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Government Shutdown Eve

By all accounts, it looks like a government shutdown could happen this time, even if for a brief time.   The Senate and the President won’t acquiesce to demands to stop Obamacare implementation that begins tomorrow morning, yet the House GOP continues to make the same demands.     So, let’s put into perspective what this really means for seniors. 

House Republicans want:

To Return Higher Drug Costs for Seniors

No Free Preventive Visits and Screenings

9 years of solvency taken from the Medicare Trust Fund

Raise Part B Premiums

Eliminate extra waste fraud and abuse efforts in Medicare

These are just some of the added Medicare benefits which have already been enacted and enjoyed by millions of seniors thanks to the passage of Obamacare.   However, the House GOP is willing to shut down the government, regardless of the negative economic impacts to follow, rather than allow these benefits to stand.

There are some rumblings that the GOP might come back with yet another set of demands after the Senate acts tonight.  The House leadership is already staging the next (they believe more win-able) threat to our government...the debt ceiling fight.  Here are just a few of the items on the GOP debt ceiling ransom list :

·         One Year Debt Limit Increase

o    Not a dollar amount increase, but suspending the debt limit until the end of December 2014.

§  Similar to what we did earlier this year.

o    Want the year long delay to align with the year long delay of Obamacare.

·         One Year Obamacare delay

·         Tax Reform Instructions

o    Similar to a bill we passed last fall, laying out broad from Ryan Budget principles for what tax reform should look like.

o    Gives fast track authority for tax reform legislation

·         Energy and regulatory reforms to promote economic growth

o    Includes pretty much every jobs bill we have passed this year and last Congress

o    All of these policies have important positive economic effects.

o    Energy provisions

§  Keystone Pipeline

§  Coal Ash regulations

§  Offshore drilling

§  Energy production on federal lands

§  EPA Carbon regulations

o    Regulatory reform

§  REINS Act

§  Regulatory process reform

§  Consent decree reform

§  Blocking Net Neutrality

·         Mandatory Spending Reforms

o    Mostly from the sequester replacement bills we passed last year

o    Federal Employee retirement reform

o    Ending the Dodd Frank bailout fund

o    Transitioning CFPB funding to Appropriations

o    Child Tax Credit Reform to prevent fraud

o    Repealing the Social Services Block grant

·         Health Spending Reforms

o    Means testing Medicare

o    Repealing a Medicaid Provider tax gimmick

o    Tort reform

o    Altering Disproportion Share Hospitals

o    Repealing the Public Health trust Fund

 

We say enough is enough.  That’s why the National Committee joined 41 other groups telling Congress we’ll continue to stand against those who want to hold our economy hostage in order to dictate the terms of debate.

The Shutdown and Seniors

How the "Inform Act" actually MisInforms on Social Security & Medicare

Thanks, once again, to Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik for providing some desperately needed truth-telling about an especially outrageous proposal backed (quietly, of course) by the billion dollar austerity lobby.  It’s called “generational accounting”...long-ago debunked and discredited but revived again by Washington’s anti-Social Security and Medicare lobby as a way to fuel a crisis which does not exist while pitting young versus old.   We recommend you read Hiltizik’s entire piece here, but these are some highlights:

For starters, generational accounting doesn't make a distinction between spending and investment. An appropriation to send a congressional committee on a junket to the Bahamas carries the same weight as building a schoolhouse or a bridge.

That's a real flaw. The government's decision in the 1950s to spend billions to create the interstate highway system shows up in generational accounts as a huge burden on post-1950s taxpayers. That's you and me. But we're obviously reaping economic benefits from that decision, as will our children and grandchildren.

The same goes for education, which obviously packs a lot of value for its youthful recipients, who are also the taxpayers of the future.

Kotlikoff's view of Social Security and Medicare, which is that they're devices for the old to rip off the young, is especially faulty. Middle- and high-income wage-earners are paying their own way in Social Security, as C. Eugene Steuerle of the Urban Institute has shown. According to his figures, a two-income couple who earned an average wage and retired in 2011 had paid an average $598,000 in Social Security taxes (adjusted for inflation) and will collect an average $556,000 in benefits. Sounds like they're redistributing their income to the young, not the other way around. Low-earning workers do much better, but that's a redistribution from rich to poor, not young to old.

"There's no agenda here," he says. "It's not a Tea Party agenda or a left-wing agenda for less spending or more spending. It's about truth in government operations — it's a be-honest-with-our-kids act."

That's disingenuous. For one thing, among the Inform Act's champions is an organization called The Can Kicks Back. The group bills itself as a grass-roots anti-deficit lobby for today's younger generations but actually has links to hedge fund billionaire Peter G. Peterson, whose hostility to Social Security and Medicare is a byword.

Pretty soon, this group will launch their full page ad in the New York Times and their so-called “Inform Act” will no doubt work its way through Congress, even though the deficits they claim are at the heart of their proposals continue to be reduced.  Clearly the austerity crowd’s goal is to, “never let a crisis go to waste,” and they’re determined to cut benefits to middle class Americans who depend on Social Security and Medicare...regardless of the fiscal facts.  The truth is, our nation still faces a system-wide healthcare crisis. Obamacare is a good start but we need to finish the job of bringing down the high cost of healthcare in America, not just in Medicare but in our private system.

Social Security and Hispanics

Join us as we celebrate Hispanic Heritage month.

Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402.

The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is October 12, falls within this 30 day period.

The National Committee will mark the month in a variety of way and will also highlight the importance of Social Security and Medicare to the Hispanic population.   For example, did you know?

