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Celebrating Our Social Security & Medicare Successes

We've seen a constant threat to Social Security and Medicare benefits coming from Washington over the past many years.   While the war to preserve and strengthen these vital programs certainly isn't over (for example the President's budget, the debt ceiling fight, are still ahead in 2014), it's important to celebrate the battles we have already won. And they are many.  Thanks to our vigilant NCPSSM activists for their hard work in reminding Washington why the vast majority of Americans of all ages and political parties do not support cutting benefits. 

30 Years of Fighting and Winning to Protect Your Benefits

2013

A year of fiscal crises repeatedly threatened benefit cuts to Social Security and Medicare. The National Committee successfully prevented a Social Security Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) cut and an increase in the Medicare eligibility age from being written into the fiscal cliff bill. We also defeated efforts to continue the two-year-old Social Security payroll tax holiday that was undermining the Social Security system. 

The National Committee launched a nationwide pilot to inform America’s same sex couples of their new rights to Social Security benefits after the Supreme Court’s Defense of Marriage Act decision in 2012.

Joining with other advocates, we delivered more than 2 million petitions to the White House protesting President Obama’s plan to cut Social Security benefits through the Chained CPI.

2012

NCPSSM President/CEO, Max Richtman, met with President Obama and other national leaders at the White House to talk about fiscal challenges facing the nation. He urged the President to preserve Social Security and Medicare benefits in ongoing budget debates.

We stopped a proposal to increase Medicare premiums from becoming part of legislation to extend the Social Security payroll tax holiday.   

2011

The Congressional “Super Committee” hoped to solve the federal debt crisis by cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, but thanks to our lobbying efforts, a national ad campaign and the work of our grassroots activists, the Super Committee adjourned without reaching consensus on any plan to cut benefits.                                             

The National Committee helped win the battle to save traditional Medicare from the House Budget Committee Chairman’s dangerous proposal to privatize the program.  Privatization benefits insurance companies at your expense, making it harder for seniors to choose their own doctor while cutting prescription drug, preventive care and nursing home benefits.

For the third time in over a decade, we successfully protected Social Security and Medicare funds from being cut by a Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment. Your signed petitions and letters along with our grassroots opposition helped turn the tide against this harmful amendment. 

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare launched the largest grassroots mobilization and media campaign in its long history of defending  programs vital to millions of Americans.  Millions of Americans engaged Congress and we successfully fought back against benefits cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

2010

NCPSSM fought to ensure Medicare was improved and strengthened as part of the Affordable Care Act by lowering beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket costs and closing the Part D prescription drug “donut hole” and making preventive services available to people with Medicare for free.

2009

Seniors received stimulus checks as part of the federal stimulus plan thanks to our successful lobbying efforts.  The initial proposal for the Recovery and Reinvestment Act targeted all workers, but excluded non-employed seniors. Seniors were included in the final bill.  This time seniors were not required to complete any IRS filings and automatically received checks.

2008

We led the battle to stop the harmful “Medicare Trigger” that would have imposed an arbitrary 45 percent cap on the government’s funding of Medicare.  And we achieved victory, although temporary, convincing Congress to postpone this harmful provision of the Medicare Modernization Act.

The National Committee helped persuade Congress to pass the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA), which reduced taxpayer handouts to private Medicare plans, improved benefits for mental health and averted a 10.6 percent cut in fees to physicians who treat Medicare patients, helping to preserve beneficiary access to doctors and other practitioners.

2007

NCPSSM lobbied Congress to strengthen Medicare.  The House ultimately passed legislation strengthening Medicare for future generations and correcting many of the flaws in the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003.

We fought against harmful budget cuts at the Social Security Administration (SSA) and ultimately convinced Congress to increase funding levels and thereby prevent massive furloughs at the SSA.  Those increased funds averted office closures all over the nation in 2007.  After continued intense lobbying, Congress approved funding for Fiscal Year 2008 at $451 million over the previous year’s level, helping speed up disability reviews.

2005 & 2006

The National Committee successfully mobilized to stop the most serious attempt ever to partially privatize Social Security, flooding Capitol Hill with petitions and letters to Congress and the White House reaffirming seniors’ rejection of private Social Security accounts.  Town hall meetings, Capitol Hill briefings, television appearances and our member-supported media campaign also helped erode and reverse lawmakers’ support for privatization legislation.  (Today, we continue to hold the line on privatization for the 23rd consecutive year!)

