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]
The news back in February that private insurers in Medicare would receive a 2.2% rate cut in 2014 sent their lobbyists into overdrive, flooding the halls of Congress and the media with ads bemoaning the reduction in their billions of dollars of federal overpayments. Historically, private insurers providing Medicare Advantage coverage have collected 13% more from the federal government to provide private MA coverage than it costs to cover seniors in traditional Medicare. Over the years this massive government subsidy to private for-profit insurers has cost Medicare millions of dollars, so the Obama administration correctly trimmed back those wasteful overpayments as part of the Affordable Care Act, helping to add 8 years of solvency to the program.
Incredibly the news this week is that the Obama administration has now caved to the insurance industry’s lobbying blitz and Congressional pressure and will not only reverse the 2014 Medicare Advantage cuts but will also give for-profit insurers a 3% raise. No surprisingly, this is a move that CMS actuaries (the non-politicians actually paid to do this job) opposed:
“The actuaries in charge of the calculation made clear that they did not endorse the change. The official notice, signed by Jonathan Blum, director of Medicare at CMS, and Paul Spitalnic, the chief actuary in charge of the formula, said that the change had come at the behest of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.” National Journal
“It’s about the best possible result for Medicare Advantage plans,” said Ipsita Smolinski, managing director at Capitol Street, a health care consulting firm.” Politico
Sure, it’s good news for the nation’s $884 billion dollar a year health insurance industry but what about Medicare? Not so much. While Medicare Advantage over-payments will still face future reductions thanks to health care reform, this is the classic case of political “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.” Will those common sense reductions survive another AHIP lobbying onslaught? It’s also important to note that many of the same members of Congress who have decried Medicare spending and support more means testing, benefits cuts and more for seniors -- all in the name of deficit reduction -- lobbied the hardest to ensure the health insurance industry keeps their government subsidies. These are subsidies that all seniors, whether they are in a Medicare Advantage plan or not, pay for with higher premiums while also burdening the Medicare program overall.
For comparison, let’s juxtaposition Congress’ rapid response this week to the insurance lobby’s pressure to keep their goodies with the inaction we’ve seen over months leading to across the board budget cuts in the ongoing sequester. Budget cuts that are impacting average Americans, not huge for-profit industries.
The Washington Post reports today that the sequester has lead to thousands of Medicare cancer patients being turned away from cancer clinics who can’t afford the 2% sequester cut for drugs needed to treat their Medicare patients.
Cancer clinics across the country have begun turning away thousands of Medicare patients, blaming the sequester budget cuts. Oncologists say the reduced funding, which took effect for Medicare on April 1, makes it impossible to administer expensive chemotherapy drugs while staying afloat financially.
Patients at these clinics would need to seek treatment elsewhere, such as at hospitals that might not have the capacity to accommodate them. “If we treated the patients receiving the most expensive drugs, we’d be out of business in six months to a year,” said Jeff Vacirca, chief executive of North Shore Hematology Oncology Associates in New York. “The drugs we’re going to lose money on we’re not going to administer right now. After an emergency meeting Tuesday, Vacirca’s clinics decided that they would no longer see one-third of their 16,000 Medicare patients. “A lot of us are in disbelief that this is happening,” he said. “It’s a choice between seeing these patients and staying in business.”
Cancer providers have also been lobbying Congress asking for a sequester waiver for cancer drugs so that they can continue providing their life-saving care. Washington certainly rallied quickly to reinstate massively wasteful government subsidies to one of our nation’s largest industries...yet so far, no response to those who literally control the life and death of thousands of cancer patients in Medicare.
CATEGORY: [Budget], [entitlement reform], [healthcare], [Medicare], [privatization]
Americans of all ages understand that the success of our nation has been built on the fundamental truth that strong working families have historically been the backbone of our thriving country. However, many in Washington continue to push for their failed fiscal policies which have shifted our nation’s resources away from the middle-class to the wealthy while pitting the young versus the old in a political sleight of hand designed to cut programs vital to both.
