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From the category archives: Max Richtman

Populism, Promises and Privatization: Mike Huckabee and Social Security

Former Governor and GOP Presidential hopeful, Mike Huckabee, found out early in the primary race a populist tone combined with a promise not to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits would provide a political opportunity to distinguish himself from the GOP pack who’ve been racing to see who could cut more middle-class benefits faster.

Unfortunately, Huckabee’s Oped in the DesMoines Register today made it abundantly clear that, in spite of his rhetoric, his actually plans for the programs are just more of the same: repeal Obamacare and the billions in benefits and years of solvency that comes with it, privatize the programs, and replace Social Security’s funding with a regressive tax changing the program from an earned benefit into a welfare program.

You have to ask yourself, is this really how a champion of Social Security and Medicare describes these programs?

“Washington confiscates money from every American’s paycheck”

“The government grabs that money”

“Washington has been pick-pocketing us every day of our working lives.”

“Washington put a gun to your head and robbed it from your paycheck.”

NCPSSM President/CEO, Max Richtman reacted to Huckabee’s piece this way:

“While it’s encouraging to see one GOP presidential candidate finally acknowledge that Social Security and Medicare benefits should not be cut (“Don’t Cut Benefits America’s Seniors already paid for” Aug 12, 2015), it’s also clear Governor Huckabee’s reasoning is built on a flawed political premise that Social Security and Medicare were built through federal ‘confiscation’ and ‘pick-pocketing.’

No doubt, this plays well with the candidate’s Tea Party base, especially those who are conflicted in their hatred of government and love for its two largest programs, Social Security and Medicare.  However, it’s clear Huckabee’s views have far more in common with the GOP Presidential pack than the American people who value these programs in their current form, not the privatized preference he supports.  Taxing “illegals, prostitutes, pimps, drug dealers,” to pay for Social Security doesn’t seriously address income adequacy or long-term solvency while repealing Obamacare would steal years of solvency from Medicare and billions in new benefits for seniors. 

The American people, of all ages and parties, support Social Security and Medicare because they work.  Promising to protect benefits, while maligning the very essence of these programs and supporting the same old GOP prescriptions may be a good political strategy but it has little to do with improving the programs for generations of Americans.”...Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO

Not mentioned in his Des Moines Register piece, and only rarely discussed, is the fact the Huckabee also supports various forms of privatization ranging from ending Social Security’s guaranteed monthly benefit in exchange for a lump-sum payment to private accounts for future generations. 

“Instead of signing up for Social Security sometime between the ages of 62 and 70, which is currently the only option for eligible Americans, and receiving a monthly benefits check, Huckabee wants to offer a one-time, lump-sum cash out benefit at age 65 to participants that would be completely free of taxation. Per Huckabee, it would remove the government's ongoing involvement in providing for seniors, and it would potentially allow seniors the opportunity to invest their lump-sum payment in order to achieve inflation-topping returns.”  Motley Fool

Sound familiar?  It should, as it’s the same send-your-Social-Security-to-Wall-Street goal expressed by President George Bush during his failed campaign a decade ago to privatize Social Security – delivered in a slightly different way.  Apparently everything old is new again.

Huckabee also uses Social Security and Medicare, based on his misdiagnosis of the long-term solvency issue, to defend a terribly regressive tax policy -- the Fair Tax -- which rewards the rich and punishes everyone else: 

“Citizens for Tax Justice and the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation have each found that to raise the same amount of revenue as current law, the sales tax rate would have to be about 50 percent.

A study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) found that under the “Fair Tax,” the top 1 percent of taxpayers would receive an average annual tax cut of $225,000. Meanwhile, the plan would increase taxes by about $3,200 on average on the bottom 80 percent of taxpayers. In other words, Huckabee’s tax plan would significantly increase taxes on the overwhelming majority of Americans to pay for huge tax cuts for the very wealthiest Americans.”

Time will tell if seniors will take the “I won’t cut your benefits” bait and ignore the details of Governor Huckabee’s plans for Social Security and Medicare.  As is always the case in every political campaign, the devil is in those details.  

Why Simply Celebrating Medicare's 50th Anniversary Isn't Enough

As we celebrate Medicare’s 50th anniversary this week it’s important to do more than just cut the cake…we must also educate and advocate. That’s because even though the American people clearly understand how vital Medicare and Medicaid are to families, too many politicians (especially those running for the GOP Presidential nod) apparently still don’t get it. 

Economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote today about these “Zombies Against Medicare,” including their refusal to acknowledge that all the bad things they’ve predicted about Medicare for five decades have never actually happened, Jeb Bush’s promise to end Medicare and especially the Republican Party’s never-ending quest to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“And then a funny thing happened: the act’s passage was immediately followed by an unprecedented pause in Medicare cost growth. Indeed, Medicare spending keeps coming in ever further below expectations, to an extent that has revolutionized our views about the sustainability of the program and of government spending as a whole.Right now is, in other words, a very odd time to be going on about the impossibility of preserving Medicare, a program whose finances will be strained by an aging population but no longer look disastrous. One can only guess that Mr. Bush is unaware of all this, that he’s living inside the conservative information bubble, whose impervious shield blocks all positive news about health reform.” 

