Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, just singled out Social Security Works for our “unreasonableness on Social Security.”
He’s right. We won’t stand quietly by while Senate Republicans attempt to cut our earned Social Security benefits.
Social Security is the nation’s most successful anti-poverty program and it remains a fundamental pillar of the American economy—one that is critical to the long-term economic security of today’s young people. The National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) and EPI just released an updated and revised version of A Young Person’s Guide to Social Security, a comprehensive 60-page guide written by young authors for students and young workers. The new edition, published jointly by NASI and the Economic Policy Institute, reflects the latest official estimates in the 2015 Social Security Trustees’ report.
1. Bakken crude oil is more volatile than heavy crude oil, and rail tankers currently in use are prone to rupture when derailed. Since 2013, twelve accidents have occurred involving tankers carrying oil, much of it Bakken crude, in the U.S. and Canada, always almost always resulting in large spills and sometimes in explosive fires. Trains of tankers roll through Rochester. “Mothersoutfront” is an organization working to address the dangers of current transport practice.
2. Tourism in the Finger Lakes, the wine industry, and agriculture broadly have deep importance, deep investment, in New York State, and each critically depend on good fresh water. New York is blessed with water, yet a threat from hydrofracking remains. It is critical now to move the temporary ban on fracking to permanent status.
This year marks the 80th anniversary of Social Security and the 50th for Medicare and Medicaid.
*There is a retirement security crisis in the US since older workers will have to work longer and are anxious about retirement.
*A comprehensive national solution must address the severe gender and racial disparities in wealth and retirement income.
*Social Security and SSI must be preserved and strengthened and a majority of Americans favor expanding it, yet many in Washington are determined to cut it.
*Two out of three seniors rely on SS for most of their income.
*SS should be expanded and funded by wealthy individuals paying SS contributions on all of their earnings beyond $118,500 limit.
*Medicare is fully funded through 2030.
*In addition to enhancing Medicare’s benefits, the ACA (Obamacare) will save Medicare more than $700 billion in wasteful spending over the next 10 years.
*The way to rein in costs — getting providers to become more efficient and deliver care in more cost effective ways.
*Ways to improve Medicare: budget proposals that allow the federal government to negotiate prices for medicines, restoring Medicare’s ability to benefit from the same drug discounts that Medicaid receives, and closure of the donut hole.
The White House Conference on the Aging on July 13 (conference every 10 years) — 19 groups are urging the WH to include SS expansion as a key piece of it’s policy agenda. (YOU CAN SIGN PETITION at Alliance for Retired Americans or Social Security Works).
Republican candidates for president want to cut SS and Medicare and there are senate democrats that want this also.
Senator Claire McCaskill recently pointed out that Bernie Sanders is a socialist and has extreme views because “he wants Medicare for all in this country and would like to see expansion of entitlement.”
(Sources: Alliance for Retired Americans and Huffington Post)
RAW is once again Peace Action & Education, the antiwar task force of Metro Justice. It recently organized an unusually well reported Memorial Day Peace Parade. Its members are focused on the latest US war efforts: ongoing drone killings, Iraq/ Syria escalations vs ISIS, and growing hostilities against Russia and China.
SUMMER READING RECOMMENDATIONS:
Three excellent books trace the history of weaponized drones. The first is an insider’s detailed account of the development and first deployment of weaponized drones targeting Bin Laden (before 9/11). The other two books are brilliant critical analyses of the politics of US drone killings and their contradictions (like: why does a drone designed to “precisely” target an individual use an anti-tank missile?)
The latest news from Upstate anti-drone activists at Hancock Air Base near Syracuse:
On Saturday, four activists were found guilty of trespassing for attempting to read aloud outside the Base a list of children killed by U.S. drones. The judge, once again, did not allow expert defense testimony on international law, the rationale for the activism.
MIDDLE EAST AND ISIS:
These links elucidate the rise and threat of ISIS and the US military options:
The Rise of ISIS and the Origins of the New Middle East War by TARIQ ALI and PATRICK COCKBURN (Patrick Cockburn is by far the best source on ISIS)
Bombing ISIS Into Existence by Jony Wight (compares ISIS emergence in Iraq to Khmer Rouge rise in Cambodia after US bombing)
THE US “PIVOT TO ASIA,” THE TPP, AND MILITARY CONTAINMENT OF CHINA:
These links explain Obama’s urgent push for the Transpacific Partnership, Hillary’s seminal role, and the refocused military policy from the Middle East to Asia (Russia and China):
The video below shows the police taking Joe Woods’ daughter as collateral to coerce Joe to turn over his house to MidFirst Bank.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘ransom’ as a consideration paid or demanded for the release of someone in captivity. The Rochester Police held Audrey for ransom in a civil matter between Joe Woods and a commercial entity headquartered in Oklahoma.
Audrey awoke that morning to find her home being surrounded with crime tape. She went outside to see what was happening, and was told that they had a half hour to vacate. However, when Audrey attempted to go back in, she was told she would be arrested if she did. Upon insisting and entering the house, she was taken into custody.
This video shows Audrey being arrested, and then shows her sisters being allowed to reenter the house.
Shortly after, the police informed Joe that Audrey would be released to him with no charges filed if he abandoned the home and went with them to get her. Joe complied because he was concerned about his daughter. He followed them to a nearby quick shop where she was released, but a charge of obstructing government administration was still filed, despite the promise made to Joe.
TELL MAYOR WARREN AND CHIEF CIMINELLI THAT POLICE COMPLICITY WITH THE IMMORAL AND ILLEGAL BANK FORECLOSURE TACTICS MUST STOP!
by Paul Krugman The New York Times September 1, 2014
So, what do you think about those Medicare numbers? What, you haven’t heard about them? Well, they haven’t been front-page news. But something remarkable has been happening on the health-spending front, and it should (but probably won’t) transform a lot of our political debate.