2005

NCPSSM launched an aggressive campaign to protect Social Security Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLAs) from soaring Medicare out-of-pocket costs.  Under the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, annual increases in Medicare deductibles have joined premiums in being indexed to rising health care inflation, and out-of-pocket costs will eventually consume nearly half of the average Social Security benefit check.  Our campaign was successful in bringing Congress’ attention to this critical and growing issue, but we need to fight even harder to push Congress to take corrective action.

2004

Overwhelming grassroots support from National Committee activists helped save Social Security funds from being cut under a Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment.  With appeals from 1.4 million National Committee members and supporters, the Constitutional Amendment was pulled from consideration before a scheduled vote in the House Judiciary Committee!

2003

Millions of NCPSSM volunteers fought to prevent the full privatization of Medicare by helping defeat a dangerous House bill creating a Medicare voucher system. The misguided Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 was passed in its place and we continue the fight to fix that flawed legislation.  To date, millions of our members have signed letters and petitions to Congress urging immediate, “corrective” Medicare bills to make prescription drugs affordable and available to all seniors. 

2000

For seniors who have reached ‘normal retirement age,’ the National Committee was instrumental in earning the unlimited right to work without losing some of their Social Security benefits.  In large part because of our efforts, the Senior Citizens’ Freedom to Work Act was passed and signed into law on April 7, 2000.

NCPSSM proudly coordinated a coalition of senior organizations’ efforts to reauthorize the Older Americans Act (OAA), ensuring continued funding for a variety of state and local programs, including meals programs, in-home support services, pension counseling programs and jobs programs for seniors.  We were successful in getting this program reauthorized again in 2006.


50,000 "Likes" on Facebook!

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To join our community on Facebook, click here or the graphic above!

A Look Back on Chained CPI in 2013

We gathered all of our graphics pertaining to Chained CPI and put them all in one place for you. Prezi allows you to easily navigate through each infographic or photograph. Click here or the photograph below to see all the Chained CPI graphics we created in 2013.

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We hope everyone has a great New Year!

America's Jump From Economic Crisis to Retirement Crisis

Max Richtman recently wrote an article on Huffington Post:

Over and over again, America's seniors are being told they must foot the bill for fiscal failures which have already left them facing a weakened and tenuous retirement. In Detroit, a bankruptcy judge has ruled the city can cut pension payments to thousands of retirees, despite a state law stating otherwise. In Washington, the latest Congressional budget deal targets retirees with $12 billion in pension changes, including cutting pensions for military personnel who retire in 2015 and requiring new federal workers to contribute more to their retirement. All of this couldn't come at a worse time. Three decades of stagnant middle-class incomes, disappearing pensions, limited ability to start and maintain personal savings, and the failure of the 401K experiment lay the foundation for a retirement crisis that could further threaten millions of older Americans and their families.

According to the New School for Social Research, 75 percent of Americans nearing retirement have less than $30,000 in their retirement accounts. Almost half of middle-class workers will be poor or near poor in retirement and living on a $5-per-day food budget. The National Institute for Retirement Security reports four out of five working families have retirement savings less than one times their annual income and 45 percent do not have any retirement assets at all.

While Washington has been obsessed with the federal budget deficit, there's been virtually no Congressional conversation about the $6.8 trillion retirement savings deficit. What will happen to the millions of American families who are ill-prepared for retirement? There's almost no conversation about how to prevent this retirement crisis from impoverishing our families or about how younger generations will handle parents and grandparents who cannot support themselves. In spite of this current and growing retirement crisis, Social Security and Medicare, programs vital to a basic secure retirement, continue to be the favored targets for some in Congress who are determined to use benefit cuts to reduce the federal deficit.

Washington's almost single-minded focus on the budget deficit has allowed the retirement deficit to grow with each passing year. Rather than cutting vital programs like Social Security and Medicare to pay down a deficit these programs did not create, Washington should be looking for ways to address the retirement deficit head-on. Part of the solution includes raising Social Security benefits.

