he gave a $100,000 check to the Puppy Jake Foundation, which provides service dogs to wounded veterans. Representatives from the foundation, accompanied by several service dogs, accepted the check at the Adler Theater in Davenport, Iowa, where Trump was being interviewed on stage.
The next day, in Council Bluffs, Trump presented another check, also for $100,000, to Partners for Patriots, which also provides service dogs to disabled veterans.
The public check presentations trickled off within days, though some of the groups contacted by the AP did report receiving checks in February, March and April.
Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks denied Tuesday that timing had anything to do with questions from the media.
“Mr. Trump’s team worked very hard to complete this lengthy process prior to Memorial Day Weekend,” she said. The campaign also said it had taken months to carefully vet each of the groups receiving money.
Trump, who has refused calls to moderate his tone and temperament, also said he has no plans to change his tone with the press if he’s elected to the White House.
“Yeah, it is going to be like this,” he said of potential future news conferences led by a President Trump.
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To Fredie McKinney, buying the mobile home seemed like a great idea. It was big enough for McKinney, his wife and his elderly mother. The fenced 8-acre property in Harwood, Texas, was perfect for their dogs and horses. McKinney only had to pay $500 to move in, two years ago, with the understanding that after paying the developer $1,000 a month for 25 years, he’d own the property.
At least, he says, that was the plan. Now the developer is demanding McKinney pay back taxes owed under the contract — money 68-year-old McKinney says he shouldn’t have to pay— and county officials say the entire subdivision may be illegal.
McKinney has a “contract for deed,” a financing arrangement common in some low-income communities that can leave homebuyers in a legal mess. Unlike a mortgage, buyers don’t get title to the property until they’ve completed their last payment. They have to maintain the property and pay property taxes, but they don’t build any equity. They usually don’t get a homeownership tax break, and if they miss a monthly payment they can lose the home and all the money they sank into it.
Texas passed a law last year that will help McKinney and homebuyers like him claim titles to the properties they’re paying for, the latest in a series of reforms. Other states also are adding protections for buyers involved in this archaic form of financing.
Nobody knows how many U.S. homebuyers have entered into contracts for deed. The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Housing Survey pegged the number at 3.5 million in 2009, but hasn’t asked the question since.
In some communities, the contracts may be on the rise. The recession eroded people’s finances and drove banks and credit unions away from risky borrowers. This expanded the market for contracts for deed, rent-to-own plans, and leases with option to purchase — seller-financed deals that don’t require a credit check and sometimes don’t even require a down payment.
“The underbelly of real estate, is what I call it,” said Robert Doggett, an attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid who specializes in housing law.
Major investment firms have bought up distressed properties across the Midwest and South and are using contracts for deed to sell them. After The New York Times reported on the practice in February, New York state regulators subpoenaed two of the firms and the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau assigned enforcement lawyers to investigate.
The Poor Man’s Mortgage
Texas Rep. Terry Canales, a Democrat who practices law in a town about an hour’s drive from the Mexican border, said contracts for deed are “a continuing problem” in South Texas.
Along the border, thousands of very poor people live in colonias — unincorporated communities that often lack running water, paved roads and other basic infrastructure. In these mostly Hispanic neighborhoods, contracts for deed have long been a popular way for developers to sell property and for friends and relatives to sell homes to one another.
These contracts are typically signed without help from real estate agents and attorneys and involve buyers who know very little about the law. In colonias and other informal subdivisions, some contracts are handwritten on scraps of paper or not written down at all, according to a 2012 University of Texas at Austin study.
Many homebuyers with seller financing who spoke to the UT-Austin researchers didn’t know if they had a contract for deed or some other product, said Heather Way, a co-author of the study and the director of the community development clinic at UT-Austin.
Inflated prices and high interest rates, such as the 10 percent rate McKinney pays, are common features of contracts for deed. But the biggest problem, Doggett says, is that it can be unclear who has a legal right to the property. Few hopeful buyers manage to pay off the home and gain title to it.
All kinds of events can create legal confusion. The seller might die without clarifying who will take over the contract. The seller might dispute ownership of the property with a spouse in a divorce. The seller’s creditors might put a lien on the property, loading it up with debt the buyer doesn’t know about.
The buyer might find out, as McKinney has, that the home violates local land use laws and shouldn’t be there in the first place. Roads throughout the neighborhood he lives in haven’t been paved, despite the developer’s promises. The family drinking water comes from 5-gallon containers McKinney fills up at Wal-Mart.
The strictest way to govern contracts for deed, other than banning them entirely, is to treat them as a kind of mortgage. That’s what Oklahoma has done since the 1970s, and what Texas’ new law will allow. Other states have added protections for buyers, but none have gone quite that far.