NCPSSM President, Max Richtman, is proud to push back against this political propaganda at a rally this week in Rep. Paul Ryan’s hometown in Wisconsin and in this joint op-ed published with the organization Every Child Matters.
A tale of two Janesvilles?
The Capital Times – Madison, WI
In 1900 the U.S. infant mortality rate was 165 deaths per 1,000 live births. Today it is six. In 1960 the elderly had the highest poverty rate and had no access to affordable health care. Today their poverty rate is the lowest and persons 65 and older are covered by Medicare.
How are these tremendous advancements in human health and dignity related? They are the direct result of the American people telling their elected federal officials — presidents and Congresses both — to stop the preventable deaths of babies, and to stop the avoidable last years of poverty and medical despair for those who had contributed so much over a lifetime. And it worked, the direct result of voter and taxpayer support for smart investments in the common welfare.
These and scores of other social advances over the last century contributed to most Americans enjoying perhaps the highest standard of living in the world. In combination with the benefits of a moderately regulated market economy, America’s national investments in its citizens — in itself — produced the planet’s strongest military and economic power. Now there are some in power who would junk this formula.
That is why we will appear jointly at a rally in Janesville on Thursday. As lifetime advocates for children and seniors, we believe the budget crafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan marks a radical, ideologically driven departure from decades of pragmatic, successful bipartisan policies aimed at lifting all Americans. Now, already adopted by his House GOP colleagues, Congressman Ryan’s plan proposes to break federal commitments to citizens over the next decade to pay for tax cuts and subsidies for wealthy individuals and corporations.
Even though this latest version of trickle-down economics was soundly rejected by voters just five months ago, Ryan has revived his vision for sharply cutting social spending, threatening programs — Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, WIC, school lunches — that have improved lives for millions. If his vision prevails, big insurance companies could once again deny help to millions with pre-existing conditions. Tens of thousands of eager young learners could be denied Head Start. Seniors would face higher out-of-pocket costs while having to navigate the private marketplace with their Medicare vouchers.
The Janesville area has two members of Congress, who hold completely different views on the budget. Mark Pocan, who represents Congressional District 2, takes a balanced approach of targeted cuts to low-priority programs plus new revenues, starting with the elimination of unnecessary corporate tax breaks. He would preserve and strengthen proven safety-net programs in the face of a rapidly aging population and make critical investments in children and youth in order to remain competitive in a global economy.
The Janesville area also is represented by Congressman Ryan, in Congressional District 1. His budget does not solve the problems America’s families’ face. It does not address rampant child abuse and neglect, nor child poverty, nor millions of children in poor-quality child care, nor numerous other challenges facing children and youth. Nor does it address the high unemployment facing many seniors who must work past retirement age, nor the growing out-of-pocket health care costs, nor the poor conditions in many nursing homes, nor the need for a revised cost-of-living formula specifically for seniors, nor numerous other challenges facing elders.
Can there be another community in America faced with such completely different visions of the role of government put forward by its federal representatives? Similarly, could our own organizations be more different, one advocating for those at the beginning of life, the other at the end of life? In fact, their fates and lives are intertwined. Grandparents love their grandkids, and grandkids their grandparents. Both want the other to succeed. The GOP House budget would make achieving such success more difficult.
Michael Petit is the president of Every Child Matters, a national child advocacy organization. Max Richtman is president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.
CATEGORY: [Aging Issues], [entitlement reform], [Max Richtman], [Retirement]
Originally posted on Huffington Post by Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO
When I met with President Obama and other allied groups at the White House just after his reelection, his commitment to carry out the promises made during the campaign seemed clear and unambiguous. The President acknowledged Social Security should not be a part of the deficit debate. This was especially important to millions of American families still struggling in this economy who depend on Social Security’s modest benefit -- the benefit they’ve contributed to throughout their working lives. Unfortunately, within months, President Obama’s unambiguous statement has taken a 180 degree turn and a proposal cutting Social Security benefits for both current and future retirees has once again become a deficit debate bargaining chip. However, as a consolation, the President promises he won’t “slash” benefits.
Mr. President, please define “slash”.
