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House Leaders Hope Political Smoke and Mirrors will Hide Medicare Cuts in Trade Bill

With an expected House vote tomorrow on controversial trade legislation supported by the President and the Senate, House leadership of bothparties are scrambling to find a way to provide political cover for the $950 million in Medicare cuts being used to fund part of the trade bill.  Stealing funds from Medicare to pay for Congress’ pet projects has become increasingly common.  This Trade package is just the latest example.   

Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Task Force on Seniors have led the charge against this proposal:

10,000 people a day turn 65.  We should be investing and expanding Medicare not stealing from it.  People have paid into this program and expect it to be there...not to use that to fund anytime we need money to pay for another program...Medicare is not the ATM for everything Congress wants to pay for.  Cutting this social insurance program isn’t the direction we should be going in. Medicare should not be the pay-for for trade deal. The best way to help workers is to stop trade deals that take their jobs...not cut Medicare to fund fixes.” Rep. Jan Shakowsky (D-IL)

“There’s going to be untold riches earned if TPP is enacted into law.  There’s no doubt about that. Great profits will be derived for large international corporations...it seems only logical that the multinationals should fund the costs of the Trade Adjustment Assistance. I can not abide this.  We’ll fight it with everything we have.”  Keith Ellison (D-MN)

That pressure has worked as more and more Members now realize what is included in this trade vote and this week voiced their opposition to using Medicare as an ATM to pay for Trade Adjustment Assistance legislation. 

However, rather than go back to the drawing board, House leaders have now crafted a political sleight of hand designed to pass TAA while providing Members of Congress political coverage for cutting Medicare.  This is a segment of NCPSSM’s letter to Congress today and comments from NCPSSM President/CEO, Max Richtman: 

“Although Representative Paul Ryan’s amendment to H.R. 1295, the “Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015,” would remove the Medicare sequester from H.R. 1314, there is no guarantee that the Senate will approve this amendment. In addition, the Ryan amendment is flawed because it does not remove the Medicare dialysis provision from H.R. 1314.

We believe that this scheme amounts to a shell game which will force you and your colleagues to be on record with a vote to cut a program that is supported overwhelmingly by Americans of all political affiliations and age groups. What’s more, it sets a dangerous precedent of treating Medicare as a piggybank to pay for unrelated programs. Savings from changes in Medicare policy should be used to improve Medicare – not for other purposes.”

“For millions of seniors and their families a vote to cut Medicare is a vote to cut Medicare.  Period.  There is no political sleight of hand that will provide Members of Congress protection on election day for a vote which raids Medicare to pay for the trade bill.

Cutting Medicare to pay for everything else under the sun has become a habit that Congress needs to break.  This trade vote is the perfect time to do it. 

Medicare isn’t Washington’s ATM.  The American people understand this.  Members of Congress who don’t will undoubtedly be reminded very clearly by their political opponents and voters come Election Day.”...Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO

 

 

 

 

 

GOP Priorities for Social Security are Clear

Congress is proposing a freeze on funding for the already strapped Social Security Administration at last year’s levels.  The SSA administrative budget has already fallen by over 10 percent since 2010 after adjusting for inflation.  The GOP’s 2016 SSA Appropriation ignores inflation and the fact that ten thousand Americans are turning 65 each day.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities details what these budget cuts mean for a program that touches the lives of virtually every American family: 

Since 2010, SSA has lost over 6,000 employees, nearly 10 percent of its staff. As a result, SSA's service is suffering:  

  • Reduced field office hours.
  • Increased wait times for appointments. 
  • Longer hold times. 
  • Cutbacks in Social Security Statements. 
  • Backlogged Disability Insurance claims.
  • Delays in processing earnings reports.

Logically, you’re probably wondering how is an agency serving a growing number of Americans (and it’s not like the baby boomer generation is a surprise) be expected to do its job with no resources?   The answer lies in the long-held “starve the beast” and “drown-the-government” conservative strategy still being practiced, decades later, by GOP leaders in Congress.

“I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”  Grover Norquist

Social Security is well-managed with small administrative costs.  However, underfunding popular programs that conservatives can’t outright abolish or dismantle (if they hope to keep their seats in Congress, anyway) continues to be used as a political strategy to weaken Social Security.  This underfunding has now been going on long enough that Social Security services provided to average Americans have been cut to the bone.

Who ultimately pays the price for this political strategy?  Average American families who have contributed their entire working lives to Social Security and have a reasonable expectation that the SSA would be funded by Congress to successfully fulfill its mission...as it has done for 80 years. 