It’s taken Texas many years to get to this point. The first step was a 1995 law that applied only to colonias. Among other things, the law required sellers to disclose any problems with the property and added rights for buyers facing foreclosure who have made a certain portion of their payments.
Texas broadened its colonia law to apply to the whole state in 2001, after a tornado tore through Fort Worth. The storm revealed many homebuyers with contracts for deed who couldn’t access insurance payouts or government loans for disaster relief because their ownership was unclear.
The state passed follow-up legislation in 2005 to close loopholes and add more protections, such as applying contract-for-deed law to lease-to-own contracts.
Other states have similar reforms on the books. Like Texas, North Carolina forbids sellers from putting property burdened with certain liens on the market. Minnesota requires disclosures, like Texas, but unlike Texas the state also caps the interest rate for lower-dollar contracts.
Texas’ laws have largely pushed developers away from contracts for deed, the UT-Austin study found, but abusive practices remain. “The challenge with all seller financing is that it’s really under the radar screen,” Way said. Her researchers counted 6,500 homebuyers across six counties who held contracts for deed that couldn’t be found in government records.
The law signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott last year took yet another step to protect homebuyers. Now buyers who file their contracts for deed with the government automatically get title to the property. “You convert it into a mortgage, essentially,” Doggett said. Once buyers have title, they can also claim a property tax break.
Lawmakers didn’t want to ban contracts for deed outright. “This is a tradition that’s been passed down for generations,” Canales said. For some people, it’s the only kind of home financing available.
For the new law to truly be effective, the state also has to invest in enforcement and legal services for vulnerable buyers, Way warns.
Lack of oversight has been a big problem for McKinney and the 200-odd residents of Century Oak Estates. County officials have allowed the troubled development to expand for 10 years, the Austin American-Statesman has reported. Officials don’t even know how many people live there.
As a disabled veteran over 65, McKinney qualifies for a state property tax exemption. But he never filed his contract with the tax office. He said he was told the developer needed to file the original version, and the developer never did.
“There’s several pages to it; it’s mostly in legal language,” McKinney said of the contract itself. “I’m not that much on legal stuff.”
Some Century Oak residents are now applying to Legal Aid for representation.
The state’s new law may make it easier for the development’s residents to keep their homes, Doggett said. If McKinney can file the contract, “then technically he’ll own the dirt.”
The post Here’s why low-income households may gamble with homeownership appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is pressuring the food industry to make foods from breads to sliced turkey less salty, proposing long-awaited sodium guidelines in an effort to prevent thousands of deaths each year from heart disease and stroke.
The guidelines released Wednesday by the Food and Drug Administration are voluntary, so food companies won’t be required to comply, and it could be a year or more before they are final. But the idea is to persuade companies and restaurants — many of which have already lowered sodium levels in their products — to take a more consistent approach.
It’s the first time the government has recommended such limits. Sodium content already is included on existing food labels, but the government has not set specific sodium recommendations. The guidelines suggest limits for about 150 categories of foods, from cereals to pizzas and sandwiches. There are two-year and 10-year goals.
Health officials from the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said overwhelming scientific evidence shows that blood pressure increases when sodium intake increases, increasing the chances of heart disease and stroke. FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said that many people may not be conscious of how much sodium they are eating until they get sick.
“Our great hope is that this will initiate a very serious national dialogue,” he said.
Americans eat about 1½ teaspoons of salt daily, or 3,400 milligrams. That amount hasn’t gone down over the years, and it’s about a third more than the government recommends for good health. Most of that sodium is hidden inside common processed foods and restaurant meals, making it harder for consumers to control how much they eat.
The guidelines are long-delayed. The Food and Drug Administration first said it would issue voluntary guidelines in 2010, after an Institute of Medicine report said companies had not made enough progress on reducing sodium and advised the government to establish maximum levels for different foods. The FDA decided to go with a voluntary route instead.
The delays came as food companies balked at the idea of government guidelines, pointing to myriad efforts already underway to reduce sodium. The food industry has also pointed to a newer, 2013 IOM report that said there is no good evidence that eating sodium at very low levels — below the 2,300 milligrams a day that the government recommends — offers benefits.
Some companies have worried that though the limits will be voluntary, the FDA is at heart a regulatory agency, and the guidelines are more warning than suggestion. But the wait means that Obama administration officials probably won’t be around to see if individual companies follow the guidelines. A new administration will be likely be tasked with making the proposed guidelines final, as they could take a year or more to complete.
