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From the monthly archives: May 2011

We are pleased to present below all posts archived in 'May 2011'. If you still can't find what you are looking for, try using the search box.

Senator Corker Says Medicare and Social Security are “Generational Theft”

The new GOP Medicare Strategy these days appears to be if you don’t like the message just shoot the messenger.   Yesterday’s Senate Aging Committee hearing provided one glimpse into this approach. NCPSSM Executive VP/Acting CEO and LCAO Chair, Max Richtman , testified yesterday before the Senate Select Committee on Aging about  Older Americans Act programs, like home healthcare, Meals on Wheels, long term care ombudsman and many others.   However, rather than talking about these vital programs, ranking GOP member Sen. Bob Corker was much more interested in attacking seniors organizations like ours for not supporting his legislation setting a Medicare Kill Switch with arbitrary spending caps, or the GOP/Ryan Budget bill which Senator Corker voted for or even means-testing the programs, turning them into welfare programs. Attacking seniors’ organizations for representing their members is nothing new. Fiscal commission co-chair, Alan Simpson, has made a career of it.   However, it’s clear GOP members in Washington are feeling the heat from their constituents, young and old alike, who do not support destroying Social Security or Medicare under the guise of deficit reduction. Starting with raucous town halls nationwide this spring followed by the election of a pro-Medicare Democrat in one of the reddest Congressional Districts in New York, it’s clear the American people understand the GOP/Ryan Budget plan would destroy Medicare and they don’t like it, period. That’s a message no amount of spin will fix and no amount of name-calling will change.

Senate Says NO to Ryan/GOP Plan to Destroy Medicare

Max Richtman, NCPSSM Executive Vice President and Acting CEO
“We applaud the Senate for turning back efforts to pass a budget which is more about ideological politics than sound fiscal policy. Americans of all ages understand we don’t have to destroy vital programs like Medicare and Social Security to be fiscally responsible.  That message has been delivered loud and clear in town halls nationwide, in poll after poll, and again last night in New York’s Congressional race, where Medicare played a key role in that outcome. The GOP/Ryan budget would turn Medicare into a privatized voucher system meaning future beneficiaries would lose Medicare’s guaranteed benefit. This budget would have also shifted the rising costs of healthcare directly to seniors, doubling their healthcare costs without adequately addressing ways to contain those costs.  The trigger mechanism included in this GOP budget would force the creation of legislated benefit cuts in Social Security, while also fast-tracking those provisions through Congress. The GOP/Ryan budget would have had devastating affects on millions of Americans still struggling in our weakened economy.  Thankfully, the Senate understands this and has rejected this fiscal approach.”

More Money for Insurers, Higher Costs for Seniors in Medicare and the Government…Sound Sensible to You?

“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other top Democrats want to put Senate Republicans on the record voting for — or against — the Ryan proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher program for seniors. Already, a few moderate Republicans — the latest being Sens. Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have bailed on it or look ready to jump.”
Politico has a good description of the political pretzel Republicans have created for themselves by opposing efforts to reduce healthcare costs in the Affordable Care Act while at the same time supporting the destruction of Medicare as we know it as “sensible”.
 “Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he’ll vote for the Ryan budget, adding during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday” that the Medicare voucher plan is a “very sensible way to go to try to save Medicare.”
The Senate will vote on the Ryan/GOP Budget plan this week; however, it is clear GOP Senators are not enthused about this vote. No wonder.  Americans understand that replacing a guaranteed health benefit in Medicare with the GOP/Ryan Couponcare plan is anything but “sensible”.  Turning Medicare over to private insurers who will charge more to cover less is not “sensible”.   And while putting private insurance companies in control of seniors’ healthcare will certainly be good for business it’s terrifying for retirees whose costs will double.  While all of this happens… the government actually pays more.  The Center for Economic Policy Research reports:
“The Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) projections imply that the Ryan plan would add more than $30 trillion to the cost of providing Medicare equivalent policies over the program’s 75-year planning period. This increase in costs – from waste associated with using a less efficient health care delivery system – has not received the attention that it deserves in the public debate The plan will lead to seven dollars of waste for every dollar saved by the government. While Ryan shifts $4.9 trillion in health care costs from the government to Medicare beneficiaries, this number is dwarfed by a $34 trillion increase in overall costs to beneficiaries that is projected based on the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis.”
 Sound sensible to you?