Medicare advocates briefed the press today on the importance of this 50th anniversary and the ongoing battle to preserve and expand the program. 

“Anyone who thinks these programs aren’t under threat should just look at where the GOP presidential candidates stand on these issues.  Every prediction made by opponents about these programs…from claiming 'socialism' to 'they won’t work'…have been proven wrong.” Brad Woodhouse, President of Americans United for Change 

“It’s time for GOP leaders to stop threatening us with cuts and repeal, and start proposing truly bold ideas that include benefits expansion, raising the wage cap, enacting an affordable long term care program, shifting to a fully-developed consumer price index for the elderly, and negotiating drug prices. That would be a real platform for real Americans.” Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO 

As the 2015 Trustees Report release last week shows, Medicare’s health has greatly improved since health care reform was passed.  Not only did the ACA provide improved benefits for seniors its long-term solvency has been extended by 13 years.  Congress should be building on these reforms to improve the program rather than continuing a politically myopic and factually bankrupt quest to “save” Medicare by killing it.

The Truth about the 2015 Social Security and Medicare Trustees Report

Social Security is still fully funded for nearly two decades, a COLA increase unlikely, and health care reform continues to preserve Medicare’s solvency

No doubt, today’s unsurprising news in the Trustees Reports for Social Security and Medicare will be overshadowed by the same crisis calls we hear each and every year from those determined to cut benefits or privatize the programs.  Today’s reports lay out in clear terms how stable Social Security and Medicare remain. Rather than use the disability program’s projected shortfall as a political opportunity to target the entire Social Security program for cuts, Congress can pass a simple reallocation, as has happened without controversy 11 previous times.  Or, even better, Congress could pass new legislation, introduced today by Rep. Xavier Becerra, to combine the Social Security Trust Funds.  There are ways to avoid a massive benefit cut Americans with disabilities simply cannot afford without targeting the entire Social Security program for cuts.”... Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO

Here are some of the key points in the 2015 Trustees Report:

·         Trustees project Social Security will be able to pay full benefits until the year 2034, one year longer than projected last year.  After that, Social Security will still have sufficient revenue to pay 79% of benefits if no changes are made to the program.

·         Social Security remains well-funded. In 2015, as the economy continues to improve, Social Security’s total income is projected to exceed its expenses. In fact, the Trustees estimate that total annual income will exceed program obligations until 2019. 

·         Trustees project no Cost of Living Adjustment increase.

·         The Trustees report there is now nearly $2.79 trillion in the Social Security Trust Fund, which is $25 billion more than last year and that it will continue to grow by payroll contributions and interest on the Trust Fund's assets.   

With so little bad news to report in this 2015 Trustees report, critics have now shifted their attention to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which faces a more immediate challenge and requires Congress’ action.

·    Trustees project the Disability Trust fund will be depleted in 2016, the same year projected in last year’s report. This projected shortfall is not a surprise and Congress should pass legislation that combines the Social Security Trust Funds or at the very least, reallocates income across the Social Security Trust Funds, as it has done 11 times before to cover the anticipated shortfall.  Disability expenditures have increased primarily due to demographic trends.  When Congress took action in 1994 to address a shortfall in SSDI, it knew that it would have to take action again in 2015 or 2016. Unfortunately, some in Congress have politicized this anticipated shortfall and threatened to delay action in order to force cuts throughout the entire Social Security program.

On Medicare, the 2015 Trustees report shows slowing the growth of health care costs has improved Medicare’s Trust Fund.

·         Medicare solvency remains greatly improved thanks to passage of healthcare reform, with the program paying full benefits until 2030, the same as predicted in the 2014 report and 13 years later than was projected in the last report issued prior to passage of the Affordable Care Act.

·         HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell reports Medicare Part B premiums are not projected to increase for about 70% of beneficiaries in 2016. 

Social Security & Medicare: The GOP Congress’ New “Pay-For” for Everything Under the Sun

In just over a week federal funding runs out for the nation’s highways, bridges and roads.  The House has passed a temporary fix but the Senate, led by Mitch McConnell, wants to take an entirely different approach.

What does this have to do with Social Security or Medicare?  The answer should be “nothing” but thanks to legislation now being debated in the Senate, the real answer is “everything.”  Once again, GOP leaders want to use Social Security and/or Medicare benefits to pay for something entirely unrelated to the income and health security of millions of Americans. 