If companies do eventually comply with the guidelines, Americans won’t notice an immediate taste difference in higher-sodium foods like pizza, pasta, bread and soups. The idea is to encourage gradual change so consumers’ taste buds can adjust, and to give the companies time to develop lower-sodium foods.
Many food companies and retailers already have pushed to reduce salt. Wal-Mart, ConAgra Foods, Nestle and Subway restaurants say they have achieved major sodium reductions in their products. Mars Food, a subsidiary of Mars Inc. that produces Uncle Ben’s rice among other products, said the guidance “will drive a broader dialogue within the food industry and help inform consumers about the role sodium plays in their diet and overall health.”
The companies say that in some cases, just removing added salt or switching ingredients does the trick. Potassium chloride can also substitute for common salt (sodium chloride), though too much can cause a metallic taste. In addition to flavor, companies use sodium to increase shelf life, prevent the growth of bacteria, or improve texture and appearance. That can make it more difficult to remove from some products.
Levels of sodium in food can vary widely. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sodium in a slice of white bread ranges from 80 milligrams to 230 milligrams. Three ounces of turkey deli meat can have 450 milligrams to 1,050 milligrams.
The guidelines could face some backlash in Congress, where Republicans have fought the Obama administration over efforts to require calorie labels on menus and make school lunches healthier. When the administration attempted to create voluntary guidelines for advertising junk food for children, the industry fought the idea and Republicans in Congress backed the food companies up, prompting the administration to put them aside.
Health groups have argued for mandatory standards, but say voluntary guidelines are a good first step. Michael Jacobson, the head of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, says the government should assess how the voluntary standards work, and set mandatory targets if they don’t.
“It’s disappointing that the FDA is only proposing targets and not formal limits, but in this political climate with a Republican Congress and such massive industry opposition, we’re gratified that the administration is at least coming out with voluntary targets,” Jacobson said.
The post New federal guidelines pressure food industry to lower salt appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Elkhart, Ind. — President Obama first visited Elkhart, Indiana in early February 2009, as he crisscrossed the country selling voters on the need for a stimulus package to help jumpstart an ailing economy. The president is returning to Elkhart on Wednesday for a town hall-style event with PBS NewsHour. A lot has changed in the seven-plus years since Obama’s first visit — both in Elkhart and around the country.
The Obama administration passed the stimulus bill and healthcare reform, sparking a Tea Party-led backlash that gave Republicans control of the House. The economy has improved — unemployment is down, and more than 13 million new jobs have been added since Obama took office — but income inequality in the United States is greater than ever before. The president wound down wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, only to grapple with a bloody conflict in Syria and the rise of ISIS.
Closer to home in Elkhart, the economy is surging thanks to a boom in the RV manufacturing industry. But some residents here are still struggling to get by, and opinions on Obama in this deeply conservative corner of northern Indiana are mixed. As the city prepares today for what will very likely be his last visit to Elkhart as president, the NewsHour spoke to residents about the president’s legacy and their lives in the Obama era.
“Elkhart has changed a lot. For the better, to me. When I drive down County Road 6, I see nothing but help wanted signs. I go to the grocery store, and it’s full of people. That means the economy is going again. A lot of people are working again. This town is booming, and I love it.”
“It’s going to take several years for that legacy to settle in. I think right now people are pretty charged up about several issues, and the population is pretty divided. With a lot of presidents it takes a while.”
“He’s the worst president we’ve ever had. He wasted a lot of money going on all those vacations in Hawaii. And he never did produce his birth certificate to prove he was an American.”
“It’s a little surprising that he’s come here so much. I don’t know why he’d come to Elkhart. It’s just a tiny little place. When he’s here, I usually just stay home so I don’t have to deal with the traffic.”
“With him being the first black president, it kind of lifted everybody’s spirits. But the thing about it is, the president is only one man. He can’t put the weight of the country on his shoulders. He can’t fix everything. And he walked a tightrope all the time. He got a lot of scrutiny for everything he said. I don’t think many people could walk in his shoes without losing it at some point.”
“He’s come to Elkhart a few times, and it seems like he’s done nothing to try and make things better. He made lots of announcements, but they were just words. Empty promises.”
“I feel like Obama’s presidency was a historic moment, but I was ignorant of it, because I was so young I wasn’t aware of the history unfolding around me.”
Story by Daniel Bush. Photos by Justin Scuiletti.
The post Meet the people at the heart of America’s complicated economic recovery appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Editor’s Note: Below is an adapted excerpt from the book, “Smart Mom, Rich Mom: How to Build Wealth While Raising a Family” by Kimberly Palmer.
There’s a simple reason why moms need to be the ones to take charge of the household finances: The chances are high that at some point we are going to be calling the shots on our own.