Welcome to Wall Street Journal's Social Security Dream World

It's never a surpise to see yet another Wall Street Journal opinion writer extolling the values of privatization, vouchers and the demonization of the average American.  However, this opinion piece written by former member of the Reagan administration was particularly ridiculous.  In a nutshell,  he claims that  American seniors will become millionaires thanks to Social Security and Medicare.  No, really---that's what he said.
Readers may recall the 1950s TV show, "The Millionaire," which portrayed stories of individuals who were given a "no strings attached" gift of money by an anonymous benefactor. Each week in one of the show's opening scenes, a man representing the wealthy benefactor, John Beresford Tipton Jr., knocked on an unsuspecting recipient's door and announced: "My name is Michael Anthony and I have a cashier's check for you for one million dollars." That TV program is scheduled to return next year as a reality show, and the new recipients will be the typical husband and wife who reach age 66 and qualify for Social Security. Starting next year, this typical couple, receiving the average benefit, will begin collecting a combination of cash and health-care entitlement benefits that will total $1 million over their remaining expected lifetime.
Alternet provides an easy to understand description of why this analysis is flat-out wrong:
All of this, Cogan says, is according to his own calculations based on government data. It's all wrong, however, and while it's often difficult to say with any certainty whether someone is intentionally lying to people or simply making an honest error, in this case it's clear.  Cogan's sleight of hand is simple: when he gives the amount this average couple paid into the two programs, he adjusts for inflation to current dollars. On the benefits side, he doesn't – he uses future dollars, which results in a larger number. John Cogan is a professor of public policy at Stanford University; every one of his students knows that he or she would get an F comparing inflation adjusted numbers on one side of the ledger to nominal dollars on the other – it's apples and oranges and it's about as mendacious as one can get.
Our Executive VP and Acting CEO, Max Richtman, also challenges the clearly political inter-generational warfare angle of this piece in his letter to  Wall Street Journal editors.  Since there's not a chance his letter will ever see print, we offer it to you here:
Dear Editor:  Maybe John Cogan’s neighborhood is full of “Millionaire Retirees” (The Millionaire Retirees Next Door, May 12th) but out here in the real world, one out of three seniors in the United States is economically insecure and living under twice the federal poverty line, at $22,000 per person. Contrary to Cogan’s “greedy geezer” mythology, the average annual Social Security check is a modest $14,000 and it doesn’t come from an “anonymous benefactor”.    While portraying Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries as millionaires fits the absurd rhetoric so popular in conservative circles these days, it conveniently ignores the reality that working Americans of all ages and political parties understand: the government doesn’t fund Social Security, workers and their employers do. Social Security keeps millions of families from poverty each year while Medicare provides life saving health coverage for a population which private insurers won’t serve without massive government subsidies. No one is getting rich on Social Security and Medicare, although clearly Wall Street and private insurance companies would like to do exactly that, while also passing the bill along to middle-class America.   Max Richtman Executive Vice President/Acting CEO National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare 10 G Street, NE, Suite 600 Washington, DC 20003 (202) 216-8378  

Alan Simpson’s Confused about Social Security…Still

Kudos to  Huffington Post for daring to use facts and figures when talking about Social Security.  It’s certainly a novelty in media coverage these days, and an approach that clearly disturbs those who’d rather not let the facts get in the way of their lifelong campaign against Social Security.

Alan Simpson Attacks AARP, Says Social Security Is 'Not A Retirement Program' (VIDEO)

