From the category archives: Presidential Politics
Hyperbole -- fact twisting and sheer omission -- false truths presented by “courageous truth-tellers.” None of this is really new to American politics. However, today New Jersey Governor Chris Christie deployed all of these time-worn propaganda techniques to unveil his plan to cut $1 trillion in benefits (that’s $1,000,000,000,000) from generations of Americans who will depend on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
He says it’s all about “fairness.” However, he proposes not a single dime of new revenue and has no problem with average Americans paying payroll taxes on all of their income while the wealthy do not.
Apparently, slashing pensions in New Jersey to preserve his no tax pledge simply isn’t enough. Now he hopes to do the same nationwide. In spite of his promise to offer the GOP Presidential primary race something new, today’s comments were merely a recitation and doubling-down on the same GOP claims that our nation can’t afford to honor its commitment to America’s workers and future retirees.
NCPSSM President/CEO, Max Richtman, sums it up this way:
“The Governor’s plan to means-test Social Security, cutting off some Americans and transitioning the program from an earned benefit to welfare has long been the goal of those who oppose social insurance programs. It seems the Governor acknowledges that his flagging Presidential campaign needed a jolt because today’s speech was far more about burnishing Governor Christie’s conservative credentials than offering new proposals that could help America’s workers and retirees. He certainly isn’t showing bold leadership by claiming we must cut middle-class benefits, while protecting tax expenditures benefiting huge corporations and the wealthy. That’s been the GOP position for a very long time. Today Governor Christie joins a long line of conservative politicians who hope to convince voters they are “courageous truth-tellers” when in truth their goal is to dismantle the very programs which have kept millions from poverty.
The majority of Americans – of all ages, no matter their political party -- opposes cutting already modest benefits and is willing to pay more to boost the program. They understand Social Security and Medicare are not welfare programs nor should they be. Getting any GOP Presidential candidate to acknowledge that fact takes true political courage. But unfortunately that’s not the ‘red meat’ the GOP’s conservative base expects to hear nor the truth candidates like Governor Christie are willing to tell.”...Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO
While he claims “no one” will talk about cutting benefits like he will, the fact is, the past decade has seen numerous attacks on the programs from Presidents, Presidential commissions, Congressional “Gangs of 6” and too many legislative proposals to even list here. Senate Governor Christie is merely the latest in a growing list of GOP Presidential candidates who all promote the same “strengthen = slash” approach. They tout their protection of poorer seniors while proposing benefit cuts, cost sharing and means testing that will impact millions of poor and middle-class beneficiaries. Each candidate also follows the conservative-crafted playbook which promises current retirees (who consistently vote) will be protected from cuts, instead targeting their children and grandchildren (who aren’t thinking about retirement yet) for even smaller benefits.
Many GOP Candidates – Same Social Security & Medicare Approach
- Senator Ted Cruz supports privatizing Social Security, turning Medicare into “Coupon Care”, raising the retirement age and Medicare eligibility age, and cutting Cost of Living Allowances (COLAs). Each of these proposals would cut benefits well below the current $1,200 average monthly benefit.
- Senator Rand Paul has called Social Security a Ponzi scheme and supports allowing people to opt out of the program. He also supports raising the retirement age and Medicare eligibility age, Social Security privatization, and raising seniors’ Medicare premiums and copayments.
- Senator Marco Rubio supports privatizing Social Security, raising the retirement age and cutting Cost of Living Allowances (COLAs). He considers current benefits “generous” and supports the GOP/Ryan budget which turns Medicare into “Coupon Care”.
None of these candidates have expressed support for lifting the payroll tax cap so that wealthy Americans pay the same rate as everyone else or proposals addressing income adequacy for millions of beneficiaries of all ages.
Now, that would be a true act of political courage.
Cuts to Social Security Will Hurt Seniors, Veterans, People with Disabilities and Children; Shackle Recovering Economy
While some in Washington may have given up on a so-called “grand bargain,” many others including the White House, have left benefit cuts to millions of seniors, veterans and people with disabilities on the budget bargaining table. Contrary to claims by Chained CPI proponents, this change to the annual COLA calculation is not a “technical tweak” but a benefit cut for the oldest and most vulnerable Americans who would be least able to afford it. Additionally, recent research by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare Foundation, in consultation with economist Dean Baker, shows that adoption of the Chained CPI could cut $31 billion in economic output and more than 200,000 jobs nationwide.
