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From the monthly archives: November, 2010

We are pleased to present below all posts archived in 'November, 2010'. If you still can't find what you are looking for, try using the search box.

Call Congress TODAY!

There are 3.8 trillion reasons why you should take a minute today to call Congress and tell your representatives why cutting Social Security in the name of deficit reduction is fiscal and political suicide.  The 3.8 trillion reasons represent the $3.8 trillion dollars you will contribute throughout your working life to the Social Security Trust Fund – the fund that Washington’s fiscal hawks now don’t want to pay back.  That was real money when it came out of your paycheck and it’s still real money – not worthless IOU’s – that the federal government promised to repay working Americans, that is, unless Washington passes benefit cuts like those proposed by the Fiscal Commission Chairmen.   Today is National Call-In day and we urge everyone to make it clear to Washington that proposals to make deep cuts in Social Security has nothing to do with deficit reduction and everything to do with breaking a promise made to millions of Americans, including retirees, the disabled, survivors and their families.     And while you’ve got them on the phone also make it clear that seniors need COLA relief.  Congress is back in session for a few short weeks and this is their last chance to pass COLA relief for seniors this year.  Please call your Senators and Representative and tell them to oppose budget-driven Social Security benefit cuts and put much needed $250 checks into the hands of older Americans by supporting H.R. 5987 and S. 1685.  The National Committee’s toll free Legislative Hotline will connect you with your members of Congress with one simple call: 

800-998-0180

What Can We Do?

It’s one of the most frequently asked questions we get from seniors and their families tired of the well-financed campaign to sell cuts in Social Security and Medicare for working Americans while at the same time keeping tax cuts for the wealthy.   The Fiscal Commission chairmen’s (Bowles/Simpson) plan targets Social Security for large benefit cuts, lower COLA’s and a higher retirement age (even though the program hasn’t contributed a dime to our debt) while also, according to the Economic Policy Institute, costing 4 million jobs over three years and reducing economic growth by 0.7 percent in 2012, 1.4 percent in 2013 and 1.9 percent in 2014.  EPI says,
 A better path to fiscal responsibility would be investing in job creation and growth to broaden the revenue base in the near-term, raising revenue from new sources over the medium-term to stem the hemorrhaging caused by the Bush-era tax cuts for the very well-off, and reforming health care provision to generate long-run budgetary savings. In the present economic environment, the near-term austerity measures proposed by the Co-Chairs would be fiscally counterproductive and crippling to states, communities, and families, delaying a robust economic recovery for years. 
In spite of all this, plans like Bowles/Simpson, are being pushed by fiscal hawks in the media and in television ad campaigns  as the only way to fiscal solvency while ignoring other options, like Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s plan, which actually takes the economic realities facing working Americans into consideration.    Thus, we come back to our headline…What can we (meaning non-Wall Street multi-billionaires) do to ensure our voices our heard? The answer is easy -- Join the nationwide call-in day to Congress on Tuesday, November 30th.  That’s the day before the Fiscal Commission is expected to release its final report to Congress and the perfect opportunity to let your representatives in Washington know that cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits is a one-way ticket to economic and political ruin.    Our National Committee Legislative Action Hotline will connect you with your members in one toll-free call.  Save the number and Mark your Calendars for:

National Call Congress Day 

800-998-0180

  We’ll provide an update and more details about this nationwide campaign after the holiday.  Until then -- stay tuned and Spread the Word!

Deficit-hawks…Same Song, Umpteenth Verse

Yet another in a long line of deficit hawk fiscal reports has been released today, this one by Fiscal Commission member Alice Rivlin and former GOP Senator Pete Domenici.  Once again, cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits play a prominent role while largely ignoring the fact that our deficit crisis is really a healthcare crisis.  The proposal, also ignores the fact that Social Security is not responsible for our deficits and without the $2.6 trillion dollar trust fund built up by American workers over decades, it would actually be much worse.  Like the Simpson/Bowles proposal, this plan would cut benefits, reduce the COLA and even though it doesn’t explicitly raise the retirement age it achieves basically the same end result :
This plan would "index the benefit formula for increases in life expectancy" starting in 2023. In both cases, the net result would be lower monthly benefits. It would also dramatically reduce benefits by changing the calculation of cost-of-living adjustments, and by chopping checks for top quarter of beneficiaries.
One approach unique to the Rivlin/Domenici plan is a one-year tax “holiday” that suspends payment of $650 billion in Social Security payroll taxes for employers and employees. This tax holiday isn't expected to affect the solvency of the trust funds because the authors claim the funds will be reimbursed in full from general revenues.   Hmmmm.  Let’s think about the current debate over extending the Bush tax cuts which have been scheduled, since their passage, to expire this year.  The American people are now being told by deficit hawks that allowing the tax law to expire as promised is a “tax hike”.  Why wouldn’t they make the same argument about this payroll tax cut when it expires one year after its passage?  Thereby positioning Social Security to lose $650 billion each year in lost payroll tax revenue, forcing it to be funded by general revenues (which we don’t have by the way).  In short, future Social Security funding is thrown into the deficit/debt debate in an unprecedented way. Social Security has no place in a conversation about solving our deficit problem.  Commission member Rep. Jan Schakowsky understands that.  She’s proposed a deficit plan that doesn’t force the middle class to foot the bill.  She’s proven it can be done, if there’s the political will to do it. Schakowsky proposes cutting $427.7 billion from the federal budget deficit by 2015, along with $200 billion in new stimulus spending to create jobs, $144.6 billion in tax increases, $110.7 billion in defense cuts and $17.2 billion in healthcare savings through a public option. The Huffington Post reported on her plan this way:  
Schakowsky's recommendations stand in stark contrast to the Bowles-Simpson recommendations which would reduce the rate of increase of Social Security benefits and gradually raise the retirement age, among other things.  "Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit," Schakowsky told reporters. "Addressing the Social Security issue as part of the deficit question is like attacking Iraq to retaliate for the September 11 attacks," said Schakowsky.
 And these deficit hawk proposals are being sold in much the same way…if you don’t support cutting benefits to millions of American retirees, the disabled, survivors and their families then you’re a “political coward.”  