 Hispanics Rely on Social Security for More of Their Retirement Income

While Social Security is expected to be only one part of a person’s retirement income, many minorities rely on it for a large share. Because Hispanics tend to have lower earnings and less pension coverage than white Americans, Social Security is extremely important for Hispanic retirees.

  •      More than three-fourths (77%) of Hispanic beneficiaries rely on Social Security for at least half their income compared to almost two-thirds (65%) of all beneficiaries
  •     Approximately 55% of Hispanic beneficiaries rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income
  •     Approximately 45% of Hispanic beneficiaries rely on Social Security for all of their income

 Minorities rely more heavily on Social Security due to a lack of other income in retirement.  Few elderly minorities receive income from pensions and assets.  The greatest disparity is in the receipt of income from assets.

  •      In 2010, 24% of Hispanics received income from private assets, compared with more than 56% of whites
  •     In 2010, 13% of Hispanics 65 years old and over reported receiving income from private pensions or annuities, compared to 28% of whites 65 years old and older

Elderly Hispanics are more dependent on Social Security than others, because they are more likely to be in poverty than non- Hispanic elderly. They are also more likely to have been poor prior to old age than non- Hispanics. Social Security reduces poverty for Hispanic elderly.

     In 2010, 18% of Hispanics 65 years old and older had income below the poverty line, compared to 8% of white elderly.

    If not for Social Security, 49% of older Hispanic Americans would be in poverty.

Busting Social Security Myths

Busting Washington’s biggest Social Security myths

BY MAX RICHTMAN

Special to The Tampa Tribune

Published: September 12, 2013

There is no other issue where the disconnect between Congress and the American people is more stark than the future of Social Security. Thanks to Washington’s well-financed austerity lobby, the truth about Social Security has become obscured by political propaganda designed to persuade lawmakers to use Social Security’s revenues to fix fiscal problems completely unrelated to the program.

Whether it’s cutting benefits in the name of deficit reduction (even though Social Security by law cannot contribute to the debt) or using Social Security as political leverage in Washington’s version of “Let’s Make a Deal,” these approaches ignore the fact that Social Security is paid for, earned by, and promised to American workers.

Myth One: Social Security is a driver of our nation’s deficit.

Although some in Washington claim America can’t afford Social Security, the truth is, this program provides economic benefits to every state and community in our nation.

Nationwide, families spend $775 billion in Social Security benefits annually. In Florida, $56 billion dollars in Social Security benefits are paid to four million retirees, disabled and survivors, including children, each year. When those families use the purchasing power of their benefits, they are supporting local businesses and the state economy with billions of dollars they simply wouldn’t have without Social Security.

Unfortunately, this economic reality has been ignored by those who want to cut middle-class benefits in the name of austerity. Targeting families who rely on vital programs such as Social Security ignores our real economic problems in favor of a political strategy to cut safety net programs. Members of Congress should take a look at the state-by-state economic profiles from the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare and ask themselves, “Can my community afford to lose millions of dollars from our economy?” Step outside Capitol Hill and the answer is a resounding “No.”

Myth Two: Seniors are “greedy geezers.”

One of the favorite messages used widely by Washington’s billion-dollar, anti-Social Security lobby is that America’s “greedy geezers” are stealing from their grandchildren. They claim that if we allow retirees to collect the Social Security benefits they’ve paid for throughout their working lives, then somehow our children will suffer. This mythological link between funding for seniors programs and children’s programs makes for good propaganda but there’s literally no basis in reality for such linkage. In fact, new research by the Center for Economic and Policy Research shows that real linkage may exist between the dollars spent on our nation’s top 1 percent income earners and reduced spending on children.

Cutting benefits to generations of middle-class families won’t help the children, parents or grandparents in those families. The Recession Generation and beyond will need Social Security as much, if not more, than current generations. It’s time to reverse a 40-year trend of income inequality and redistribution to the wealthy while reigniting the American dream for middle-class families, which benefits young and old alike.

Myth Three: Immigration reform and the repeal of DOMA will bankrupt Social Security.

Those opposed to immigration reform and the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act have attempted to use vital programs, such as Social Security, as an economic excuse to avoid doing the right thing. The truth is, neither legislative issue threatens Social Security. The Congressional Budget Office estimates new taxes paid by undocumented workers granted provisional legal status would cut federal budget deficits by $197 billion over 10 years. Social Security’s chief actuary estimates immigration reform would increase Social Security’s Trust Fund reserves by $248 billion by the end of 2024 and extend the program’s solvency by two years. The actuary also predicts providing benefit equity to qualified same-sex couples in retirement is a break-even proposition.

Myth Four: The whopper of all — Social Security will be bankrupt.

The truth is, even if Congress does nothing at all, Social Security is projected to deliver full guaranteed benefits until at least 2033. Even after 2033, Social Security will be able to pay about 77 percent of promised benefits out of the payroll contributions that will continue coming into the system. If Congress enacts modest changes, such as requiring the wealthy to pay their fair share of payroll taxes, Social Security will be able to meet its full benefit obligations well beyond 2033. No one wants to see benefits cut to 77 percent; however, that’s not bankruptcy by any definition of the word.

The state of Social Security is strong today and should be made stronger for the future. But if our nation’s leaders want to be serious about addressing the long-term outlook for our nation’s most successful government program, then myths have no place in any Social Security debate.

Max Richtman is president and CEO of The National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare, based in Washington, D.C.


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