The Congressional Budget Office’s new budget projections show that despite the sky-is-falling crisis calls made by Wall Street backed austerity fanatics like: Fix The Debt, Bowles-Simpson and the rest of the Pete Peterson funded anti-Social Security brigade, our deficit is now the smallest it's been since 2008. And that’s without the so-called “Grand Bargain” this billion dollar lobby claims is absolutely necessary for our nation’s survival. The Daily Intelligencer explains:
It's hard not to see the CBO's projections as the latest in a long series of demoralizing developments for the Simpson-Bowles-led deficit scold movement. Overall, the CBO says that barring unforeseen policy changes, the deficit will shrink to 2.1 percent of GDP in 2015. That's better than the 2.3 percent target Simpson and Bowles originally set out in their 2010 report. And it will happen even without the grand bargain they've so desperately sought.
Neither is the federal debt piling up to unsustainable levels. As the CBO's chart shows, the debt-to-GDP ratio is now projected to peak in 2014 at 76.2 percent, before falling to 70.8 percent in 2018. That's a long way from the now-discredited 90 percent threshold budget scolds have used to scare policymakers, and the projections —combined with record-low interest rates and eerily calm bond markets — should put our concerns about an immediate debt crisis to rest.
Now, it’s really hard to keep a crisis mentality ginned up if the facts keep getting in the way (see also the Reinhart Rogoff debacle). So, as expected, the Wall Streeters have chosen just to ignore what doesn’t fit their frame:
The Campaign to Fix the Debt, which marshals corporate resources to lobby for deficit reduction, said that "the rosier-than-expected near-term projections do not change the fact that rising health care costs, an aging population, Social Security’s looming insolvency, and ever-increasing interest payments will greatly expand the national debt as a share of the economy starting at the end of the current decade." The Hill Newspaper
Again, the true challenge facing this nation is health care costs. Reforms through the Affordable Care Act have helped reduce the deficit and system-wide reforms need to continue, not just in Medicare. Talking about Social Security and Medicare, as if they’re the same program, is a favored ploy of these Wall Streeters; however, it conveniently ignores the fact that there is $2.7 trillion currently in the Social Security trust fund and that figure keeps growing. Economist Jared Bernstein offers some too-little-heard fact-based analysis:
Longer term, even with the recent improvement in the pace of health care costs, we still face pressure from the intersection of our aging demographics and health care spending. To bend those curves at the end of the figure, we’ll need to keep up the pressure on health costs as well as boost our revenues. Cuts alone won’t do it.
It would be nice if policy makers looked at the figure below and recognized that we need less austerity now and more health savings/revs later. But that would mean spraying water on their flaming heads, and that can be kind of uncomfortable.
CATEGORY: [Budget], [entitlement reform], [Medicare], [Social Security], [stimulus]
A new Rasmussen poll highlights the absurdity of Congress’ decision to swoop in and prove they can “work together” – at least when it’s in their own best interests – by lifting the sequester’s impact on the FAA.
“Congress cited public outrage as the reason for moving swiftly to end flight delays caused by the sequester. However, very few Americans were actually impacted.”
In fact, only 16% of Americans even know anyone impacted. Commentator Richard Eskow was among that tiny minority. He offers these thoughts:
“At no point during my mini-"ordeal" did I think "Boy, I'd be happy to cut my Social Security and everybody else's too so this won't happen again." The thought never even crossed my mind.
So I was disappointed when the President used his weekly national address to push, not for a total repeal of the sequester, but for his "compromise" austerity budget - a budget which includes unnecessary cuts to Social Security. The title of his address - "Time to Replace the Sequester with a Balanced Approach to Deficit Reduction" - betrays a continued unawareness of either the pain caused by these unwise cuts or the shifting economic reality which has discredited Washington's deficit mania.
The only sensible thing to do is to cancel the entire sequester. And stop trying to use it to gin up hysteria so they can put through other unpopular cuts. Just can it.”