Women are far more likely than men to outlive their spouse by a factor of four to one, and just over four in 10 marriages end in divorce by age 46, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Indeed, Fidelity estimates that at some point in their lives, 90 percent of women will be handling their finances on their own, usually as a result of death or divorce.
In her 2015 memoir, “Leaving Before the Rains Come,” Alexandra Fuller writes poignantly about being forced to quickly learn how to manage investments after her divorce. “I didn’t have a credit card in my own name; there was nothing under my own Social Security number,” she writes. She started attending financial literacy classes and took out a credit card in her own name for the first time.
We need to be prepared for those kinds of jolts in our own lives. Our kids are depending on us to create financial stability for them. Just as we protect our kids’ health by taking them for routine pediatrician visits, we should also give ourselves basic financial check-ups: Would we be able to manage our money solo if we suddenly had to? Could we still afford our mortgage and other basic costs if our partner’s income suddenly disappeared? Do we have the estate-planning documents and insurance policies in place that would help us transition into life as a single mom if we had to?
Smart moms are not in denial about the almost certainty that we will be managing our money on our own one day for one reason or another. Most of the smart moms I interviewed manage their finances throughout all stages of their relationships so that when they have to do so on their own, it is not a shock. They know which folders and documents to turn to in case of a health emergency, they use financial tools like life insurance and disability insurance to guard against life’s unexpected events, and they see their potential futures with open eyes. They protect their finances like mama bears defending their cubs, because they know doing so means protecting the security of their families.
Feeling a sense of mastery over your finances and preparing to handle unexpected events starts with getting household paperwork in order. The task is quite challenging, especially when you have small children that seem to rack up as many government-issued documents in their first few years of life as you have accumulated over your own decades-long one. But taking the time to create your system makes it easy for both parents to easily step into managing the health insurance, investments, savings and other household accounts when necessary.
These guidelines for setting up a household planning system can be adapted to fit your own circumstances:
Make sure a partner or trusted person has at least a general knowledge of where to find these files in case you are unavailable when they are needed. Even moms get the flu, break legs or face a number of other life events that keep them out of the game long enough to have to let someone else temporarily take over. Financial systems should get a regular review at least once a year to pare back older papers and shred the ones that contain personal information but are no longer needed.
While most of us could get by using a jerry-rigged system of shoeboxes and piles of paper, a system that doesn’t make sense to anyone but you could make it very difficult for someone, even a husband, to take over in your absence, whether you’re on a work trip or in the hospital. And having a system that’s practically worthy of a Container Store photo shoot makes running the household easier and more enjoyable for you in the meantime, too. It can also save you cash: It’s much easier to negotiate with your cable company or ask for a refund on a misprocessed health insurance claim if you have the paper trail to help you make your case.
Another major benefit to investing in this level of organization is that it makes it easy to explain what you’re doing to your children. After showing my six-year-old daughter how I paid the utility bills each month, she started making suggestions for how we could use less water. Those kind of financial conversations with our children can help break the stubborn cycle of the gender gap when it comes to finances. As early as their twenties, young women are earning less, saving less and investing less than their male peers. As moms, we have the power to start talking to our daughters about money early and get them on a more empowered path to financial success.
The post Column: Why protecting the family finances means putting Mom in charge appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Two men were killed in a shooting on the University of California-Los Angeles campus, an LA police spokesman said Wednesday. It was an apparent murder-suicide, and the campus is now safe, the Associated Press reported.
Police found the bodies of two men in an office, one of whom was the shooter.
The school was in lockdown for several hours as police searched for the gunman, and people were asked to shelter in place.
BruinAlert: Shooting at Engineering 4. Go to secure location and deny entry (lockdown) now!
— UCLA Bruin Alert (@UCLABruinAlert) June 1, 2016
Earlier, the campus alert Twitter account advised students, faculty and staff to stay away from the building due to police activity.
Police searched for the shooter “classroom by classroom,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) June 1, 2016
Students found shelter where they could. According to Los Angeles Times reporter Irfan Khan, his daughter was “hiding in a restroom.”
I am fighting traffic and emotions to reach UCLA. My daughter is hiding in a restroom.
— Irfan Khan (@latfoto) June 1, 2016
The post Two dead in UCLA suicide shooting; campus now safe appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Editor’s Note: Journalist Philip Moeller, who writes widely on health and retirement, is here to provide the Medicare answers you need in “Ask Phil, the Medicare Maven.” Send your questions to Phil.
I will get to as many questions as I can here, but please accept my apologies that I am not able to answer everyone’s questions.