The Stealth Benefit Cut
There’s a political calculus behind cutting benefits to millions of seniors, veterans, people with disabilities and more by reducing the federal cost of living allowance. Cutting the COLA is being pitched as a simple “technical tweak” or “formula adjustment” that’s more accurate than the current COLA formula. Sounds reasonable, right? However, claims that the current COLA is too generous are demonstrably false. So much so, the White House is considering “protecting” millions of low-income Americans, some veterans and “older” beneficiaries from this COLA cut. If the chained-CPI really is a more accurate formula, why the exemption?
The Social Security COLA has averaged just over 2% over the past five years with 0% for two of those years, far below the largest expenditure increase for most seniors, health care. If accuracy, not cutting benefits, is the goal then we should be talking about the elderly formula (CPI-E) which factors in seniors’ health care costs and has been under review by the federal government for decades. However, that won’t happen because there’s no guarantee the CPI-E will cut benefits. The chained CPI, on the other hand, will. This COLA change is nothing more than a stealth benefit cut Washington politicians hope will fly under the radar of the millions of American families it targets. On behalf of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare’s millions of members and supporters I’ve written to the President about his COLA proposal:
“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.”
Slash? You Decide
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. 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. These chained CPI cuts also deliver a larger percentage cut to seniors’ annual income than the tax increases on the wealthiest Americans passed earlier this year deliver to our nation’s millionaires. An analysis by Dean Baker with the Center for Economic and Policy Research shows the after tax income for wealthy Americans was reduced by less than 0.7 percent after January’s tax hike. By comparison, the percentage of income Social Security beneficiaries will lose would be three times as much if the chained CPI is adopted.
So Much for “Shared Sacrifice”
Requiring benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in the name of deficit reduction has always been the goal of the billion dollar corporate and Wall Street backed crisis campaign driving Washington’s deficit hysteria. These millionaires, billionaires and their supporters in Congress have used the economic recession to fuel their anti-Social Security and Medicare mission. The Obama administration and some Democrats in Congress have bought into the flawed idea that they must trade away middle-class benefits just to get Republicans to the table and further, if a millionaire loses a tax break then the middle class and poor most also lose their modest benefits in Medicare or Social Security. There’s nothing balanced about this type of deal. But it does explain how the deficit reduction passed since 2011 includes 75% cuts (mostly to programs serving the poor and middle-class) and only 25% revenue increases (not just from the wealthy). This mythological “shared sacrifice” continues as President Obama has now told Congress he’s "willing to back $2 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax revenue" in any future deal. Even that isn’t enough for Republicans who expect average Americans to foot the entire deficit reduction bill through program cuts rather than closing the trillion dollars of wasteful millionaire and corporate loopholes and tax breaks.
“In addition, we should not fool ourselves that your negotiating partners will be satisfied with lowering Social Security COLAs or raising the Medicare eligibility age. Each debt limit increase, Continuing Resolution or sequestration will give them a second, third and fourth ‘bite at the apple.’ In November, you won the confidence of the American people by defending the middle class. I urge you not to let them down now by supporting a deal that undermines the last remaining retirement security pillars for middle-class Americans.” Letter to President Obama, March 20, 2013
Americans Won’t Be Fooled
Inside the Beltway, members of Congress might also be able to kid themselves that middle-class families won’t notice a Social Security benefit cut here and a Medicare benefit cut there. However, they will find a very different truth when they go home to their Congressional districts. Not because America is a nation of “takers” or “greedy geezers” but because Americans understand the difference between harmful benefit cuts to the poor and middle-class and reasonable reforms, such as lifting the Social Security payroll tax cap and allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices. They don’t believe a dollar in millionaire taxes is the same as a dollar cut from the average annual $14,000 earned Social Security benefit. Most importantly, the American people are willing to pay to preserve and even strengthen these vital benefits. They’ve said this over and over again, most recently at the polls in November.
Will Congress listen now that the election is over? If not, they shouldn’t be surprised that voters deliver the same message when they return to the polls next time.
CATEGORY: [entitlement reform], [Max Richtman], [Presidential Politics], [Social Security]
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