The story so far: We’ve all seen projections of giant federal deficits over the next few decades, and there’s a whole industry devoted to issuing dire warnings about the budget and demanding cuts in Socialsecuritymedicareandmedicaid. Policy wonks have long known, however, that there’s no such program, and that health care, rather than retirement, was driving those scary projections. Why? Because, historically, health spending has grown much faster than G.D.P., and it was assumed that this trend would continue.
But a funny thing has happened: Health spending has slowed sharply, and it’s already well below projections made just a few years ago. The falloff has been especially pronounced in Medicare, which is spending $1,000 less per beneficiary than the Congressional Budget Office projected just four years ago.
This is a really big deal, in at least three ways.
First, our supposed fiscal crisis has been postponed, perhaps indefinitely. The federal government is still running deficits, but they’re way down. True, the red ink is still likely to swell again in a few years, if only because more baby boomers will retire and start collecting benefits; but, these days, projections of federal debt as a percentage of G.D.P. show it creeping up rather than soaring. We’ll probably have to raise more revenue eventually, but the long-term fiscal gap now looks much more manageable than the deficit scolds would have you believe.
Second, the slowdown in Medicare helps refute one common explanation of the health-cost slowdown: that it’s mainly the product of a depressed economy, and that spending will surge again once the economy recovers. That could explain low private spending, but Medicare is a government program, and shouldn’t be affected by the recession. In other words, the good news on health costs is for real.
But what accounts for this good news? The third big implication of the Medicare cost miracle is that everything the usual suspects have been saying about fiscal responsibility is wrong.
For years, pundits have accused President Obama of failing to take on entitlement spending. These accusations always involved magical thinking on the politics, assuming that Mr. Obama could somehow get Republicans to negotiate in good faith if only he really wanted to. But they also implicitly dismissed as worthless all the cost-control measures included in the Affordable Care Act. Inside the Beltway, cost control apparently isn’t considered real unless it involves slashing benefits. One pundit went so far as to say, after the Obama administration rejected proposals to raise the eligibility age for Medicare, “America gets the shaft.”
It turns out, however, that raising the Medicare age would hardly save any money. Meanwhile, Medicare is spending much less than expected, and those Obamacare cost-saving measures are at least part of the story. The conventional wisdom on what is and isn’t serious is completely wrong.
While we’re on the subject of health costs, there are two other stories you should know about.
One involves the supposed savings from running Medicare through for-profit insurance companies. That’s the way the drug benefit works, and conservatives love to point out that this benefit has ended up costing much less than projected, which they claim proves that privatization is the way to go. But the budget office has a new report on this issue, and it finds that privatization had nothing to do with it. Instead, Medicare Part D is costing less than expected partly because enrollment has been low and partly because an absence of new blockbuster drugs has led to an overall slowdown in pharmaceutical spending.
The other involves the “sticker shock” that opponents of health reform have been predicting for years. Bulletin: It’s still not happening. Over all, health insurance premiums seem likely to rise only modestly next year, and they are on track to be flat or even falling in several states, including Connecticut and Arkansas.
What’s the moral here? For years, pundits and politicians have insisted that guaranteed health care is an impossible dream, even though every other advanced country has it. Covering the uninsured was supposed to be unaffordable; Medicare as we know it was supposed to be unsustainable. But it turns out that incremental steps to improve incentives and reduce costs can achieve a lot, and covering the uninsured isn’t hard at all.
When it comes to ensuring that Americans have access to health care, the message of the data is simple: Yes, we can.
Date: Wednesday, June 4th
Time: 6:00 pm PDT, 7:00 PM MDT, 8:00 PM CDT, 9:00 PM EDT
Number: (559) 726-1300; Access Code: 781761#
About the Call Wednesday
Congress has cut 14 out of the last 16 SSA budget requests. The SSA’s administrative budget doesn’t affect the deficit; Social Security is 100% self-funded. Administration costs less than 1% of the SSA budget. These cuts don’t help the fiscal health of Social Security. They hurt Social Security recipients.
The annual statement of benefits is no longer mailed. Field offices are closing, down to 46 from 92 in 2010. Busy signals on SSA’s phone lines have doubled in the last year. Wait times for disability hearings are now at 396 days. Slated for elimination are SS# printouts and benefit verification forms needed by low income recipients who apply for other forms of assistance.
Join our guest Mr. Witold Skwierczynski, president of the American Federation of Government Employees National Council of SSA Field Operations Locals. AFGE Council 220 represents about 25,000.00 Social Security employees in field offices and telephone centers nationwide.
AFGE Council 220 members working at Social Security are as frustrated as many beneficiaries. They are actively opposing the austerity agenda to eliminate Social Security’s human interaction with beneficiaries and claimants.
Join our call to hear about plans to decimate Social Security, what the American Federation of Government Employees is doing, and what PDA can do to help save Social Security.
If you cannot make the call, click here to find the recording link (please scroll down to almost the bottom of the page and look to the right column to find links to the prior months’ calls). All issue team calls are posted by 9 am EST the next day on the team’s web page, following the live call.
Please join our Google group for discussion of legislation.
Please click on the links to the legislation above and VOTE on PopVox. This is a tool that Congressional members do use to get information on public support for or against legislation. Your input is crucial!
Economic and Social Justice Team Mission
The enormous wealth disparity between the top 1% and the rest of America is an unsustainable economic and social injustice. We are committed to an economic recovery that employs all those willing and able, that houses all those needing shelter, and that imposes the cost based on the ability to pay. To find out more about our team, please visit us here.
PDA Letter Drops
Next Letter Drop: June 18th
Letter drops may be scheduled anytime during the week of June 15th. Once you have completed you letter drop, let us know and we will follow up with a phone call. Remember, the purpose is to make our elected representatives in the Congress aware of progressive legislation and to educate them on it, and we can’t do it without you, and there are a number of way to do this. Some folks just drop off the letter, while others schedule appointments to speak to staffers in their home district offices. Some go as individuals, some go as groups, and some go with a coalition. How ever you decide to do it, we’d love to get a picture of you delivering the letter.