National Seniors' Coalition Transfers Chairmanship to NCPSSM

NCPSSM President/CEO, Max Richtman, Assumes Chairmanship of the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations

“For too many years our nation’s most successful retirement and health security programs have been under almost constant assault by those who hope to cut these programs to pay for a myriad of other purposes – from tax cuts and deficit reduction to trade deals.  These attacks come at a time when 10,000 Americans turn 65 each day, our nation faces a retirement crisis and the need for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Older Americans Act programs is growing. With so much at stake and a stormy political climate ahead, the National Committee is proud to take over the leadership of the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations continuing the LCAO’s important work on behalf of America’s seniors. We’re at a critical time in history and the LCAO will lead the effort to strengthen programs seniors and their families depend on.”...Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO

The 72 senior advocacy groups that comprise the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations have spent decades educating and advocating on behalf of the nation’s senior citizens.  From Social Security to long-term care issues, the LCAO has been a leading voice in the debate on how best to serve America’s senior population—current and future.  This year will be especially busy for the LCAO as 2015 marks Medicare’s 50th anniversary and the 80th anniversary for Social Security.  The White House Conference on Aging is also being held this year with LCAO organizations engaged nationwide and playing a leadership role to ensure seniors’ voices play an important role in the event.

Max Richtman’s one-year chairmanship begins June 3rd.


Social Security's 80th Anniversary Celebration

The Social Security Administration has created a new website counting down to Social Security’s 80th anniversary this summer. 

Under the tag: “Celebrating the Past and Building the Future” SSA provides beneficiaries and the SSA staffers who serve them, the opportunity to tell their stories. 

According to SSA’s news release:

"The agency also has planned several additional events, such as celebrating “America’s Favorites: Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie & SSA” Night that will include a ball game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Oakland A’s and at other games around the country.  Stay tuned to the 80th Anniversary website for information on exciting upcoming events as they are planned!

'As I reflect on our agency’s rich history, I am deeply honored to be a part of such a great organization with employees who truly embody the spirit of passionate public service,' Acting Commissioner Colvin said.  'There is nothing more rewarding than making a difference in the lives of others, and with our collective commitment, there is no limit to what we can achieve.  Happy 80th Anniversary, Social Security!'

Seniors Tell Congress Medicare Isn’t Your ATM

 

 

Seniors advocates with the Alliance for Retired Americans and the National Committee joined Reps. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) in a press event today to express their opposition to legislation that would cut $700 million from Medicare to pay for a slice of the Trade Deal now being debated in Congress. 

“Medicare is not the piggy bank for other programs. We’ve already seen what sequester has meant for the program.  We’ve written to Congress because there’s just not enough awareness on this issue.  Across the board cuts affects the integrity of the Medicare program.” Rich Fiesta, Alliance for Retired Americans Executive Director

“The use of Medicare cuts, 700 million dollars of Medicare cuts, to finance a program totally unrelated to Medicare sets a terrible precedent.  It’s not death by a thousand cuts but that’s where we seem to be headed.  I think it’s interesting that many of the same members of Congress who condemned Obamacare and decried savings in the Medicare program as cuts--savings which were, by the way, plowed right back into the program to provide preventive screenings, close the Part D donut hole and extend the program’s solvency--are now some of the same legislators who want to really cut money from Medicare to pay for an unrelated program.”  Max Richtman, National Committee President/CEO

Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Task Force on Seniors are leading the charge against this proposal:

10,000 people a day turn 65.  We should be investing and expanding Medicare not stealing from it.  People have paid into this program and expect it to be there...not to use that to fund anytime we need money to pay for another program...Medicare is not the ATM for everything Congress wants to pay for.  Cutting this social insurance program isn’t the direction we should be going in. Medicare should not be the pay-for for trade deal. The best way to help workers is to stop trade deals that take their jobs...not cut Medicare to fund fixes.” Rep. Jan Shakowsky (D-IL)

“There’s going to be untold riches earned if TPP is enacted into law.  There’s no doubt about that. Great profits will be derived for large international corporations...it seems only logical that the multinationals should fund the costs of the Trade Adjustment Assistance. I can not abide this.  We’ll fight it with everything we have.”  Keith Ellison (D-MN)

Reps. Ellison and Schakowsky say many of their colleagues don’t even realize this Medicare cut was slipped into the Trade Assistance provision.  They’re raising the alarm but hope seniors and their families will also call and email their Members of Congress now since the debate is underway. 

You can do that easily from our Leg Action Center. 

SEND YOUR EMAIL TODAY!


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Pamela Causey
Communications Director
Causeyp@ncpssm.org(202) 216-8378
(202) 236-2123 cell

Kim Wright
Assistant Director of Communications
Wrightk@ncpssm.org
(202) 216-8414

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