Activists from the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, AARP, NOW, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Generations United, NARFE, Social Security Works and other advocacy groups converged on the White House to tell President Obama “No” to the chained CPI. Protestors with signs illustrating the negative economic impact in each of the nation’s 50 states plus Washington, D.C. rallied along Pennsylvania Avenue and were joined by Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-5) and Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-2).
“The coalition here today is diverse, strong and unified in our opposition to Social Security benefit cuts like those that would come with the Chained CPI. Groups here today represent not just seniors but also young people, veterans, civilians, people with disabilities and middle class families. We’re all here together to say the negative impact of the Chained CPI should not be ignored or trivialized any longer. The White House and others have said this benefit cut is nothing more than a "technical tweak,"...but the truth is it would be a benefit cut imposed on the oldest and most vulnerable Americans who would be least able to afford it.” Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO
Here's a video of activists rallying at the White House.
Just two months ago, the Obama White House vowed
it wouldn’t be sucked into debt ceiling negotiations with Republicans again. “Thank goodness” we all said, since that debacle ultimately led us to the ongoing budget mess and sequester
which continues to hurt American families
“Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, told reporters that the president "simply is not going to negotiate on the debt limit." The Hill
Hmmm....Guess what? The White House has been meeting behind closed doors with Republicans ever since then doing exactly that...negotiating with Republicans about which middle-class benefits will be cut in order to head off another GOP led hostage taking over the debt ceiling. Clearly, past is prologue.
Here’s what the National Journal reports today:
“At least a dozen Republican senators are regularly meeting with President Obama’s top aides in an attempt to plot a way forward on the looming fiscal challenges facing leaders this fall, senators involved in the meetings tell National Journal.
The meetings, which began after Obama hosted GOP senators for dinner earlier this year, are the first sign that Democrats and Republicans are in talks to strike a deal that would reduce the deficit and reform entitlements and taxes.
Republicans plan to use the debate over raising the debt limit to force Democrats to cut spending—a negotiation Obama has said he won’t engage in. But these meetings demonstrate that the president is in fact engaging Republicans in a broader discussion about debt and spending.
An administration official said White House aides have made clear to Republicans that the president’s offer from December—including $600 billion in new tax revenue for $400 billion in Medicare and other health care cuts—still stands.
Republicans are open to $600 billion in revenue, Burr said, but want to see it come from a mix of entitlement and tax reform. And the GOP opposes Obama’s $400 billion in Medicare cuts, arguing they want more structural reforms.”
Just in case you’ve forgotten, those “structural reforms” actually end traditional Medicare and put seniors at the mercy of private insurance companies, dramatically increasing their health care costs and limiting their choice of doctors. What Republicans want is passage of the Ryan/GOP budget, which is nothing more than “CouponCare” which gives seniors a coupon to go buy their health coverage from private insurance companies. The American people don’t support “CouponCare” yet the Republicans in the House have introduced this plan three times and clearly hope President Obama will give them what the Senate will not.
And then there’s President Obama’s plan for Social Security and Medicare, which isn’t to be applauded either. He proposes cutting Social Security benefits for current and future retirees, veterans and the disabled plus raising taxes on the middle class through the Chained CPI.
“Cutting benefits by adopting the chained CPI would cut the COLA by 3% for workers retired for ten years and 6% for workers retired for twenty years. This cut targets both current and future retirees. Three years after enactment, this translates to a benefit cut of $130 per year in Social Security benefits for a typical 65 year-old. The cumulative cut for that individual would be $4,631 or more than three months of benefits by age 75. While supporters claim the chained CPI is more accurate; you have to ask yourself, if this chained CPI really is more accurate, then why the need to offer an incremental benefit “bump” to some beneficiaries? 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.” Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO
In a letter to the White House Max also told the President:
"The 'chained CPI' is not a 'technical tweak,' and no amount of rationalization can make it so. In reality, the chained CPI is a benefit cut for the oldest and most vulnerable Americans who would be least able to afford it. To offer to trade it away outside the context of a comprehensive Social Security solvency proposal ignores the fact that Social Security does not even belong in this debate because it does not contribute to the deficit. Cutting Social Security benefits to reduce the deficit is unacceptable to the vast majority of Americans across all ages and political affiliation."
On Medicare, President Obama also supports even further means-testing which will ultimately hit middle-class families, not just “wealthy seniors.”