Holly – N.Y.: My husband and I both have Medicare, and we have separate drug coverage through his old employer. However, our policy provides only emergency coverage when we travel out of state. We go to Florida for four months in the winter. Can you give me some advice as to what kind of Medigap policies are good in our area and where I can look for them for this year’s enrollment?
Phil Moeller: It sounds like you may have a Medicare Advantage retiree health plan. Basic Medicare (Parts A and B) would not limit your insurance when you traveled to other states. I’m also assuming your Medicare Advantage plan has a separate or stand-alone Part D drug plan. Most Medicare Advantage plans have the Part D insurance bundled in with them. You will need to confirm these things.
If you do have a Medicare Advantage plan, you are not allowed to get a Medigap plan as well. It’s illegal for insurers to sell you both plans at the same time.
Your options with a Medicare Advantage plan may be limited. Does your husband’s old employer offer any other type of retiree health coverage? If so, explore this. If not, you may need to consider leaving this plan and either getting another Medicare Advantage plan that does cover you for out-of-state care (there are some policies that do this) or getting basic Medicare (Parts A and B), a stand-alone Part D drug plan and a Medigap policy. If your husband’s former employer has a health reimbursement plan, perhaps it will be willing to provide you the same financial support for your new coverage as it is now doing for your drug coverage.
You can use the Medicare Plan Finder to search for Medicare Advantage and Part D plans. Medicare has a similar tool that will help you evaluate Medigap plans. The costs of basic Medicare are presented here.
Larry – Fla.: I retired from the state of Florida in January and activated Medicare Part B. I compared the various Medigap options with the state of Florida retiree plan, Medicare Advantage and private insurers, but none seemed better than the other. None of them offer decent dental coverage, which should be considered preventive care for good health. Since I’m still healthy, I haven’t enrolled for any supplemental policies for now, but what is your judgement about Medigap coverage?
Phil Moeller: First off, congratulations on doing so much homework. If everyone were as diligent, I’d be out of a job! Medigap, especially letter Plan F, is the closest thing to complete health coverage available under Medicare. You retain the right under basic fee-for-service Medicare to see any health care providers you wish, assuming they accept Medicare. You do need a stand-alone Part D drug plan as well. But with a solid Medigap plan, you really are covered for care anywhere in the U.S. and would also get emergency care outside the country.
Of course, none of this stuff comes for free. You can research Medigap plans here. Be aware that if your guaranteed enrollment window for Medigap has passed, you may have difficulty finding a policy you like at a good price. You can find a good explanation of these guaranteed issue rights on page 21 of Medicare’s annual guide to Medigap.
Lastly, even though you’re in good health now, this is not likely to always be the case. Even healthy aging will entail the need for increasing amounts of health care. So I’d only remind you that these are insurance products. You need them now and may not be able to get them when an adverse health event occurs.
Joe – Ill.: I will turn 65 this July. I already have enrolled in Medicare Part A, but I thought I could remain on my wife’s plan at work (she teaches in a public school), which has covered me since I retired two years ago. Can I be on Part A and be covered by my wife’s Blue Cross and Blue Shield for Parts B, C and D, including doctors’ visits, pharmacy, dental and vision care?
Phil Moeller: Yes. You should be eligible to continue being covered by your wife’s health plan so long as she is actively employed. Taking Part A will not invalidate your participation in this plan.
If your wife is in a high-deductible plan with a health savings account, you cannot make tax-advantaged contributions to this plan if you are on Part A. However, she should still be able to participate in the plan, so the downside could be minimal.
Part A also can be a secondary payer of hospital claims. So if you had such claims and they were not fully covered by your employer policy, your Part A might pick up some of these unpaid expenses.
Lastly, your question implies that you think your wife’s coverage is similar to Medicare when it comes to what you call “Parts B, C and D.” However, it’s not. Basic Medicare (Parts A and B) does not cover routine dental, vision or hearing care. Some Medicare Advantage plans (Part C of Medicare) do cover these items.
Alan – Ind.: I have just turned 65 this week. I am still working and on my employer’s health plan, which is a high-deductible health savings account. The plan is a family plan with a $5,000 deductible with a maximum out-of-pocket cost of $8,000. I don’t plan on retiring for one more year. I understand that neither I nor my employer will be able to contribute to the health savings account if I go onto Medicare. My question is, how would Medicare and my current health plan interact? Would Medicare, as the secondary payer, pay on my current health plan’s deductible and then on my current health plan’s co-insurance? Is going onto Medicare a common strategy for people who also have a high-deductible health savings account?
Phil Moeller: You do not need Medicare when you turn 65 so long as you’re still working and are covered by your employer’s health insurance. You do have the right to get Medicare, either in addition to your employer health plan or in place of it. In most cases, you’re better off financially keeping the employer coverage. But by all means, compare different plans and see which approach is best for you. Should you leave your employer’s plan, however, it can be difficult to resume this coverage later. You would want to know this ahead of time.
