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From the category archives: Max Richtman

Chatting with Rep. Joe Kennedy, Eloquent Advocate for Working Americans

Anyone who has the opportunity to chat with Rep. Joe Kennedy III about Americans’ health and retirement security should jump at the chance.  This week, we had the honor of interviewing him on Facebook Live from his office on Capitol Hill. 

Now in his third term representing Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional district, Rep. Kennedy is much more than a member of one America’s most famous political families. (He is grandson of Ethel and Robert Kennedy, and grand-nephew of President John F. Kennedy).  

He is a thoughtful, persuasive policy expert on health care, and a champion of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  He sits on the powerful House Energy & Commerce Committee – which has jurisdiction over federal healthcare programs, mental health, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

Interviewed by National Committee president and CEO Max Richtman, Rep. Kennedy affirmed his reputation as an eloquent advocate for America’s current and future retirees.

MEDICAID 

Rep. Kennedy wants to see greater access to Medicaid services, and higher reimbursements for doctors and other providers who currently don’t find it worthwhile to participate. He excoriates Republicans for demonstrating an “extraordinary level of cynicism” in trying to gut Medicaid by repealing Obamacare.  After numerous GOP efforts to undermine Medicaid since President Trump took office, Rep. Kennedy insists the program is more popular than ever.

“The Republicans did something that Democrats have been trying to do for a long time, but couldn’t. They have made Medicaid popular. We’ve actually seen far more Americans understand the integrity, the importance of what Medicaid actually does, and how it forms a backbone of our health care infrastructure across the country.”

TRUMP/GOP TAX LAW

The Congressman is intensely critical of the tax law enacted by Republicans and signed by the President last December, which showers the wealthy and big corporations with tax breaks while blowing a $1.5 trillion hole in the federal debt.  Rep. Kennedy believes the gaping deficit caused by the tax law will invite deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

“This bill is going to bankrupt the United States of America.  With the GOP leadership racking up deficits, those of us who care about the stability of these programs are going to have to do something to make sure that they are there for families when they need them.” 

“[The Republicans’] long-term goal has always been to gut… these programs.  We need to make sure American families understand:  1) How important these programs are; 2) What they actually do.”

SOCIAL SECURITY

The pending retirement of Speaker Paul Ryan notwithstanding, Rep. Kennedy remains concerned that the political right will continue to try to undermine Social Security and Medicare – by privatizing, cutting, and raising eligibility ages – even after Ryan departs the Hill.  He argues that now is the time for awareness and vigilance to protect Americans’ earned benefits.

“No one gets rich off of Social Security. It’s something that you pay into your entire life to make sure that you can afford the basic necessities in retirement.  That’s not something that should be targeted.  That’s something that should be expanded so that we are preserving economic dignity for seniors in the golden years of life.”

“The education part of it is a critical first step:  making sure American families understand just how important these programs are.  They have paid into them during the course of their working lives and they should be able to depend on them as a foundation on which they can build their retirement.”  

Watch Rep. Kennedy’s entire conversation with Max Richtman on Facebook Live here.

Seniors Dodge Devastation of Balanced Budget Amendment

The Balanced Budget Amendment introduced by House Republicans went down to defeat Thursday night by a vote of 233-184, falling fall short of the 2/3 majority required to advance the measure to the Senate.  The amendment’s demise was a relief for our nation’s seniors, because it threatened the earned benefits they have contributed to during their entire working lives.  Seniors and their advocates can rightly take credit for the Balanced Budget Amendment's defeat.  The National Committee sent a letter to Congress on April 10th urging members to reject this ill-considered, dangerous change to our nation's Constitution. 

National Committee president and CEO Max Richtman issued the following statement in response to last night’s vote:

“Social Security and Medicare were spared a terrible fate when House leadership was unable to pressure 2/3 of their colleagues to vote for a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) to the U.S. Constitution.  The BBA would have prevented Social Security and Medicare Part A from using trust fund reserves to pay benefits for millions of Americans – including retirement, disability, and hospitalization.  The House members who voted against the BBA did the right thing today." – Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

A balanced budget amendment would have blocked benefit payments from the Social Security and Medicare Part A trust funds since all federal expenditures, including these earned benefits, would have to be covered by revenue collected in the same year.  It also would have required draconian spending cuts, inviting Congress to slash Medicare Parts B, C and D, Medicaid, and many other social safety net programs for seniors, while opening the door to massive new tax cuts.   

While the balanced budget amendment did not dictate any particular approach to deficit reduction, by altering established Congressional voting procedures it would have increased the likelihood that the fiscal policies adopted in coming decades would favor the well-off at the expense of middle- and low-income Americans. The amendment would have require a two-thirds vote of the full membership of the House and Senate to raise taxes. Spending cuts, by contrast, would continue to require only a majority of those present and voting and could be passed on a voice vote.