NCPSSM President/CEO, Max Richtman, has written to the Senate urging Members to reject efforts to use Social Security benefits to pay for the Transportation bill: 

“...there are at least two Social Security policy changes that are currently being considered as “offsets” for legislation that would extend highway transportation funding. One of these is a measure barring payment of Social Security benefits for seniors with outstanding warrants for their arrest. Almost none of the seniors who would be affected by this provision are actual fugitives from justice and most of the warrants in question are many years old and involve minor infractions. Moreover, the Social Security Administration attempted to administer a similar provision for a number of years, with catastrophic effect for many vulnerable elderly seniors, employing procedures that did not withstand judicial scrutiny. Reenacting this requirement should be something the Congress does only after careful analysis and with ample opportunity for public discussion.

The second provision relates to the concurrent receipt of both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and unemployment compensation. Given the importance that all policy makers ascribe to encouraging disabled Americans to return to the workforce, I am perplexed by the desire on the part of some in the Congress to strip working SSDI beneficiaries of their eligibility to receive unemployment compensation when, through no fault of their own, they lose a job. Concurrent eligibility, which derives directly from a disabled person’s efforts to return to work, is a work incentive. That incentive should be altered only after the committees of jurisdiction have carefully considered all of the ramifications associated with such a change and, again, after ample opportunity for public comment.”

This is the third time in less than a year that Congress has attempted to use Social Security and/or Medicare as an ATM to pay for a completely unrelated priority.  Last year Congress voted to extend the Medicare sequester cuts into 2024 to cover a reversal of cost-of-living cuts to veterans' pension benefits. This summer Medicare was cut again to help pay for the Trade bill.  Now it appears, rather than consider tax reform for huge corporate tax dodgers sending billions of profits oversee to avoid paying taxes, GOP leaders in the Senate prefer cutting benefits to seniors, people with disabilities and their families who depend on Social Security. 

The Senate is expected to vote on the highway funding bill and these proposed Social Security benefit cuts this week.  While we all want good highways, Congress should not pay for them by cutting Social Security benefits for seniors, people with disabilities and their families.  Social Security is our money – not the government’s. We’ve worked hard to earn our benefits.

Call our Legislative Hotline ASAP and we’ll connect you to your Senators. Tell them to oppose cutting Social Security to pay for the Transportation bill. 

CALL CONGRESS

1-800-998-0180



It's Time to Expand Medicare

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare celebrated Medicare’s anniversary at a Capitol Hill event today with Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Johns Hopkins researcher, Dr. Frank Lin and Michigan senior, Ann Liming, who has hearing loss, urging Congress to allow Medicare to provide hearing aid coverage for millions of older Americans.

“The reality is that while Medicare provides critical health coverage to millions of beneficiaries there are very serious gaps which exist. We are working to address the hearing aid issue immediately. The Hearing Aid Coverage Act of 2015 is the first bill I’ve introduced because I think this is so important.  No one should feel isolated, confused or shut out from the world because they can’t afford the treatment they need.”...Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI)

“This is a really serious issue.  It costs thousands of dollars for hearing aids yet the vast majority of seniors who need them don’t have them because they simply can’t afford it.  That comes with a high cost to society and healthcare costs in Medicare.” ...Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)

The effects of hearing loss are devastating.  48 million Americans suffer some degree of hearing loss making it a serious public health threat behind heart disease and arthritis.  One out of three people over 65 has a hearing loss with more than 65% of those suffering a loss before retirement age. Research has shown older adults with hearing loss are 32% more likely to require hospitalization, face a 24% increased risk for cognitive impairment and increasingly suffer from isolation and depression.

“We are beginning to understand now that there are direct biological pathways through which age-related hearing loss, which all of us will experience to some degree, directly contributes to even more serious critical outcomes which are incredibly expensive. Hearing loss reaches far beyond quality of life issues.”...Dr. Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health. 

As we celebrate Medicare’s 50th anniversary on July 30th, it’s important to note that one of Medicare’s most important hallmarks is the program’s long and successful history of evolving to address the changing demographic and health security needs of America’s seniors. It’s time for Congress to address the mounting evidence that hearing loss has wide implications for the Medicare program.

“Allowing Medicare to cover the cost of hearing aids would not only improve the health and independence of millions of seniors it makes good economic and policy sense by potentially preventing the costly effects of hearing loss through increased hospitalizations, cases of depression and cognitive decline. Not covering routine hearing exams, hearing aids, or exams for fitting hearing aids leaves far too many seniors vulnerable. Medicare covers testing strips for diabetics and wheelchairs for people who can no longer walk, there’s no reason people suffering from hearing loss should be denied coverage for hearing aids.” ...Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO

NCPSSM has endorsed Congresswoman Dingell’s Medicare Hearing Aid Coverage Act and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare Foundation has also issued a comprehensive Hearing Loss and Medicare Issue Brief detailing the research findings on hearing loss impacts and the policy prescriptions needed to address the challenges hearing loss poses for millions of seniors and the Medicare program itself.

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