For more information about the letter drops, please go here: Educate Congress Page. The letter you download can be customized and includes basic information on the legislation. It’s simple, and it makes a difference!
PDA Round Table in Washington DC
Next Round Table: June 18th
Join us either online by clicking here or in person each month. This month we unveiled our new 21st Century Civil Rights Agenda at the Progressive Roundtable and were joined by Congressmen Keith Ellison (MN-05), John Conyers (MI-13), and Jim McGovern (MA-02). Plus, we enjoyed the exciting company of leaders such as Michael Lighty, Political Director, National Nurses United; Mark Dudzic, National Coordinator of the Labor Campaign for Single Payer Healthcare; Stephen Miles, Coalition Coordinator of Win Without War; and Larry Syverson of Military Families Speak Out. You can watch the PDA Round Table LIVE or check back anytime at your convenience for the most recent broadcast.
Latest News from our Page
AFGE Fights Back on 2025!
SSA Bargaining Unit Employees: SSA is now seeking your ideas for a Vision 2025 plan. What SSA is not telling you is that they already have a draft plan that is a product of the Academy with the framework of that plan given to the Academy by SSA leadership. The draft plan…
Read more here!
Invisible Social Security Cuts: Now You See Them, Now You Don’t
The unseen hand of antigovernment ideology can be found everywhere nowadays – even in your mailbox. The proof is in what you won’t find there, like your annual statement of earned Social Security benefits. The government stopped mailing those out in 2011. It’s also getting a lot harder to find Social Security…
Read more here!
Sign the Sanders Petition!
We don’t want a spoiler during the 2016 election. We want great Progressives to run for office and reclaim the Democratic party. This is what our inside/outside strategy is all about! If you haven’t yet, sign the petition (click below) asking Bernie Sanders to run in the presidential race as a Democrat.
Issue Team Calls
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PDA Letter Drops
Next Letter Drop: June 18th
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Wednesday, June 18th
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PDA Radio Shows
Negotiations to extend emergency benefits for the long-term jobless came to a standstill in the Senate on Tuesday. That leaves more than 1.4 million people without federal unemployment aid at least until late January, when lawmakers are likely to resume consideration of the legislation. For more than a week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) kept the Senate focused on restoring expired emergency unemployment benefits, an effort that failed in two separate votes. The chamber voted 52-48 (see tally at http://tinyurl.com/mpk4xgl) to reject a proposal to extend benefits through November and pay for it by extending the sequester’s mandatory spending cuts into 2024. A different measure, to extend aid for three months — without a pay-for — was defeated 55-45 (http://tinyurl.com/mzxoo7d). Republicans fumed that Reid was limiting consideration of amendments. Some amendments would have offered savings by eliminating the ability of the disabled and unemployed to receive both federal disability payments and jobless aid.
“Some amendments, pushed strongly by the Republicans, would have taken away Social Security Unemployment Insurance for the low-income disabled,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance. “These amendments would have treated people with significant disabilities who receive Social Security Disability Insurance differently from other American workers, and harmed the economic security of these beneficiaries and their families.”
Reid believes that next week’s holiday recess will motivate Republicans to extend unemployment benefits without strings attached. “Jobless constituents will no doubt be giving Republican Senators a piece of their mind,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.
Spending Bill: Limited Relief for Some Military Retirees, but Tax Loopholes Remain
Disabled military retirees were given a reprieve from a controversial pension cut, but working age military retirees were not, as the House and Senate passed a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill this week. The appropriations measure keeps intact a provision from the budget agreement President Obama signed into law last month reducing cost-of-living adjustments for working-age military retirees by 1 percent starting in December 2015. A higher rate would apply again once the former service members reach age 62 (http://tinyurl.com/lp5af2u).
The bill does not close any corporate tax loopholes, or force the super wealthy to pay their fair share. One tax break that still exists lets corporations avoid paying taxes to any nation on their financial income earned by foreign subsidiaries, so long as those profits remain offshore. The “active financing exception,” lets GE and Wall Street banks shift their profits to foreign subsidiaries in order to avoid paying their fair share. All they have to do is claim that their U.S.-based financing income is actually being earned in offshore tax havens. Some call it the “GE Tax Loophole” because it is a primary reason the company has succeeded in getting a tax refund from the U.S. government in at least three recent years, according to the group Americans for Tax Fairness.
“GE and Citigroup like the active financing exception, but the rest of us shouldn’t,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “Our country loses $11 billion in tax revenue every two years to it.”
GAO Reports on Drug Companies That Listed the Wrong Prices Online
Last Friday, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report finding that during the first seven months of 2013, 25% of Medicare Part D contracts had one or more plans suppressed from Plan Finder, the Medicare website seniors use to choose their drug plans, due to pricing inaccuracy. The GAO also found that between January 1, 2009 and July 31, 2013, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) had taken more than 150 official compliance actions against plans for pricing inaccuracy- issuing 89 notices of noncompliance and 67 warning letters. The report was requested in April by U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Susan Collins (R-ME), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, amid concerns over the reliability and usability of the Plan Finder website.
When a plan is suppressed from the Plan Finder website, its pricing information is removed and beneficiaries are unable sign up for the plan on site until the sponsor submits accurate prices. In cases where plan sponsors repeatedly submit false or incomplete information, CMS can take further action. The full GAO report is at http://tinyurl.com/lj452eb.
Koch Brothers Invade Pennsylvania
According to the DailyKos blog, wealthy conservative brothers Charles and David Koch are talking to Republican Governor Tom Corbett to move legislation this winter and spring to outlaw union dues deduction for all state and local public employees. It is the same kind of legislation Governors Scott Walker passed in Wisconsin and John Kasich tried to pass in Ohio. Philadelphia City Paper stated that a likely vehicle for this effort is House Bill 1507. The legislation would make it impossible for public-sector unions to automatically collect dues from their members’ paychecks and eliminate the required “fair share fee” from workers who do not join. The legislation would also make it impossible for unions to automatically deduct optional donations to labor political funds. More from the Daily Kos is at http://tinyurl.com/lx7qf7w.