Adding to these problems, the amendment would have heightened the risk of a federal government default by requiring a three-fifths vote of both the House and the Senate to raise the debt limit, rather than the current simple majority. Consider the scenario where budgets thought to be balanced at the start of a fiscal year fall out of balance during the year as a result of factors such as slower-than-expected economic growth or a natural disaster. If sizable deficits emerged with only part of the year remaining, Congress and the President may have been unable to agree on a package of budget cuts resulting in Congress being unable to raise the debt limit and allow a deficit. The President may have been bound, at the point at which the "government runs out of money," to stop issuing checks.

The political right has hauled out spurious arguments to push a balanced budget amendment for years. (The last time the GOP tried to pass one was 2011).  Among these canards:  States balance their budgets, they say.  Why can’t the federal government?  Families balance their budgets? Why not Congress?  We debunked these arguments in a recent article in this space:

While it’s true that some states have balanced budget amendments, many of those apply only to operating budgets, not capital expenditures for long-term projects.  Regardless, states do not have the sweeping responsibilities of the federal government, including national defense, federal disaster response, and Social Security or Medicare. As for families, many do strive to balance their household budgets, but still carry mortgages on their homes, auto loans, and sometimes, lines of credit.  In other words, like the federal government, states and families are leveraged to meet their vital needs. - Entitled to Know, 3/30/18

The National Committee supports responsible government budgeting. However, we oppose a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution because it would significantly harm the economy, result in a government default and force severe cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other vital federal programs.



Rick Scott the Wrong Choice for FL Seniors; NCPSSM Endorses Bill Nelson

 

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare has enthusiastically endorsed Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) for re-election in November.  The three-term Florida Senator will face Republican Governor Rick Scott, who announced his candidacy today. 

“We need a fighter like Bill Nelson in the U.S. Senate. He is a key ally for protecting and expanding programs that seniors in Florida – and across the nation – depend upon for basic health and financial security.  When Senator Nelson talks about Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, he speaks from the heart. He is a true fighter for Floridians and older Americans everywhere.” - National Committee president and CEO Max Richtman.

Senator Nelson has been a staunch advocate of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid since taking office in 2001.  His voting record on these issues has consistently earned him a 100% rating from the National Committee.  He fought President George W. Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security in 2005, pushed for the closure of the Medicare Part D prescription drug “doughnut hole,” and opposed converting Medicare into a voucher system and raising the program’s eligibility age.  In 2017, he introduced a bill to prevent the federal government from garnishing Social Security benefits to pay off student loans.

Governor Scott’s positions on these issues stand in stark contrast to Senator Nelson’s.  During his 2010 gubernatorial campaign, Scott advocated privatizing Medicare, Medicaid and veterans’ health services.  He appeared sympathetic to the idea of privatizing Social Security, as well. Last year, he endorsed the Republican plan to block-grant Medicaid, which could lead to huge funding cuts and reduced eligibility – or loss of coverage –  for 4.3 million low income Floridians.

“Governor Scott's record makes it clear that he is the wrong choice for Florida seniors. He has taken policy positions that would undermine Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, which are lifelines for older Americans.” – Max Richtman.

The National Committee endorsed Senator Nelson on behalf of its millions of members and supporters, including more than 108,000 Florida residents.

“You earned the endorsement of the National Committee because you understand and support the critical roles that Social Security and Medicare play in the retirement and health security of our nation’s older citizens and their families.  Our nation needs your continued leadership, vision and determination to fight for working families and older Americans.” – NCPSSM Letter to Senator Nelson, 4/6/18

The National Committee praised the Senator’s “stalwart support” of efforts to ensure the solvency of the Social Security and Medicare Part A trust funds, to provide adequate funding to the Social Security Administration, and to establish a meaningful Medicare prescription program. His unflagging opposition to Social Security and Medicare privatization schemes is a matter of record.

In the endorsement letter, Richtman says National Committee members and supporters want Bill Nelson in the United States Senate to continue protecting and enhancing Social Security and Medicare – “the twin pillars necessary to a good quality of life for Americans of all ages.”

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Read the National Committee’s endorsement letter here.

Congress Deflects President's Budget Ax on Seniors' Programs

In a rare victory for seniors, the passage of the FY 2018 Omnibus Appropriations bill in Congress increases funding for several programs that assist the elderly – and gives a much-needed boost to the beleaguered Social Security Administration.  The bill favorably responds to a March 14 letter from the National Committee to House and Senate Appropriations Committees members, urging them to prioritize funding for federal programs and agencies vitally important to older Americans.  In passing this bill, Congress defied President Trump’s proposed 2018 budget, which called for severe cutbacks to – or outright elimination of – several federal programs which vulnerable seniors depend upon.