If you begin Social Security benefits, you have no choice but to be signed up for Part A of Medicare. This will invalidate your ability to participate in a health savings account. If you do file for Social Security and get Part A, you need not sign up for other Medicare coverage so long as your employer plan is in effect. In this case, Part A can become a secondary payer of hospital claims (that’s what Part A covers). For example, if you had a covered hospital stay, but your insurance did not pay all of the insured expenses, your Part A might pay some or all of these expenses. Part A is premium-free for people who qualify for Social Security benefits.
Owen – Conn.: I am 62 and retired with a good health plan. When I hit 65, should I switch over to Medicare? I was told that it’s mandatory.
Phil Moeller: Nearly all retiree health plans switch from being the primary to the secondary payer of health claims when you turn 65. So for practical purposes, Medicare will be mandatory at that time. You should check with your plan administrator on the details and timing.
Following Up #1:
I wrote about a financial adviser whose client and her husband had run afoul of both Social Security and Medicare. The government linked their Social Security numbers and the woman’s effort to file and suspend her Social Security somehow led to her losing her Medicare coverage! As the old Ripley’s “Believe It or Not” stories used to say, we can’t make this stuff up, folks.
Her adviser reports that the women’s situation is being straightened out, but that she is still exposed to nearly a month-long period when she will have no Medicare. Let’s pray she remains in good health until her insurance coverage resumes. In the meantime, a Social Security spokeswoman reports that it is not uncommon for two spouses’ Social Security numbers to become linked. Here is what she writes:
In your message, you state that her Medicare is now under her spouse’s Social Security number (SSN). I can confirm this change occurs when a Medicare only entitlement on a SSN converts to a monthly benefit entitlement on a different SSN. However, the start date of entitlement to the Medicare coverage on the old record does not change when it converts to the new SSN.
Additionally, a new health insurance card is issued when an individual status changes. For the card issuance policy and corroboration, see HI 00901.045: Health Insurance Card – Policy and HI 00901.065: Health Insurance Card Issuance.
I include this explanation in full, because A) Social Security has on occasion quibbled with how its comments are translated, and B) you need to see how clearly the agency explains its own rules.
Following Up #2:
Lawrence – Va.: I am confused by your response to Rick of Washington below, which appeared on the PBS NewsHour website, and wondered if the answer is dependent on the state one lives in?
Rick – Wash.: I am retired and will be 65 this November. I am not collecting Social Security at this time. I am also covered by Federal Employees Health Benefits as my insurance plan. Does applying for Medicare and Social Security become more complicated or easier if I am already covered by FEHB? Do I have to pay for Medicare in addition to my FEHB payments?
Phil Moeller: Your FEHB plan is the exception to the rule that retiree health coverage always pays secondary and that Medicare is thus required. Your retiree coverage should continue to pay primary and you might not even need Medicare. Check with your benefits folks on this. If this is the case, then you need do nothing when you turn 65. Social Security, which administers Medicare enrollment, may send you a Medicare card after your 65th birthday. Assuming you won’t need Medicare, you should decline Medicare and send the card back. . . .
I am a retired federal civil servant living in Virginia and continued my Federal Employees Health Benefits in retirement. I am 66 years old and not collecting Social Security at this time. I was told by the FEHB carrier as well as the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services in Baltimore, Maryland that once I was covered by Medicare and no longer working, Medicare becomes the primary payer and FEHB becomes the secondary payer.
In addition, I also have Medicare Part B. That is required in order for me to be covered by my retired military health benefit, Tricare for Life.
So my question is about the exception to the rule in your response to Rick from Washington and if it is a law or statute that makes it the exception. And as both the FEHB and Medicare customer service representatives have stated that Medicare is primary and FEHB is secondary, could you provide the exception support?
Phil Moeller: Once you are on Medicare — which Tricare requires you to be — it will be the primary payer for claims, and your FEHB will become the secondary payer. However, FEHB cannot force you to get Medicare, so without the Tricare requirement, you could have avoided Medicare, and FEHB would have remained the primary payer.
The post My Medicare only provides minimal coverage out of state. What should I do? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — A U.S. drone strike on Friday targeted a senior military commander of al-Shabab in Somalia, the Pentagon said Wednesday, adding that they can’t confirm yet if he was killed.
U.S. officials also said that American forces provided some support to an African-led military operation in Somalia that targeted Mohamed Dulyadayn, who is believed to be the mastermind of the Garissa University attack in Kenya in April 2015 which killed 148 people. Dulyadayn is also known as Kuno Gamadere.