At NAFTA’s 20-Year Anniversary, an Assessment
In 1993, the U.S., Mexico and Canada signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Recently, CWA posted an item in their newsletter (http://tinyurl.com/m7nglg3) documenting a string of broken promises since the signing twenty years ago. The U.S. has seen some 700,000 jobs move to Mexico. U.S. employer threats – made during organizing campaigns to close plants if workers voted for a union – rose from 29% in the mid-1980s, to 50% in the two years following the adoption of NAFTA, to 57% during the mid-2000s.
Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and others have all documented worsening conditions and eroding standards for workers both in the U.S. and Mexico. Meanwhile, as corporations took advantage of Mexico’s low wages, Americans have witnessed downward pressure on their own wages. The U.S. trade surplus with Mexico is now long-gone, as well. You can see the rest of CWA’s Broken Promises report at http://tinyurl.com/ly8mkxc. It outlines what happened over the past 20 years and what it means for future trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
When we defend Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid we should take care to ground our support in the life experience of social classes. These programs are of vital importance to poor people who are unemployed or under employed and to the working class that has limited sources for retirement or health care. These programs are not personal investments, they are social investments. They provide, or should provide, a basic standard of living and health care for all our citizens. The expenditures should help rectify some of the class-based inequality of our capitalist system.
Quote from page 118 of Philip Mirowski’s new book.
“The neoliberal dismissal of effective social categories has had other consequences. For instance, during the 2008-10 crisis, the Obama administration encountered great difficulty in rolling back regressive tax cuts of the previous administration, because it had equally invested in the ludicrous language of “not raising the taxes of the middle class.” They became bogged down in a game of guessing where the upper tax boundary of that elusive middle class might be found: $100,000, $200,000, $250,000, $1 million? This was occurring when the median household income in the United States (2009) was $51,221 and the average per capita annual money income was $27,041; the public discourse was consequently conducted in a pristine fact-free zone. Or in another instance, all social insurance schemes that are necessarily based upon membership in economic classes are undermined by the abolition of class as a voluntary category of self-identity. Pension and Social Security schemes can be personalized and then privatized only when the target population has been stripped of all notions of justice as rooted in class solidarity; once the authority begins to recast its provision of an insurance scheme as a “personal investment,” and retreats to justification of such schemes as “getting back what you (alone) put in,” then the neoliberals have won half the battle.”
Mirowski, Philip. 2013. Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown. London & New York: Verso. http://www.versobooks.com/books/1416-never-let-a-serious-crisis-go-to-waste.
If the label neoliberal confuses you, it helps to know that is not part of the media labeling of US ideologies that range from conservative (Sen. Orin Hatch) to liberal (Sen. Elizabeth Warren). The term neoliberal is applied to economists, legal scholars, and other social scientists who emphasize the concepts of “markets” and “freedom.” They don’t trust democracy or populist social movements to maintain a well ordered market society. They extol individualism and reject any sort of class or community solidarity. Neoliberal policies may be advocated and enacted by a wide range of Republican and Democratic politicians. Bill Clinton and Barrak Obama are strong advocates of neoliberal policies (school choice, vouchers, welfare reform, private health insurance, marketization of everything and so on ad nauseam). Neoliberal ideas are behind most of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank structural adjustment programs imposed on countries around the world, especially in the 1980s and 1990s.
The Republicans’ and some misguided Democrats’ focus on “fixing” Social Security’s projected 2033 deficit by reducing benefits or increasing the retirement age is an affront to people’s intelligence. The Congressional Budget Office examined dozens of ways to extend the present Social Security surplus beyond 75 years, and the highest revenue-yielding approach without decreasing benefits is simply to eliminate the cap on income that is taxed for the program (currently $113,700 a year).
Upper-middle-class and wealthy people should be happy that they are fortunate enough to be able to pay their fair share at the same percentage rate as their less fortunate fellow citizens. Why won’t Congress simply eliminate the cap? They won’t because Republicans place their highest priority on protecting the rich, and not the less fortunate and elderly in our society.
KENNETH N. TRAUB
Harry Reid: No Grand Bargain in the Near Future
Key Negotiator, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Does Not Want to Reduce Medicare Benefits
Detroit’s Bankruptcy Trial Begins
Troubling Trade Deal on the Horizon
New Hampshire and New Mexico Alliance Chapters Hold Conferences, Elect Officers
Here is your October 25, 2013 Friday Alert:
Harry Reid: No Grand Bargain in the Near Future
On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) ruled out the possibility that a budget conference committee convening next week will reach a “grand bargain” that would cut Social Security and Medicare, raise taxes and reduce spending. “We are not going to have a grand bargain in the near future,” he said. Instead, he suggested negotiators should focus on a replacement for sequestration and forget “happy talk” about a grand bargain. The comments came a week after the deal he reached with Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling.
A House-Senate budget conference will be established to come up with long-term spending plans by December 13, 2013. Congress faces a Jan. 15 deadline to fund the government again to prevent a shutdown, and a Feb. 7 deadline to raise the debt ceiling. Reid said a wider deal could happen next year if mainstream Republicans can take control of the GOP away from the Tea Party. Mr. Reid signaled that he could be open to minor trimming of some Medicare or Social Security spending as part of deal that involves tax revenue. More at http://tinyurl.com/pk6n5to.
“We still have to mobilize vigorously to make sure that seniors’ programs are not cut as part of the budget conference deal,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance.
Key Negotiator, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Does Not Want to Reduce Medicare Benefits
On Tuesday, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (MD), the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said that said he would be open to finding Medicare savings in ways that give care providers incentives to cut costs, but that he would want to avoid changes that reduce the benefits that Americans receive. He said he would consider some changes to Medicare. One idea that would be a tough sell with Democrats is a change in the way that cost-of-living increases are calculated in Social Security. The change would be made by adopting the less-generous gauge of inflation known as the chained CPI. Such a plan “creates a whole lot of problems within the Democratic caucus,” Van Hollen acknowledged. To read more, go to http://tinyurl.com/ofdwvhx.