In the omnibus bill, the Social Security Administration (SSA) gets an increase of $480 million over the previous fiscal year, including $100 million for reducing the backlog in Social Security Disability Insurance hearings – which some 10,000 Americans died waiting for in 2017.  The funding bump – which the National Committee has long advocated – should also alleviate some of the excessively long wait times for customer service on SSA’s toll-free phone line and in-person at SSA field offices. 

On March 7th, National Committee president Max Richtman testified before the House Social Security subcommittee, urging members to adequately fund SSA.  The agency had been subject to an 11% budget reduction since 2010, causing severe cutbacks in customer service at a time when 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day.

The Omnibus bill also includes $59 million more for Older Americans Act Senior Nutrition programs and an increase of $250 million for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), while the State Health Insurance Program (SHIP) receives a modest increase in funding.  The spending plan also gives a $414 million boost to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for Alzheimer’s and dementia research.

"We applaud Congress for maintaining spending for senior programs that President Trump proposed to eliminate in his FY 2018 budget, including the Senior Community Service Employment Program, the Community Development Block Grant, and the Community Services Block Grant, which helps to pay for Meals on Wheels.  In a Congress besieged by partisan battles over healthcare and taxes, we welcome the parties coming together to make the wise choice and adequately fund vital government services for America’s seniors.  We call on President Trump to sign this bill and not deny millions of seniors the funding increase they  need and deserve.”  - Max Richtman, National Committee president, 3/23/18

This morning, President Trump threatened to veto the Omnibus bill, but changed course and signed it this afternoon, averting a government shutdown.   

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Read the National Committee’s analysis of the FY 2018 Omnibus Appropriations bill here.

 

Lamb's Victory a Win for Social Security, Medicare, and Working Americans Everywhere

 

Not only is Democrat Conor Lamb’s victory in Pennsylvania’s special Congressional election a rebuke to President Trump, it is an affirmation that voters want Social Security and Medicare to be vigorously protected.  Last month, the National Committee endorsed Lamb, a U.S. Marine and former federal prosecutor who champions Americans’ retirement and health security.

 “Our nation needs his leadership, vision and determination to fight for working families and older Americans.  Conor Lamb understands and supports the critical roles that Social Security and Medicare play in the lives of our nation’s older citizens and their families.  We look forward to working with Conor Lamb to protect – if not expand – Americans’ earned benefits.”” - National Committee president and CEO Max Richtman.

On Wednesday, President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan twisted themselves into knots trying to spin Lamb’s victory as a win for conservatism. Though Lamb took a few conservative positions (as well he might in a historically Republican district), his support for programs benefitting working families was rock solid.

 *He promised to boost Social Security benefits and expand Medicare to cover hearing, vision, and dental care – and to protect both programs from GOP attempts to cut and privatize them.

 *He opposed the Trump/GOP tax scam, calling it a “giveaway” to the wealthy, advocating instead for a tax cut truly aimed at “working and middle class people” without adding to the debt.

 *He railed against GOP attempts to repeal and undermine Obamacare, promising to work to “help people with pre-existing conditions, improve the quality of care, and reduce premiums, out-of-pocket costs, and prescription drug prices.”

On issue after issue, Lamb is unabashedly on the side of working Americans.  This election was a test of voters commitment to these issues – and the results were clear. The fact that Lamb earned more votes – albeit by a razor-thin margin – in a deep red district where the Democrats didn’t even field a candidate in the previous two elections proves that voters want to protect working people’s interests. 

Health care, in particular, was voters’ top-ranking concern in Pennsylvania’s special election, according to an exit poll released yesterday. As The Hill newspaper reports, “For 52 percent of voters, health care [was the] top issue when deciding who to vote for, while 19 percent said it wasn’t at all important to them.” 

 The poll also found that 53 percent disapprove of Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare, while 39 percent approve. This is leading some Democrats to think health care could be a winning issue for them in the 2018 midterms, when they hope to retake seats in Congress. – The Hill newspaper, 3/15/18

For more than a year, President Trump and Congressional Republicans have engaged in a war against the programs that working Americans rely on for basic income and health security – while passing trillions of dollars in tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations.  Working people’s well-being hinges on electing more defenders of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare to Congress this Fall.  With the 2018 Congressional elections drawing closer, Conor Lamb’s victory is a positive harbinger for those who fight for the working class, and a warning to those who don’t.

Watch our live analysis of Conor Lamb's win on "Behind the Headlines" via Facebook Live. 

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