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From the monthly archives: March 2008

We are pleased to present below all posts archived in 'March 2008'. If you still can't find what you are looking for, try using the search box.

Starving Social Security

Just when you think conservatives might have run out of new ways to destroy Social Security, columnist Robert Novak joins the discussion today urging Presidential candidate John McCain to cut the payroll tax. How ironic that just two days after all the political posturing by the administration and conservatives on the Hill about the need to reform entitlements to “save” Social Security, Novak now reports that one McCain advisor says it’s “not a big deal” to cut the very revenue needed to fund benefits for millions of retirees.

Senator McCain has already supported taking money out of Social Security to fund private accounts, which endanger the program enough, now conservatives want even starve Social Security until it finally succumbs. Novak says: “
Cutting the payroll tax, which funds Social Security, would not be easy but would offer a rich economic prize in this lean Republican year.”

Really? A rich economic prize for whom? Certainly not the 34 million retirees and their families who need Social Security and will see the program starved in this never-ending quest for fiscally irresponsible tax cuts.

No Surprises in Trustees Report

Social Security is fully funded for 33 years and Medicare is solvent for another decade. But don't be surprised if those details are buried in any coverage you might read about this year's Trustees Report. It just doesn't fit with this administration's "entitlement crisis" calls.

This year’s trustees report confirmed what we already know about the health of Social Security and Medicare...Social Security will continue to have a surplus for more than three decades while a nationwide healthcare crisis continues to escalate costs for seniors in Medicare. Here’s reaction from our President/CEO Barbara Kennelly:
“This trustees report shows that Social Security is on track to pay full benefits for more than 3 decades. But the challenges of skyrocketing healthcare costs are threatening not just seniors in Medicare but Americans nationwide. No doubt, this annual report will have the sky-is-falling crowd calling for ‘entitlement reform’ again while they continue to ignore America’s healthcare crisis and fight to protect billions in insurance industry subsidies which steal years of solvency from the Medicare program”

Once again the trustees report included a Medicare funding warning designed to trigger massive and arbitrary program cuts like those proposed by the President this year. Kennelly says,
"Mandating Medicare cuts based on an arbitrary funding level hurts beneficiaries, ignores the larger issue of skyrocketing healthcare costs, and will ultimately destroy this vital program just when our nation needs it most”.

Media Perpetuates Social Security Myths

Social Security isn’t bankrupt. Unfortunately, too many in our national media just don’t seem to understand that basic truth.

We’ve written about this before so won’t rehash it again (not too much, anyway). But the latest oversimplified, sky-is-falling and propaganda-laden coverage from Debra Saunders in the San Francisco Chronicle just can’t be ignored. And we’re not the only ones who think so. End of the Echo blog has a nice response and so did our President, Barbara Kennelly. Here is her Letter to the Chronicle, since you probably won’t ever see it published.

Dear Editor,

If Debra Saunders really wants to have an honest discussion about our nation’s current fiscal mess (Everyman’s Mortgage Crisis, 3/11/08), let’s start with the facts. Comments like “Washington has promised benefits...without funding them” and “Washington continues to authorize...benefits without putting aside money for them” are certainly provocative but the problem is those statements just aren’t true. American workers (not Washington) have contributed $2 trillion dollars to the Social Security trust fund in the past two decades leading to a $187 billion surplus. Those contributions will continue to build the surplus to $4.2 trillion over the next decade.

Washington does face a crisis; however, it’s a budget crisis not an entitlement crisis. President Bush inherited a budget surplus and a Social Security trust fund built-up in preparation for baby boomers’ retirements. Now, after billions of dollars in tax cuts, an underfunded war in Iraq and six years of a Republican-led Congress following the President’s “borrow and spend” lead, we face record debt and budget deficits. These deficits are now being used as the primary argument for cutting programs like Social Security and Medicare, while tax cuts for the wealthy continue and billions in subsidies to the drug and insurance industry are protected.

Washington will have to make difficult choices to repair the fiscal damage done by this administration. But serious health care reform and strengthening Social Security for the long term should be the priorities rather than destroying the very programs so critically needed by millions of Americans.


Barbara B. Kennelly, former Member of Congress
President and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and he’s also written a wonderful piece on Media accountability, false information and its affect on political progress.

Medicare “Dis” Advantage

“If you want to provide more benefits to Medicare beneficiaries, it is more efficient to do it through traditional Medicare” rather than private Medicare Advantage plans.”

Simple advice offered to the House Ways and Means Health subcommittee this week by Glenn Hackbarth, head of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, an organization created to advise Congress on the Medicare program. But even though MedPAC has repeatedly warned about the wasteful and expensive industry-fueled juggernaut that is Medicare Advantage, the Bush administration and its allies in Congress still refuse to face facts: privatized Medicare provides inefficient coverage, steals years of solvency from the program, costs $10 billion more each year than traditional Medicare while passing more costs on to seniors.

Hackbarth again:
"When Medicare pays a lot more for private fee-for-service in Texas or in Michigan, a lot of that money is going to higher administrative costs. ... It's going to insurance companies. The problem with this payment system is we're rewarding inefficient private plans”.

In other words, we’re subsidizing the insurance industry to provide less efficient coverage for seniors at a higher cost. We’re paying $10 billion dollars a year in industry overpayments while also being told by this administration we “can’t afford” the Medicare program. And don’t forget, the Bush budget calls for a record $178 billion in Medicare cuts directly impacting healthcare access for millions of seniors, while at the same time preserving $150 billion in insurance industry giveaways. You can read more coverage of this week’s Congressional testimony in Kaiser’s roundup.

Maybe if We Don’t Call it Social Security Privatization No One will Notice...

That appears to be the continuing strategy for Senator Jim DeMint and other congressional privatizers intent on passing Social Security private accounts, whether the American people support them or not. You have to wonder, if privatization is such a great idea why do supporters go to such lengths to hide their true goals?

The latest privatization ploy comes under the guise of "stopping the raid" on the Social Security trust fund. Senator DeMint says he’ll "force a vote" on his amendment creating a "reserve fund" in Social Security. What he doesn’t mention in his news release is that this newly created "reserve fund", actually just diverts money from the existing Social Security trust fund to a new fund to create private accounts. Senator Demint's amendment is really just a privatization sleight of hand. Rather than "stopping the raid" as promised, this legislation allows the trust fund to be raided for a different purpose...the creation of private accounts.

The truth is the DeMint amendment is just a rework of the failed Bush privatization plan. It would divert money out of Social Security to fund private accounts, increasing federal outlays and requiring significant cuts in Social Security’s guaranteed benefits to foot the bill. All of this, so that future retirees can take their stable Social Security benefits on a risky Wall Street roller coaster ride.

Our letter to Congress has more details about what this amendment really includes and our analysis on the same amendment when it was introduced three years ago is linked here.



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