Detroit’s Bankruptcy Trial Begins
The trial over the city of Detroit’s eligibility for bankruptcy began on Wednesday. In an unexpected development, a lawyer for Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said that the governor had agreed to testify at the trial, most likely next week. According to The New York Times, “Hundreds of protesters circled the downtown courthouse on Wednesday for the opening of the trial, many carrying banners and signs that attacked Mr. Snyder as favoring bondholders and banks over the city’s employees and its 23,000 retirees.” Lawyers for unions and retiree groups challenged an assertion that the city had made a good-faith effort to reach a deal with workers and retirees. They argued that the governor’s handpicked emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, called for significant cuts in employee pensions and health care without offering unions an opportunity to bargain on the issue. Jennifer Green, a lawyer for some city pension funds, said e-mails and documents showed that it was a “foregone conclusion” that Mr. Orr’s law firm would pursue a “Chapter 9” filing as a way to circumvent a provision in the Michigan Constitution that protects public employee pensions. The judge in the case wants more information on why the legislation was passed as an appropriations bill, which makes it immune from a referendum to repeal it. More at http://tinyurl.com/ldqs7lg. To see a great video from AFSCME regarding the Detroit bankruptcy filing, go to http://www.afscme.org/giftroit.
Troubling Trade Deal on the Horizon
Have you heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement? If not, you’re not alone – the American people, by design, know very little about what U.S. negotiators are promising in closed-door talks with Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and other countries. 600 corporate advisors have access to the text, but the rest of us do not. “What has come to light is that in addition to corporate-favored terms that would send American jobs offshore and decrease environmental and health safeguards, the TPP could undermine the ability of states or the federal government to moderate escalating prescription drug, biologic drug and medical device costs in public programs,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “That includes limiting the government’s ability to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs through Medicaid and the Veterans Administration.”
The Alliance is joining with labor, public interest groups and others in urging Congress and the President to make the process of these negotiations transparent, allow public input, and ensure that the TPP agreement and future trade agreements do not limit the tools of states or the federal government to manage pharmaceutical and medical device costs in public programs or bind the U.S. to a 12-year exclusivity period for brand-name biologic drugs. More at http://www.citizen.org/TPP.
New Hampshire and New Mexico Alliance Chapters Hold Conferences, Elect Officers
Thirty activists attended the New Hampshire Alliance’s conference in Hooksett last Friday. Elected to leadership positions on the board were: Lucy Edwards, President; Jane Lang, Executive Vice President; Terry Lochhead, Secretary; and Jerry Conner, Treasurer. One speaker, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, advised seniors to be engaged politically in order to protect Social Security and Medicare. She was quoted in the Manchester Union Leader saying, “If you don’t sit at the table, you will be on the menu. Seniors, get active; let everyone know you won’t be on the menu.”
The next day, New Mexico activists gathered in Albuquerque for the New Mexico Alliance for Retired Americans’ Triennial Convention. Guests gave engaging speeches on the convention theme of “Retirees Built the American Dream” to another crowd of 30. Following a keynote by state senator Linda Lopez, delegates elected: John “JD” Doran, President; Elva Santos, 1st Vice President; Sally Gallosa, 2nd Vice President; Carolyn Devore-Parks, Treasurer; and Carlos Caballero, Secretary. Other speakers included Rep. Michelle Lujan-Grisham (D), state Federation of Labor President Jon Hendry, state Attorney General Gary King, and State Reps. Sheryl Williams-Stapleton and Patricia Roybal-Caballero. Go to http://tinyurl.com/q88dzgb for Facebook photos. “I would like to say a big thank-you to both of our outgoing Presidents, Pablo Trujillo in New Mexico and Ron Geoffroy in New Hampshire, for their hard work and dedication to further the cause of retirees,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the national Alliance.
For a printable version of this document, go to http://bit.ly/16yi9vj.
Yesterday, the House and Senate agreed to a deal to fund the government through January 15, and to raise the debt ceiling through February 7. This is great news and your engagement helped make it happen! Congratulations and thank you.
Over the past two weeks, Alliance members and activists across the country joined hands with American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) members and called on their members of Congress to end the shutdown and lockout of federal employees. They stressed keeping Social Security and Medicare out of any so-called “grand bargain.”
The next important deadline for a bi-partisan deal is December 13th. We will continue to keep the pressure on and tell Congress: “No Cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.” Click here to drive the message home!
On October 3rd, we gathered with the House Progressive Caucus on Capitol Hill to speak out against the government shutdown, hostage-taking techniques and to form a human chain against the chained CPI. Alliance members and activists sent over 14,000 messages and made countless calls to their representatives to end the shutdown and pass a clean Continuing Resolution to fund the government, and no cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
This week, Alliance members and activists continued to gather at GOP congressional offices with the message “Cease and Desist,” urging leaders to stop the shutdown and pay our nation’s bills – without compromising on programs that working families rely on.
Thank you for your incredible dedication, initiative and creativity.
The next important deadline for a bi-partisan deal is December 13th. We will continue to keep the pressure on and tell Congress: “No Cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.” Click here to drive the message home! Together we can win this and keep these programs strong for all Americans.
Left: Deb Berko, Rich Miller and Ron Garland rally to protect Social Security from threatened cuts at Rep. Joe Heck’s office in Las Vegas.
Right: Missouri Alliance for Retired Americans at Rep. Luetkemeyer’s office in Jefferson City: “Cease and Desist,” “End the Shutdown,” “No Social Security cuts in a ‘grand bargain'”
Now, more than ever, we need to stand firm against Congressional hostage-taking tactics, and not allow unreasonable, partisan demands to erode the Social Security and Medicare benefits that Americans earned. As we near a debt ceiling agreement, it’s critical that members of Congress know it is not alright to break the promises of our earned benefit programs.
Today, more than 20 members of Congress are locking arms with activists at the U.S. Capitol to take a stand against the chained CPI and other damaging earned benefit cuts. No matter where you are, you can livestream it here now (10am Eastern time until 11:30)!
