Two unrelated notes pertaining to the pandemic:
I’m not sure how widely know this is — it has been reported by a number of news outlets – but those Americans who turned 60 in 2020 face an adverse, and potentially significantly adverse, Coronavirus-related reduction in their lifetime Social Security benefits if Congress fails to enact a remedy in 2021. The potential shortfall arises from the manner in which Social Security calculates recipients’ benefits, which is based on the average wages of all workers in the year in which they turn 60. Average wages fell notably from 2019 to 2020 due to the COVID-induced recession. It is well worth recording on these pages since several that read these posts were born in 1960.
This issue could arguably have been rectified as part of the recent COVID relief package, but wasn’t. Members of Congress are aware of this impending “notch” in benefits, and there appears to be bipartisan support for fixing it; a couple of bills have been introduced to alleviate the irregularity. That said, this is a problem deserving immediate attention; those that turned 60 in 2020 will be eligible to start claiming benefits as they hit age 62 during 2022, and at that point, it will seemingly become more difficult to unscramble the egg. The links below are to articles, now spanning almost a year, calling attention to the issue. One of the pieces reports that those turning 60 in 2009 faced a similar “notch” due to the Great Recession that was never addressed.
Separately: all who care are aware that the average weekly number of Coronavirus vaccines being administered across America is beginning to decline. Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal ran an account, “Officials Push to Encourage Shots,” which reported that nonprofit sources project that the United States’ supply of vaccines will exceed demand within the next month. We are apparently yet reasonably far from achieving herd immunity. Public health officials across the country are now devising programs on vaccine education to overcome the hesitancy of some citizens to get the shots and on making it more convenient for some population segments – not only those facing employment, transportation, or other barriers, but those whom the article refers to as “unmotivated” — to become vaccinated. It was presumably to these “unmotivated” that an Alabama health official was referring when described in the article as declaring that he is ready to get down on his knees and beg residents to get shots.
The programs that these health professionals are initiating are obviously vital, and all efforts should be undertaken and no expense spared to get vaccinated those who truly seek the vaccine but are constrained by barriers beyond their control. That said, there are people dying across the globe – e.g., India is on the brink of collapse, and Brazil remains in chaos — that would do whatever was within their power to obtain protection if vaccinations were available to them. While being mindful that we need to maintain sufficient production and supply to provide boosters to vaccinated Americans if, as Pfizer has already suggested, such might be necessary, I would favor an Administration announcement on May 1 that starting August 1 – after all Americans wishing to be vaccinated will have had at least ten weeks to receive readily-available shots — the United States will start to divert its vaccine supply and priorities from the United States to other countries in need, and that there will no longer be a vaccine availability guarantee or federal funding available to vaccinate those Americans who had not already been vaccinated.
A suggestion born of exasperation with obstinacy? Clearly. Even so: what would you wager that if currently-unvaccinated Americans believed that the Administration meant what it said — that indeed, as of a certain deadline, they couldn’t be sure of getting vaccinated even if they wanted to — another 10% to 20% of our people (which, according to the Wall Street Journal article, health experts believe would put us pretty close to herd immunity) wouldn’t overcome their recalcitrance and find a way to get their shots?