Talk for Article "Fact check: Bernie Sanders’ claims about the economy"

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    “Half of older workers have no retirement savings

    Mostly True. The trouble comes in defining what “older workers” means. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) determined it to be 55 years. Using 2013 data from the Survey of Consumer Finances, GAO found that 52 percent of Americans over the age of 55 had no retirement money except social security. Though 23 percent of this group have some sort of defined benefit pension plan, including work sponsored IRAs.”

    This is incorrect. The “trouble”, if there is one, comes from defining what “retirement savings” are. As I understand it an IRA account is a savings account for retirement, subject to certain rules about how the money can be used. A defined benefits plan is a plan with a capital value that yields a certain income on retirement. Both of these are certainly some form of retirement savings. To say that GAO found that “52 percent of Americans over the age of 55 had no retirement money except social security” is a skewed reading and misleading to the reader.

    In case you think I’m quibbling here, let me put it this way. Do you have an IRA or a DB plan? If you do, and you feel that these give you “no retirement money” then would you be happy to sell them to me for $5? After all, if they aren’t money, that’s a net profit to you.

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      The details you shared are invaluable, our current version shares all this context, it uses the definition of ” retirement saving” as described and used by the GAO, no?

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        I do not accept that individuals with DB or IRA plans can be described as “had no retirement money”. To say that some number of people “had no retirement money” and then say that some subgroup of them have DB or IRA plans is contradictory.

        Further problem, in that the GAO figure for households with no savings outside IRA or DC plans is 41% and not 52%. The figure for households with no savings at all is 13%.

        I maintain that the assertion of Sanders is not as claimed “Mostly True” but “False”.

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          I think you are mostly right, this part of the GAO report defines the retirement saving as follows :

          ” Retirement Savings: Introduced over 30 years ago, two primary types of retirement savings vehicles currently exist: employment-sponsored DC plans (such as 401(k) plans) and IRAs”

          By the way, it’s mentioned that there’s no copyrights on the GAO document, maybe we should copy the charts and paste them to our fact checking reports so the readers can see the holistic picture.

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            I propose to dedicate a full fact checking report for claim # 3, there are a lot of details and many age groups, each of which has its own characters, I will volunteer to copy the charts to the news fact checking reports.

            In short, Sanders made a big and vague statement, we should fact check it in details. what do you think?

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    It seems Sanders relied on these two surveys to support his claims:


    2- May 2015 report requested by ranking members of the congress :

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      Well, firstly one would like to understand better the reliability of a survey rather vaguely described as “GOBankingRates polled adults across the U.S. using three Google Consumer Surveys to find out how much the average American has saved for retirement”. That survey claims that only 13.7% of Americans have zero saving for retirement. The GAO survey reports that about 52% of households have no savings in IRA or DC plans and 30% have no savings or DC plans. The discrepancy is presumably due to people with savings that are in non-IRA vehicles.

      Probably the best summary is from the GAO report: “About 55 percent of households age 55-64 have less than $25,000 in retirement savings, including 41 percent who have zero (see fig. 2 for additional detail). Most of the households in this age group have some other resources or benefits from a DB plan, but 27 percent of this age group have neither retirement savings nor a DB plan.”

      Since DB and DC plans are forms of savings, it seems that the best figure for “older workers with no retirement savings” is 27%, and that the claim “Half of older workers have no retirement savings” is false.

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        I do agree with you we may rely on the GAO report, it’s the only official report I found concerning this issue, you may notice that the report was very precise in the used language, the second line of the reports says ” About half of households age 55 and older have no retirement savings (such as in a 401(k) plan or an IRA)” while the pie chart shows ” 48 % some retirement saving” .

        How about citing the GAO report and provide the reader with the whole context?

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    A general point: it needs to be clarified that the definition(s) of poverty in this article are househild income relative to a threshold figure deemed sufficient to support a household of the type in question. This needs to be made clear as some definitions of poverty are about relative household income: in other words, are more a measure of inequality than isufficiency nof income.

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    Extreme poverty: the article says 13.5M, the UNHRC report says 18.5M. That report cites this US Census report which supports the 40M figure, and gives 18.5M as the number of people in households with income less than 50% of threshold, presumably the definition of “extreme poverty” though this needs to be clarified as that phrase is not used in the census report. I can’t find the 5.3M “absolute poverty” at all.

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