In particular, we must make sure that these hostage-taking schemes are not used to negotiate the Chained CPI formula change to seniors’ future Social Security cost-of-living adjustments, cutting their benefits. We also cannot allow Medicare costs to be shifted onto beneficiaries.
Today, citizens from around the country will join with over 20 members of Congress in front of the Capitol and form a human chain against the chained CPI and all benefit cuts that ask those with the least to continue sacrificing the most.
We will present a cake to Democratic committee’s members inside to thank Democrats for originally making Medicare possible. We will then march down to Harry Bronson’s office on University to present another cake, to thank him for supporting single payer in New York State. We will be done in time for those who want to go to Buffalo for the immigration rally.
Each year politicians come up with a new scheme to cut Social Security in an effort to balance the budget on the backs of seniors, children and the disabled. Each year we are forced to raise our voices and to say no these cuts. This year Politicians latest scheme is referred to as the Chained CPI. Chained CPI lowers Social Security cost of living adjustments by changing the statistical formula that the government uses to calculate the rate of inflation. In practice, what this complex Washington idea means is actually very simple: An immediate Social Security benefit cut to the benefits we earned that gets worse with each passing year. An average earner retiring at age 65 would lose over $6,000 over 15 years if the chained CPI were adopted.
Sen. Schumer has not signed on to the Senate Resolution that opposes the Chained CPI cut to Social Security
Suggested Message: “I would like to Thank Senator Schumer for his past support of Social Security. We were surprised that he has not joined with Senator Gillibrand in signing the Senate Resolution opposing the Chained CPI. I urge Senator Schumer to oppose the Chained CPI and any cuts to Social Security. Please sign on to the Senate Resolution opposing the Chained CPI.”
Senator Schumer’s Local Office Phone Numbers :
NYC – 202-224-6542 Rochester – 585-263-5866
Albany- 528-431-4070 Syracuse – 315-423-5471
Binghamton – 607-772-6792 Peekskill -914-734-1532
Buffalo -716-846- 4111 Long Island – 631-753-0978
Senator Schumer’s Washington Number: 202-224-6542
Max Richtman, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare President/CEO
In 1987, while the Staff Director of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, I helped develop legislation to create a Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E). The goal was to more accurately measure the prices and inflation seniors face, ultimately leading to more representative cost of living adjustments (COLAs) for America’s retirees. Never in my wildest dreams could I have predicted that, 26 years later, our nation would still be without an accurate CPI formula for millions of seniors, and that the CPI-E would still be considered “experimental.” Even in Washington, a quarter of a century should be enough for any experiment. It’s long past time for Congress to provide the resources needed for the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to finish it’s work on the CPI-E.
This is especially important now as many politicians in Washington hope to adopt a new formula called the chained CPI (C-CPI-U). Proponents of the C-CPI-U in the White House and Congress claim COLA accuracy is the goal, yet, they have also offered to “protect” millions of older beneficiaries, veterans, people with disabilities and low-income Americans from this change. You have to ask yourself, if this chained CPI really is more accurate, then why the need to offer an exemption to millions of people? The answer is simple. The chained CPI does not accurately measure these groups’ expenses; in fact, it makes most of the same errors as the current formula and adds a few. Adoption of this new formula is really about cutting benefits and raising taxes on average Americans to reduce the deficit.
The current formula, the CPI-W, reflects the expenditures of about 31 percent of households nationally; specifically, wage and clerical households in urban areas. By definition, this population is employed, unlike most retired Social Security beneficiaries. Research has shown that spending patterns differ between the elderly and the general population, especially on health care. Seniors 65 and older spend more than twice as much on health care, and those 75 and older spend nearly three times more than younger consumers. Not only do health care expenditures steadily increase with age but health care costs consistently rise much faster than general inflation. The current price index (CPI-W) does not take these critical differences in the elderly population into consideration. The chained CPI doubles-down on that flaw. Even worse, the proposed chained CPI will cut COLAs immediately for current and future retirees, veterans, the poor and people with disabilities.
For millions of seniors living on fixed incomes and the average $14,000 per year Social Security benefit, it’s frankly unimaginable that some in Washington believe those benefits are too generous. Our nation faces an impending retirement crisis yet rather than address that issue head-on; Washington is instead proposing cuts to the only guaranteed source of income for many retirees, Social Security. It simply makes no sense — unless your true goal is austerity not accuracy.
By Michael Hiltzik Los Angeles Times June 5, 2013
Fear-mongers and other critics of Social Security were silenced — momentarily — by the release last week of the annual trustees’ report for the programs. The report showed not only that it’s looking pretty good in the near term, but in the long term it’s more important to the sustenance of millions of Americans than ever before.
But policymakers and pundits have taken the wrong lesson from these findings. The argument they most often put forward is that Social Security is so important it must be “saved,” typically by cutting benefits to bring its outflow in line with its income.
But the right conclusion is that it should be expanded. This is the proper moment to do so, because the shortcomings of the rest of our retirement system have never been so obvious.
Friday, May 31, 2013 Go to original
(Washington, DC) — Social Security has a large and growing surplus, according to the 2013 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds, released today. This year’s report projects that in 2013 Social Security will run an annual surplus of $28 billion, bringing the accumulated surplus to about $2.8 trillion by the end of the year. The following are statements from the leaders of the Strengthen Social Security Coalition and Social Security Works:
“Today’s Social Security Trustees Report should give workers and their families renewed confidence. Social Security ran a surplus last year, is on track to run one this year, and has an accumulated surplus of $2.7 trillion. If Congress listens to the American people and requires millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share, the Report shows that all benefits can be paid for the next three quarters of a century and beyond. Indeed, the Report makes clear that our nation, the wealthiest in the world, can afford increased Social Security benefits, as a number of Senators and Representatives have wisely proposed.”