The officials were not authorized to discuss the operation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. They said they did not have details of that operation and they have not yet confirmed if Dulyadayn was killed. They said the U.S. did not conduct the operation, but provided advice and assistance.
Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said that the U.S. drone strike in south-central Somalia targeted Abdullahi Haji Da’ud, a key coordinator of al-Shabab attacks in the region. Da’ud also previously served as head of the group’s intelligence.
“We are confident that the removal from the terrorist network of this experienced al-Shabaab commander with extensive operational experience will disrupt near-term attack planning, potentially saving many innocent lives,” Cook said, adding that the U.S. is still assessing the results of the strike.
The strike comes two months after a similar drone attack in Somalia killed an al-Shabab leader, Hassan Ali Dhoore.
Dhoore helped facilitate a deadly Christmas Day 2014 attack at Mogadishu International Airport and a March 2015 attack at the Maka al-Mukarramah Hotel.
The U.S. has routinely provided support, including helicopter transportation at times, for troops from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which is the peacekeeping operation there.
Associated Press writer Tom Odula in Nairobi contributed to this report.
The post U.S. confirms drone strike against Somali militant commander appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — The judge in a class action lawsuit against Trump University on Wednesday ordered some records that have been released to be yanked from public view.
U.S. District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel late Tuesday ordered some released documents to be resealed and resubmitted with sections blacked-out. He said some records had “mistakenly” been released Friday, when he ordered some documents made public.
Trump University is the target of two lawsuits in San Diego and one in New York that accuse the business of fleecing students with unfulfilled promises to teach secrets of success in real estate.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has maintained that customers were overwhelmingly satisfied with the offerings.
At a rally in San Diego on Friday, he accused the judge of being “hostile” and a “hater of Donald Trump,” and raised questions about Curiel’s ethnicity.
“The judge, who happens to be, we believe, Mexican, which is great, I think that’s fine,” Trump said of Curiel, who was born in the U.S.
It was the second time Trump has brought up the judge’s ethnicity as he complained about his treatment.
Likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign leapt on the new details contained in the unsealed documents, including the organization’s strategies for encouraging prospective students to dip into their savings or find other means of making payments they couldn’t afford.
“Money is never a reason for not enrolling in Trump University; if they really believe in you and your product, they will find the money,” a playbook reads.
Clinton contends that Trump intends to defraud the American people.
As Trump steamrolled through the GOP primary, some of his rivals raised Trump University as a liability for the businessman and at least five different outside groups mentioned the business in attack ads. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio used the school in campaign speeches as part of his failed attempt to blunt the real estate mogul’s political rise.
The post Now-defunct Trump University opens presidential hopeful to criticism appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — Fresh problems for “Obamacare”: The largest health insurer in Texas wants to raise its rates on individual policies by an average of nearly 60 percent, a new sign that President Barack Obama’s overhaul hasn’t solved the problem of price spikes.
Texas isn’t alone. Citing financial losses under the health care law, many insurers around the country are requesting bigger premium increases for 2017. That’s to account for lower-than-hoped enrollment, sicker-than-expected customers and problems with the government’s financial backstop for insurance markets.
The national picture will take weeks to fill in. With data available for about half the states, premium increases appear to be sharper, but there are also huge differences between states and among insurers. Health insurance is priced locally.
Earlier this week, North Carolina’s largest insurer said it will seek an average increase of 18.8 percent.
A recent analysis of nine states by the consulting firm Avalere Health found that average premium increases for the most popular kind of plan ranged from 5 percent in Washington state to 44 percent in Vermont.
Millions of customers will be shielded from price hikes by government subsidies, which typically cover more than 70 percent of the premiums. People who don’t have access to a workplace plan can buy a policy directly on the health law’s marketplaces.
But many consumers aren’t eligible for the income-based subsidies and get no such protection. That demographic includes small business owners, self-employed people and early retirees. Under the law, most Americans are required to have health insurance or risk being fined.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas has about 603,000 individual policyholders and, unlike other insurers in the state, offers coverage in every county. In a recent filing with federal regulators, a summary of which is available on HealthCare.gov, the company said it is seeking increases averaging from 57.3 percent to 59.4 percent across its individual market plans.
In a statement, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas said its request is based on strong financial principles, science and data. “It’s also important to understand the magnitude of the losses … experienced in the individual retail market over the past two years,” the statement said. The company says it lost $592 million last year and $416 million in 2014.
Texas is the health care law’s third-largest market, after Florida and California. Texas state regulators said the insurer’s request is confidential and they can’t comment on it. However, Insurance Department spokesman Ben Gonzalez said the state can withdraw approval if the request doesn’t meet requirements and standards in Texas law.