As a reminder, here are just some of the real cuts Americans face because of this sequester:
Thousands of cancer patients are being turned away from cancer clinics for chemotherapy treatments due to Medicare cuts
140,000 low-income families – mostly disabled elders and families with children - are losing rental assistance vouchers
- 70,000 children are being kicked out of Head Start programs
- The Caregiver support program will be cut by $12.6 million
- The Meals on Wheels program will be cut by 17 million meals
“Michele Daley, director of nutrition services at the Local Office on Aging, which serves Roanoke, Alleghany, Botetourt and Craig counties in Virginia, said the agency expects to receive $95,000 less in federal funds this year (it has an operating budget of $1 million). They're gradually reducing the number of people receiving daily meals from 650 to 600 as a result of the budget cuts. Already, the office has planned to stop handing out most emergency meals -- bags of shelf-stable items like canned beans distributed in advance of snowstorms and holidays. And they've instituted a waiting list. "We've never had a waiting list," Daley said. "This is the first time ever and it's a direct result of sequestration." Huffington Post
Time Goes By blogger, Ronni Bennett expressed the frustration so many feel (outside the Beltway anyway),
“Judging from past performance and publicly professed ideology, I would have thought there are several senators who coulda/woulda/shoulda stopped this legislation: Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), maybe even my two Oregon senators, Democrats Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.
But no. Not one senator (nor even the president) took a principled stand for needy elders, children and their families not to mention Medicare cancer patients denied chemotherapy drugs, some of whom will die as a result. (Yes, they will.)
But never mind. Congress members and rich people will not be caused "unnecessary harm," (as White House Spokesman Carney so helpfully explained) by airport delays. This is the country we live in now. “
Rather than end on such a down note, we thought you’d also enjoy comedian Jon Stewart’s take on the whole ridiculous situation and Mike Thompson's editorial cartoon to help soften the edges of your outrage:
Mike Thompson: Detroit Free Press
CATEGORY: [Aging Issues], [Budget], [healthcare], [Medicare], [Retirement], [Social Security]
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:
CATEGORY: [Budget], [entitlement reform], [Max Richtman], [Presidential Politics], [Social Security]
National Committee members and supporters will be converging on the White House tomorrow to protest President Obama's
budget plan to cut benefits for seniors, retired veterans and people with disabilities.
“While the White House continues to claim the chained CPI is nothing more than a formula ‘tweak’, the reality is it will cut benefits immediately for America’s retirees by $130 the first year compounding to thousands of dollars in benefit cuts over time. The American people have made it clear they do not support cutting Social Security benefits to reduce the deficit; however, Washington continues on a path targeting middle-class families to pay for our fiscal failures. The disconnect between Washington and average Americans has never been larger. Passage of the chained CPI would break a promise made just months ago by politicians of both parties to protect vital middle-class programs like Social Security.” Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO
Here are the basic details for those of our readers in the D.C. metro area who can join us.
WHO: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA)
Max Richtman, NCPSSM President and CEO
Damon Silvers, AFL-CIO
Manny Hermann, MoveOn.org
Stephanie Taylor, Progressive Change Campaign Committee
Jim Dean, Democracy for America Chair
Roger Hickey, Campaign for America’s Future
Bonnie Grabenhofer, National Organization for Women
Former Obama for America Supporters & Seniors on Social Security
WHAT: Delivery of more than 1 million petition signatures directly to the White House
WHEN: Tuesday April 9, at 12:30pm (ET)
WHERE: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW - Washington DC (In front of the White House opposite of Lafayette Square)
For those who can't join us in person, have no fear there's another way our activists can truly make a difference. Please join our Congressional Call-in Day on Wednesday. One simple toll-free call will connect you directly to your members of Congress and Senate.