WASHINGTON -- Alan Simpson’s cold relationship with AARP is no secret, but the former Republican Senator from Wyoming took it to a new level Friday. At an event hosted by the Investment Company Institute, Simpson delighted the finance industry audience members by aiming a rude gesture at the leading lobby for senior citizens. Financial and investment interests have long been supportive of Simpson’s broad critique of Social Security, since privatizing the old-age and disability support program would be a tremendous boon for Wall Street’s financial managers. ICI represents mutual funds and other money managers who control more than $13 trillion in assets. Simpson’s forceful gesture came after an extended diatribe against Social Security, which he said is a "Ponzi" scheme, "not a retirement program.” Simpson argued that Social Security was originally intended more as a welfare program. "It was never intended as a retirement program. It was set up in ‘37 and ‘38 to take care of people who were in distress -- ditch diggers, wage earners -- it was to give them 43 percent of the replacement rate of their wages. The [life expectancy] was 63. That’s why they set retirement age at 65” for Social Security, he said. In 2010, President Obama appointed Simpson to a deficit commission that recommended cutting taxes and reducing entitlement spending. The commission's outline is being used as a framework for reform in Congress. Yet Simpson's comments to ICI reflect an apparent unfamiliarity with the history and foundation of Social Security. HuffPost suggested to Simpson during a telephone interview that his claim about life expectancy was misleading because his data include people who died in childhood of diseases that are now largely preventable. Incorporating such early deaths skews the average life expectancy number downward, making it appear as if people live dramatically longer today than they did half a century ago. According to the Social Security Administration's actuaries, women who lived to 65 in 1940 had a life expectancy of 79.7 years and men were expected to live 77.7 years. "If that is the case -- and I don’t think it is -- then that means they put in peanuts," said Simpson. Simpson speculated that the data presented to him by HuffPost had been furnished by "the Catfood Commission people" -- a reference to progressive critics of the deficit commission who gave the president's panel that label. Told that the data came directly from the Social Security Administration, Simpson continued to insist it was inaccurate, while misstating the nature of a statistical average: "If you’re telling me that a guy who got to be 65 in 1940 -- that all of them lived to be 77 -- that is just not correct. Just because a guy gets to be 65, he’s gonna live to be 77? Hell, that’s my genre. That’s not true," said Simpson, who will turn 80 in September. Understanding life expectancy rates at age 65 in 1940 is central to understanding Social Security itself. If the very nature of the population has changed dramatically since the program's creation, it stands to reason that the program itself requires dramatic changes: Means testing, creating private accounts and further upping the retirement age for the program have all been proposed by its opponents. But if the population is largely similar today, then only modest changes would be needed to maintain Social Security. Critics of the program therefore have an incentive to dramatize life-expectancy stats. But those dramatic claims aren't buttressed by the data: A man who turned 65 in 2010 has a life expectancy of 83.1 -- barely five years more than he had in 1940. Women have increased their life expectancy at roughly the same rate. Since 1940, the retirement age for drawing Social Security benefits has been lifted from 65 to 67, meaning that people are receiving a net of only three extra years of benefits than they were 70 years ago. The second prong of the Social Security critique relies on the coming wave of Baby Boomer retirements. This flood of retirees will tip the ratio of workers to pensioners out of whack, the argument goes. "The statistics right now show a totally unsustainable program that cannot possibly function when 10,000 a day are coming into the Social Security system at 65," Simpson explained to HuffPost. "Was that ever planned [for]? That 10,000 a day would suddenly coming into the system?" In fact, it was planned for: The Social Security Administration tracks births every year and knew by 1947 that 1946 had been a boom year. When the system was reformed in 1983 by the Greenspan Commission, the Baby Boom was specifically taken into account. "The fundamental ratio of beneficiaries to workers was fully taken into account in the 1983 financing provisions and, as a matter of fact, was known and taken into account well before that," Social Security's actuaries noted in 1994. The explanation for the shortfall -- the program will only be able to pay roughly four-fifths of scheduled benefits after 2037 -- is much simpler: Social Security's actuaries didn't see the wild swing in income inequality that came about since 1983. Income has been largely flat for the middle class while rising for the wealthy. Social Security taxes apply only to the first $106,000, so increases for the rich don't contribute to the trust fund. And compensation increases that come in the form of more expensive health care benefits are also not subject to Social Security taxes. Simpson said that questioning his data wasn't helping to solve the underlying problem. "This is the first time, the first time -- and Erskine [Bowles, the deficit commission co-chair,] and I have been talking for a year and many months -- that anyone’s going to sit around and play with statistics like this," he told HuffPost. "Anything I tell you, you repudiate. You’re the first guy in a year and a half who’s stood out here with a sharp pencil playing a game that doesn’t have a damn thing to do with: 'What the hell are you going to do with the system?'" The former senator enjoys a pension for his service in Congress, which lasted fewer than 20 years. At the ICI event on Friday, Simpson called the members of AARP “38 million people bound together by love of airline discounts” and derided the group as concerned only about its own profit. He called AARP Magazine a "marketing instrument." "Are these people patriots or marketers? That’s a harsh statement, and I intend it to be,” he added. “They’re 1.5 percent of every mailing in the United States. One-and-a-half percent!” he griped, thrusting his fist into the air and gesturing toward AARP. “Gah! Jeez!” "We respectfully disagree with Senator Simpson’s comments about the purpose and mission of our organization," Mary Liz Burns, an AARP spokeswoman, told HuffPost. "For over 50 years, AARP has been fighting to protect the hard-earned benefits that Social Security and Medicare provide for millions of Americans today, and we will continue our work to strengthen these critical programs for our children and grandchildren," she said.          
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