“Proposals to expand Medicare means testing include increasing income-related premiums under Medicare Parts B and D until 25 percent of beneficiaries are subject to higher premiums. A study from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that this would affect individuals with incomes equivalent to $47,000 for an individual and $94,000 for a couple if fully implemented in 2014 – meaning it would reach many middle-income Americans.”
So, everything old is new again. President Obama is negotiating with the GOP all over again and middle-class benefit cuts are the only thing we know for sure is on the table. You have to wonder, where are Congressional Democrats?!
Well...where to start on a Budget day when we already knew just how bad it would be long before the document was actually released. As expected, President Obama is continuing his flawed political and policy strategy that proposes seniors, veterans and people with disabilities take benefit cuts to reduce the deficit. You surely already know what we think about that...
“Federal budgets are far more than just numbers on a page. They represent national priorities for our fiscal future. That’s why so many middle-class Americans are stunned to see President Obama’s budget priorities include cutting benefits to millions of seniors, retired veterans and people with disabilities. This budget also includes more means testing for seniors in Medicare and less than half the new revenue requested in earlier budget negotiations. The President’s budget is not the balanced plan promised to Americans before November’s election.
Changing the current cost of living allowance formula to a stingier and less accurate Chained CPI is an immediate benefit cut for millions living on already modest incomes. The White House knows this formula is not more accurate for seniors, which is why it’s promised exemptions and bumps to try and soften the blow for some. But it still leaves millions of seniors facing benefit cuts, breaking the promise President Obama made to protect America’s middle class families.
Clearly it will be up to members of Congress to set fiscal priorities that actually represent the needs of the average citizens they were elected to represent. The vast majority of Americans, of all political parties, oppose cutting Social Security and Medicare to reduce the deficit. It’s more than just wishful thinking if Congress believes voters will reward them for cutting Social Security to pay for a deficit it did not create.”...Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO
There are many, many places you can go today if you want to try and figure out what in the world possessed a Democratic President to propose Social Security cuts that even the Republicans avoided their own budget. Here are a couple worthwhile political pieces:
“...without a bipartisan budget deal that backs these cuts, it’s possible Republicans just got an even bigger gift: that chained CPI becomes an idea associated with Democrats alone. That ought to play well in 2014. Of course, the Senate unanimously approved Sen. Bernie Sanders’ resolution opposing a switch to the chained CPI by voice vote, showing no senator in either party wants his or her name on the proposal. For now, publicly at least, Obama stands alone.” Salon
“The liberals’ objections are legitimate — particularly their resistance to a stingier inflation formula for Social Security, which isn’t as big a budget problem as Medicare. There’s a case to be made that the president shouldn’t negotiate with himself by opening the bidding with his final offer. There’s also a concern that he now “owns” Social Security cuts, and Republicans can use that against him.” Washington Post
On the policy side, there is also some good coverage of just how flawed this plan truly is for middle-class Americans and the massive across-party opposition:
“There are a number of problems with this proposal, including the fact that the real cost of living for the elderly probably increases faster than the CPI-W, since the elderly consume a disproportionate amount of health care, which has a higher inflation rate than the overall economy. More generally, you don't actually save any money by reducing Social Security checks. There's no "waste" in Social Security. It's a program in which one set of people pays cash to the government and the government pays virtually all of that cash back out to another set of people. Every dollar in lower benefits is one dollar less in someone's wallet.” The Atlantic
“The AARP reveals that 70 percent of voters age 50-plus oppose the use of the chained CPI to cut benefits, and two-thirds of them – including 60 percent of Republicans — say they would be “considerably less likely” to support a congressional candidate if he or she backed a new way of calculating consumer prices. And 84 percent of voters over 50 say Social Security has no place in budget-deficit discussions, since it is self-financed. On every single question, Republicans lag only a point or two behind Democrats in their opposition to Social Security cuts.” AARP
Just in case you haven’t pulled your hair out completely yet, we also recommend you check out the White House’s fact sheet for seniors, which incredibly claims this budget will strengthen Social Security while failing to provide even a single mention of Social Security benefit cuts which start at $130 the first year for the average 65 year-old retiree. The cumulative cut for that individual would be $4,631 or more than three months of benefits by age 75; $13,910 or nearly a year of benefits by age 85; and $28,004, more than a year and a half of benefits by age 95.
Seems like that might have been worth a mention by the White House today.
Lastly, a little twisted humor making the rounds on Tumblr:
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