-Nancy Altman, Co-Chair of the Strengthen Social Security Campaign-
“The most important take-away from the 2013 Social Security Trustees Report is that, in good times and bad, our Social Security system works and it works well. No institution does more to protect the financial security and dignity of Americans. No institution is more carefully monitored or more conservatively managed. No pension, housing or other form of savings, are nearly as well positioned to address the nation’s impending retirement income crisis. Fully affordable and structurally sound, Social security will meet all its obligations to the American people as far as the eye can see, with only a modest increase in revenues.”
-Eric Kingson, Founding Co-Director of Social Security Works-
I think we need to get Schumer, a founding member of the Senate’s Strengthen Social Security Caucus, to cosponsor Harkin’s bill, or explain why not!!!! See items below. Doug Nobel
S. 567: Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013
Introduced:Mar 14, 2013 (113th Congress, 2013–2015)Sponsor:Sen. Thomas
“Tom” Harkin [D-IA]Status: Referred to Committee
This bill was assigned to a congressional committee on March 14,
2013, which will consider it before possibly sending it on to the
House or Senate as a whole.
Cosponsors: none !!!!!!
Social Security Caucus Has True Grit—Who Else Will Join
By Josh Rosenblum | January 27, 2011
The Social Security Caucus, who could also be known as the “True Grit”
Caucus began meeting today in the U.S. Senate. Senator Senator Chuck
Schumer (D-NY) today called
Social Security “the most successful program our country has ever
seen” at the news conference announcing the caucus. The group of six
Senators that began meeting today in support of Social Security are
willing to stand up to the villains who would take away the great
program like common thieves…Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) joined
Schumer, the founder of the caucus Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Barbara
Boxer (D-CA), Sherrod Brown
(D-OH), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) in becoming a founding member of
Also standing with the Senators in addition to Kennelly were Nancy
Altman and Eric Kingson, co-chairs of the Strengthen Social Security
Campaign, Roger Hickey, co-director of the Campaign for America’s
Future, Richard Fiesta, Director of Government and Political Affairs
at the Alliance for Retired Americans.
Schumer steps up Social Security assault on House Republicans
By Alexander Bolton – 01/27/11 08:28 PM ET
Senate Democrats led by Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Bernie
Sanders (I-Vt.) are gearing up for a battle with House Republicans
over Medicare and Social Security benefits.
Schumer and other Democratic strategists see Medicare and Social
Security as winning political issues that can help them regain the
momentum they lost over the last two years.
Schumer, who has taken over the Senate Democrats’ communications
operation, delivered some of his most direct shots at House GOP
“They want to privatize Social Security,” Schumer said of Republicans.
“Privatize equals end — no more.”
“The fact that five senators are for privatizing Social Security shows
we’re not crying wolf here,” Schumer said. “This is a serious movement
to undo the most successful government program of the 20th century.”
Schumer, Sanders and several other Democrats have formed the Senate
Social Security Caucus, which held its first meeting Thursday.
Schumer scores 90% on senior issues by the Alliance for Retired Americans
Thank the Senators Who Are Defending Social Security.
by National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (Notes)
on Friday, February 18, 2011 at 11:27am…
Take a moment and tell the members of the Senate’s Defend Social
Security Caucus “Thanks” for fighting to protect Social Security.
We’re depending on them to take Social Security OUT of this budget
debate. See the full list members and their Facebook pages below:
Please go to these Senators’ Facebook pages and tell them Thanks for
joining the Defend Social Security Caucus on their Facebook walls.
They are on the front line of the Washington deficit debate and are
currently outnumbered by fiscal hawks who want to use our current
deficit crisis as an excuse to avoid paying back the money Washington
owes to the Social Security trust fund. That’s our money and should
not be used to balance the budget. Ask these members to fight to Take
Social Security OUT of this budget debate. Social Security didn’t
cause our deficits and should NOT be used to pay them down. In order
to comment on their pages, you will have to “Like” the page first.
Sen. Daniel Akaka at http://www.facebook.com/danielakaka
Sen. Richard Blumenthal http://www.facebook.com/dickblumenthal
Sen. Barbara Boxer http://www.facebook.com/barbaraboxer
Sen. Sherrod Brown http://www.facebook.com/sherrod
Sen. Tom Harkin http://www.facebook.com/senatorharkin
Sen. Frank Lautenberg http://www.facebook.com/franklautenberg
Sen. Jeff Merkley http://www.facebook.com/jeffmerkley
Sen. Barbara Mikulski http://www.facebook.com/senatorbarb
Sen. Bernie Sanders http://www.facebook.com/senatorsanders
Sen. Chuck Schumer http://www.facebook.com/chuckschumer
Sen. Debbie Stabenow http://www.facebook.com/stabenow
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse
Summit Draws Together Supporters of Social Security, Medicare,
Medicaid, Veterans Benefits
WASHINGTON – May 8, 2013 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) hosted a summit
meeting today on Capitol Hill with seniors, veterans and other
grassroots groups united to protect Social Security, Medicare,
Medicaid and veterans from budget cuts proposed by congressional
Republicans and some Democrats.
The event drew hundreds of opponents of a proposal by President Barack
Obama to cut cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security and
disabled veterans by revising how the consumer price index is
Sanders is the founder of the Defending Social Security Caucus and
chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. He was joined
by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Jack Reed
(D-R.I.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Reps. Keith Ellison
(D-Minn.), Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Ted
The Alliance for Retired Americans, the National Committee to Preserve
Social Security and Medicare and the Strengthen Social Security
Campaign were among the organizations participating in the event.
Sanders also welcomed support from AARP; the AFL-CIO; MoveOn.Org; the
Campaign for America’s Future; the Center for Community Change;
Latinos for a Secure Retirement; the Paralyzed Veterans of America;
AMVETS and other groups that helped organize the summit.
Charles Schumer on Social Security
Democratic Sr Senator (NY)
Voted NO on establishing reserve funds & pre-funding for Social Security.
Voting YES would:
require that the Federal Old Age and Survivors Trust Fund be used only
to finance retirement income of future beneficiaries;
ensure that there is no change to benefits for individuals born before
January 1, 1951
provide participants with the benefits of savings and investment while
permitting the pre-funding of at least some portion of future
ensure that the funds made available to finance such legislation do
not exceed the amounts estimated to be actuarially available.