Wichita Falls insurance broker Kelly Fristoe said the burden of premium increases will fall hardest on rural communities where Blue Cross Blue Shield is in many cases is the only option. Metropolitan areas like Houston, Dallas, and Austin attract more insurers.
“This is going to be a very big disrupter of the market,” said Fristoe. Some relatively healthy people “would probably be willing to roll the dice and take their chances” by dropping coverage, even if it means they might be fined.
The insurer cautioned that the average premiums filed with regulators don’t represent the true bottom line for individual consumers. Some people may find that even with a higher premium, the coverage remains a good value.
Regulators can request more information from the company, but the federal government can’t order Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas to roll back the increases, said Larry Levitt, an expert on the health care law at the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.
“Given how much money (the company) lost, it’s likely that a substantial rate increase is merited,” Levitt said.
The Obama administration said concerns about 2017 premiums are premature and overblown.
In a statement, the Health and Human Services Department said the Texas rate request is just the beginning of a process. Consumers in Texas and other states will have lower-premium options when sign-up season begins Nov. 1. If they don’t like what their current insurer is charging for 2017, they can switch.
“Consumers will have the final word when they vote with their feet during open enrollment,” said the statement.
Big premium hikes from a single insurance company have had an impact on the health care debate before.
Back in early 2010, when Obama’s health care legislation appeared stalled in Congress, WellPoint’s planned 39 percent increase for some California customers galvanized the White House and its supporters to action. Obama signed the landmark legislation a few weeks later.
WellPoint is now Anthem, the nation’s second-largest insurer. In its home state of Indiana, it is currently seeking premium hikes from nearly 20 percent to 41 percent for coverage under the health care law.
Associated Press writers Jamie Stengle in Dallas and Tom Murphy in Indianapolis contributed to this report.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Now back to Gwen in Elkhart, Indiana.
Here’s more from her wide-ranging interview with the president.
GWEN IFILL: Many people, including probably some folks in this room…
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Yes.
GWEN IFILL: … think the deficits have gone up and the jobless rate has gone up, and, in fact, that their lives have not improved.
How — in fact, we have the nominee for — the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party saying, Donald Trump, saying America is a Third World nation. How do you persuade or, I suppose, how does your likely Democratic successor, possible, persuade anybody that’s not true?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, it’s important you said my successor, because Michelle would be very upset if she thought I was running again.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Look, you just look at the evidence here in Elkhart, as you mentioned in the introduction. When I took office, this was the first city I came to.
And unemployment about a month after I took office, a month-and-a-half after I took office, was almost 20 percent. One out of 10 people were behind on their mortgage or in foreclosure. Today, the unemployment rate is around 4 percent. It’s only about one in 30 people who are behind on their mortgage.
Now, the R.V. industry, which is central to Elkhart, is on track to break records in terms of sales. And so that doesn’t mean that folks aren’t struggling in some circumstances. And one of the things that I have emphasized is that there are some long-term trends in the economy that we have to tackle, in terms of wages not going up as fast as they used to, some big costs, like college costs or health care costs, that are still a challenge, people still worrying about retirement.
And so we’re going to have to make sure that we make some good decisions going forward. But the notion that somehow America is in decline is just not borne out by the facts.
GWEN IFILL: But it resonates. It resonates. There are a lot of aggrieved people who are voting in big numbers for Donald Trump.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, look, the — I think that what has always been true in American politics is that, when we have gone through a tough time — and we went through the worst financial crisis of our lifetimes. I’m looking around.
And I think it’s safe to say that it’s been the worst in the lifetimes or memories of most people here. Then you feel nervous.
People lost homes. People lost savings. People were worried about whether or not they could make ends meet. And so worse — even though we have recovered, people feel like the ground under their feet isn’t quite as solid.
And in those circumstances, a lot of times, it’s easy for somebody to come up and say, you know what, if we deport all the immigrants and build a wall, or if we cut off trade with China, or if we do X or Y or Z, that there’s some simple answer and, suddenly, everything’s going to feel secure. And…
GWEN IFILL: Why don’t you mention Donald Trump by name?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You know, he seems to do a good job mentioning his own name.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: So, I figure, you know, I will let him do his advertising for him.
GWEN IFILL: Do you consider at all that any of the support for him is backlash against you personally?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, here is one thing I would say.
And I just spoke about this at the local high school. I think Trump is a more colorful character than some of the other Republican elected officials.
But a lot of the story that he’s telling is entirely consistent with what folks have been saying about me or the general story they have been telling about the economy for the last seven-and-a-half, the last 10, the last 20, the last 30 years.
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