Our goal is to flood Members of Congress with calls reminding them that Americans of all ages and political parties oppose cutting Social Security to pay for deficit reduction. President Obama’s Chained CPI budget proposal in his 2014 Budget will do exactly that. Our message to Congress is simple:
Keep the Promise. Social Security doesn’t contribute to the deficit and Americans of all parties oppose cutting benefits earned by middle-class families. The Chained CPI isn’t a “tweak” it’s a benefit cut America’s retirees, veterans and the disabled simply cannot afford.
NCPSSM’s Legislative Hotline will connect callers directly to their Congressional leaders from one toll-free number:
CHAINED CPI CONGRESSIONAL CALL IN DAY
The National Committee led the charge against privatization and will do the same against any plan to cut Social Security benefits, including through the chained CPI.
CATEGORY: [Budget], [Max Richtman], [Presidential Politics], [Social Security]
The White House provided reporters an early look at President Obama’s 2014 budget and the news for seniors is not good. This assessment by Firedoglake’s Daniel Wright sums it up best:
“President Barack Obama has once again started his negotiations by scoring into his own net. In what may be the dumbest plan yet proposed, Obama has offered cuts to Social Security hoping for a change in the Republican's position on tax loopholes for the wealthy.
President Barack Obama’s proposed budget will call for reductions in the growth of Social Security and other benefit programs by including a proposal to lower cost-of-living adjustments to government social safety net spending, a senior administration official says.
Because with poverty hitting new record levels, now is a great time to cut benefits”
The President’s budget plan ignores his statements made during and after the election that Social Security should not be used to cut the deficit and also his promises for a balanced fiscal approach that wouldn’t target middle-class Americans. In truth, President Obama’s budget will cut $127.2 billion in Social Security benefits by adopting the stingier Chained CPI and further means testing in Medicare. It also raises less than half the new revenue offered in previous proposals.
Cutting benefits by adopting the chained CPI, as proposed by the White House, would cut the COLA by 3% for workers retired for ten years and 6% for workers retired for twenty years. This translates to a benefit cut of $130 per year in Social Security benefits for a typical 65 year-old, including today’s retirees. 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. While the President has promised not to “slash” benefits, losing three months up to more than a year and half of income would count as "slashing benefits" by anyone's standards, especially for America's oldest retirees, veterans and people with disabilities living on modest incomes.
This budget also continues the lopsided deficit reduction strategy used since 2011 in which more than 75% of deficit reduction has come from program cuts. So much for a “balanced approach”.
As CEPR’s Dean Baker reminds us:
Since President Obama's proposal would lead to a 3 percent cut in Social Security benefits, it would reduce the income of the typical retiree by more than 2.0 percent, more than three times the size of the hit from the tax increase to the wealthy.
Here is NCPSSM President Max Richtman’s reaction to the President Obama’s budget:
“If news reports today are correct, President Obama will soon renege on his commitment to keep Social Security out of the deficit debate, ignoring his campaign promise to millions of Americans that he would protect vital middle class programs like Social Security. By including a proposal in his 2014 budget to change the current cost of living allowance formula to a stingier and less accurate Chained CPI, the President has suggested an immediate benefit cut of $130 per year for the typical 65-year old retiree that would grow exponentially to a $1,400 cut after 30 years of retirement.
Contrary to the political spin, this chained CPI proposal isn’t a “tweak” or an “adjustment,” it’s designed to cut benefits and raises taxes, largely on the poor and middle class, totaling $208 billion over ten years. $127.2 billion of those benefits cuts come from Social Security with about $24 billion coming from VA benefits and civilian and military retirement pay cuts.
Seniors will have received an average COLA of 1.3% over 4 years with no increase in two of those years. Arguing that is too generous shows how out of touch Washington is with the real-world economic realities facing average Americans. Adopting the chained CPI is nothing more than a political sleight of hand targeting our nation’s middle class and poor.
This budget is also reported to include more means testing 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 and will leave millions of middle-class families in even worse shape than they are today.”...Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO
CATEGORY: [Budget], [entitlement reform], [Max Richtman], [Medicare], [Presidential Politics], [Social Security]
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