Proponents recommend voting YES because:
Perhaps the worst example of wasteful spending is when we take the
taxes people pay for Social Security and, instead of saving them, we
spend them on other things. Even worse than spending Social Security
on other things is we do not count it as debt when we talk about the
deficit every year. So using the Social Security money is actually a
way to hide even more wasteful spending without counting it as debt.
This Amendment would change that.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
This amendment has a fatal flaw. It leaves the door open for private
Social Security accounts by providing participants with the option of
“pre-funding of at least some portion of future benefits.”
This body has already closed the door on the President’s ill-conceived
plan for private Social Security accounts. The opposition to
privatization is well-known:
Privatizing Social Security does nothing to extend the solvency of the program.
Transition costs would put our Nation in greater debt by as much as
Creating private accounts would mean benefit cuts for retirees, by as
much as 40%.
Half of all American workers today have no pension plan from their
employers. It is critical that we protect this safety net.
Make no mistake about it, this is a stalking-horse for Social
Security. It looks good on the surface, but this is an amendment to
privatize Social Security.
Reference: Bill S.Amdt.489 on S.Con.Res.21 ; vote number 2007-089 on
Mar 22, 2007
Voted NO on using the Social Security Surplus to fund tax reductions.
Vote on a motion to table (or kill) the motion to recommit the bill to
the Senate Finance and Claims Committee with instructions directing
the committee to “correct the fact that the bill uses” Social Security
surpluses for tax breaks.
Reference: Bill S.1429 ; vote number 1999-236 on Jul 30, 1999
Voted NO on Social Security Lockbox & limiting national debt.
This vote limited debate on the amendment offered by Sen. Abraham
(R-MI) that would have created a Social Security “lockbox” and
establish limits on the public debt. [A YES vote was for a lockbox].
This vote failed because 3/5 of the Senate did not vote.
Status: Cloture Motion Rejected Y)54; N)45; NV)1
Reference: Motion to invoke cloture on Amdt #254 to S. 557; Bill S.
557 ; vote number 1999-90 on Apr 22, 1999
Voted NO on putting 90% of any budget surplus toward Social Security.
Vote to pass a bill to establish a ‘Protect Social Security Account’
to place 90 percent of any annual budget surpluses until a reform
measure is enacted to keep Social Security solvent long-term.
Reference: Bill HR 4578 ; vote number 1998-464HR on Sep 25, 1998
Source: ARA website 03n-ARA on Dec 31, 2003
This past year I’ve had the opportunity to cover the anti-poverty movement—and I do believe it’s a movement—it’s just a little too much of a well-kept secret right now.
But I think in 2013, the people and groups at the forefront of anti-poverty thinking and action are poised to reach a much wider audience, and gain far greater popular support.
That’s in part because the movement is led by organizations and individuals who have been fighting poverty for decades, and they offer solutions that are grounded in empirical data and the everyday experiences of millions of working Americans and families.
In contrast, the opposition to anti-poverty reform relies largely on tired stereotypes, myths and prejudices—that low-income people are lazy and don’t want to work; that they only want handouts, or to live off of welfare; that anti-poverty policies have failed; and, most recently, that we can’t afford these investments.
But an economy that is short on opportunity and concentrates wealth in the hands of a few is coming into focus. The interests of low-income people and a shrinking middle class are converging—everyone wants fair pay, a shot at a good education and an economy defined by opportunity and upward mobility.
People are beginning to recognize that we have a proliferation of low-wage work—over 25 percent of the jobs in the nation pay less than the poverty line for a family of four, and 50 percent pay less than $34,000 a year. It’s no wonder that 28 percent of all workers last year earned wages below the poverty line, and that more than 70 percent of low-income families and half of all families in poverty were working in 2011. (Low-income defined as living on less than 200 percent of the poverty line, or less than approximately $36,000 annually for a family of three—which now constitutes 106 million people, more than one in three Americans; poverty defined as living on less than $18,000 annually for a family of three, which now describes more than 46 million Americans.) People are looking for answers.
Currently, the anti-poverty movement is largely in sync as it tries to protect programs that are vital to basic human needs during the fiscal debate. But I think there are things it can do in 2013—after the budget debate—to reach a wider audience and bring more people into its fold.
One possible change—or more like a tweak: many seem to focus on the lack of will in our political leadership to fight poverty; instead the primary focus might be on what the movement itself is doing to create political will.
What is it doing to make itself more visible? How is it creating new relationships between low-income and higher-income people? At any given conference on poverty-related issues, are the people who know poverty first hand presenting, leading, educating and organizing? At a congressional or local hearing on food stamps, TANF, SSI or childcare—is the movement doing whatever it can to ensure that the people who have actually experienced the system are testifying? Are the more “white-collar” organizations in the movement going into low-income communities to join people and groups who areorganizing on the ground? Are these organizations showing up and also providing resources to protect homes, strengthen schools and neighborhoods and stand with low-wage workers for better jobs? How are we coming together—rich, poor, and in between—and how are we working in silos? How are we speaking—or failing to speak—with a unified voice?
I also believe if the movement can coalesce around a simple, clear and concise anti-poverty agenda—an Anti-Poverty Contract for 2013—it can engage new audiences and grow significantly. Choose four or five key policies that are easily grasped and in sync with most people’s values, and forge new alliances around them. Whether or not the contract includes a group’s particular issue, hopefully groups will take a leap of faith and help push it forward, knowing that it might lead to a stronger movement and broader and deeper reforms down the road.
Below is one possible Anti-Poverty Contract for 2013. I have no idea if these are the right choices—and there are some notable absences—on full employment, housing and education, to name a few.
But I hope this draft serves as a conversation starter among organizations, community groups and people at the forefront of these fights—and that a core might emerge to coalesce and organize around a clear, focused anti-poverty contract this year that might serve as a compelling organizing tool.