Thankfully, not everyone in Washington is blind to what's coming. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) have sponsored legislation that would address Social Security's long-term solvency, eliminate the payroll tax cap over time while boosting benefits for all beneficiaries by approximately $70 per month, and switch the cost of living formula to the more accurate consumer price index for the elderly (CPI-E). Legislation proposed by Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) increases the minimum benefit to workers in low-wage jobs, provides a five percent benefit increase for the very old, and eliminates the payroll tax cap. Contrary to the popular rhetoric that we can't afford Social Security, both of these legislative proposals extend the solvency of Social Security while also increasing the program's already modest average monthly benefit of just $1,269.

America has the largest economy in the world, yet our seniors get lower retirement benefits than most other retirees throughout the world. Only three advanced nations provide less retirement security for their citizens which makes the argument that America can't afford to support our retirement safety net laughable. The truth is that we can't afford to ignore the retirement crisis and it certainly shouldn't be hastened by those in Washington driven by a political agenda to cut benefits -- no matter its consequences -- to millions of American families.

Ignoring the Truth (once again) about Senior Workers & Social Security

Kudos to Michael Hiltzik at the Los Angeles Times for his spot-on coverage of yesterday’s Senate Finance hearing on the retirement crisis, particularly one incredible moment of testimony that just begged to be slapped down.  And slap it down he did...


The conservative contempt for the working person shows through

By Michael Hiltzik

3:49 PM PST, December 18, 2013

At a hearing Wednesday of the Senate Finance Commmittee's Subcommittee on Social Security, conservative scholar Andrew G. Biggs made the following remark in defense of the idea that retirement ages can safely be raised:

"Go back to 1950, when we had a highly industrialized economy. You had coal miners, and farmers, and factory workers. The average age of initial Social Security claiming then was 68. Today, when your biggest on the job risk is, you know, carpal tunnel syndrome from your mouse or something like that, it’s 63. ...[T]he idea that we can’t have a higher retirement age, I think it just flies in the face of the fact that people did, in fact, retire later in the past, and today’s jobs are less physically demanding than they were in the past."

A couple of things about this. First, carpal tunnel syndrome, which Biggs seems to think is a big joke and an excuse for malingering, is no laughing matter to people who have it and for whom it can be a crippling condition. 

Second, the idea that older workers typically hold down office jobs or other comfy sinecures is fatuous and flatly untrue. The Center for Economic and Policy Research actually examined the numbers, mostly from the U.S. Census Bureau.  (Unlike, apparently, Biggs.)

What it found in 2010 was that 6.5 million workers, or 35% of those 58 and older, were employed in physically demanding jobs. This was defined as work requiring "handling and moving objects, spending significant time standing, or having any physically demanding work." Working conditions included "cramped workspace, labor outdoors, or exposure to abnormal temperatures, contaminants, hazardous equipment, or distracting or uncomfortable noise."

These are conditions you're not likely to encounter in a Senate committee room, unless you consider hot air to be an environmental menace.

Latino and black workers were overrepresented among older workers with these jobs.  

To be fair to Biggs, his remark about older workers was an offhand crack, a punchline to a straight line fed him by his questioner, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) His prepared testimony for the committee was rather more measured.

Biggs is a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, and a former deputy commissioner of Social Security, a post he was named to during the George W. Bush administration. He's been a Social Security scholar at the conservative Cato Institute too. 

Generally speaking he's one of the more intelligent and serious critics of Social Security on the right, which is not at all the same as saying he's a friend of the program as it exists today. He's advocated privatizing Social Security and converting it to something resembling a means-tested welfare program; either step would destroy what has been the most successful government program in American history.

But it's Biggs' reasonable veneer that makes his crack about older workers so telling. It reflects conservatives' failure not merely to empathize with older workers, but to learn anything about them before mouthing off. Instead of understanding, they offer contempt.

What the facts actually tell you is that raising the retirement age for Social Security -- it's already rising from 66 to 67 for people scheduled to retire from 2017 to 2022 -- is no easy nostrum for improving the program's finances. The CEPR's study pointed out that the cost of raising the retirement age falls especially hard on lower-income workers and minorities.

Those in physically demanding jobs would have to work longer in conditions that become progressively more difficult. Many would be driven to file for disability, placing added strains on a portion of Social Security already under intense financial pressure (which Congress has shown no signs of addressing).

This is another sign of the essential shallowness of our debate over Social Security. If conservative critics can't do better than to throw out airy misperceptions about the workforce conjured up in their Washington offices, why in heaven's name should anyone waste time listening to them? 


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