Will Lame Duck Congress Pass COLA Relief?

Legislation in the House and Senate to provide one-time emergency COLA relief for seniors is expected to be considered in the lame duck session of Congress before it wraps up its work next month.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has included COLA relief on her list of must-pass items and Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised to take it up in the Senate.  Let’s be clear about what this bill would do. The legislation would not provide an actual COLA increase, since under current law the COLA formula mandated no increase in 2010 and 2011; however, this legislation would provide a single $250 payment next year.  You may remember, a similar provision was included in the 2009 stimulus bill  and was successful in providing modest relief to seniors hit hard by the recession and also providing desperately needed economic stimulus.    But passage of this COLA bill is anything but certain.  Deficit hawks continue their campaign against anything vaguely resembling help for the middle class and, in fact, the chairmen of the Fiscal Commission now suggest that the current formula (which led to zero COLA’s for two years) is actually too generous.  They want a new and less “generous” COLA formula enacted as soon as 2012.  Cutting the COLA during the worst economic crisis in decades would be disastrous for millions of Americans but it is exactly what multi-billionaire and anti-entitlement crusader Pete Peterson has advocated as far back as the 1970’s.  We detailed some of that history here:  
Peterson is no stranger to the battle against America’s retirement safety net.  He’s called the current cost of living increases in Social Security, which provide adjustments of roughly 3% a year, “one of the greatest fiscal tragedies of American history” because he considers them excessive.  At the same time, Peterson steadfastly defends a controversial private equity tax break that benefits America’s wealthiest investors. So much for fiscal responsibility.  
With $1 billion dollars invested in his anti-Social Security , oops we mean fiscal responsibility campaign, passage of this COLA relief legislation will be difficult.  In fact, members of Congress are being told they’re “political cowards” if they don’t cut Social Security.  Now is the time for you to let Congress know that cutting Social Security while extending tax breaks for the wealthy shows anything but political courage.   Send your representatives in the House and Senate an email directly from our Legislative Action center on our website or from our Facebook page.  You can use the sample letter we’ve provided or, even better, write your own. The COLA vote could come at any time so please forward the links to your friends and tell Congress to support COLA relief legislation.

When Shared Sacrifice Really Just Means Cut Social Security

Fiscal Committee Chairmen, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, have argued their plan for Social Security is solely about solvency. Really?  As the Social Security actuaries have said, beneficiaries would face a potential 22% benefit cut after 2037, if Congress does nothing.  Yet under Simpson/Bowles, workers who earned $37,400 annually (that’s about half of Social Security recipients) would actually take a 35-41% cut!  While Simpson/Bowles promise these benefit cuts will only impact high income earners, there’s a catch. Anyone who made $38,000 a year during their working years is considered a “high income” earner.  Yes, that’s right.  When it comes to raising the payroll tax, Simpson/Bowles worries that a .1% payroll hike phased in over decades might be too big a burden for workers making $100,000 a year, yet when it comes to benefit cuts you’re considered “upper income” if you earn a third of that.  In short, a so-called “high income” worker making $38,000 can afford to pay their taxes and take a benefit cut but don’t expect those making six-figures to pay their share of payroll taxes.  Angry Bear describes it this way: 
Coberly and I (and some others) have been warning for years about the dangers of turning Social Security from an insurance program with mild progressive transfers to a welfare system. Well this is a pure illustration of that, I can't imagine any scheme designed to more undermine support for Social Security than one that calls for earners in the top 50% taking a cut even from the projected cut. The answer to a 'crisis' defined as an ultimate 25% cut in scheduled benefit is for upper income folk to take a 35-41% cut? All in an effort to save them a phased in 0.1% of payroll per year increase over the next 20 years?
National Committee Executive VP, Max Richtman, talked about the lack of balance in this proposal on Pacifica Radio’s Letters to Washington  Shared Sacrifice  Another favorite line by fiscal hawks and these Fiscal Committee chairmen is the call for all Americans to sacrifice for the good of our country.  We agree. However, as our President/CEO, Barbara Kennelly has said, the sacrifice in this plan is anything but shared: 
“America’s retirees, disabled and their families had hoped for a balanced approach to solving our nation’s fiscal crisis.  Unfortunately, that is not what we received in today’s report by the Chairmen of the President’s Fiscal Commission.  This proposal relies far too heavily on benefit cuts which will hurt millions of Americans.  Lowering COLA’s which hit even current retirees, raising the retirement age, and making benefit cuts in Social Security have nothing to do with solving this fiscal crisis and do not offer a balanced solution to debt reduction by any stretch of the imagination.”
How’s this for balance--the way Simpson/Bowles propose we get to long term solvency for Social Security is with  92% of the solution coming from benefit cuts for seniors, the disabled, survivors and their families.  Forget the conventional wisdom, inside Washington and out, that the answer to long-term solvency would be a combination of revenue increases and benefit cuts.  That type of compromise is tough enough to get these days, but it is also the only way to ensure a fair and balanced result.  Is proposing a solution which is 92% benefits cuts truly and example of shared sacrifice?  If we really want to preach balance, how about lifting the payroll tax cap entirely?  The American people  have said repeatedly they’ll pay a little extra to keep the modest benefits provided by Social Security and Medicare.  Or, how about a financial transaction tax?   Is it really so absurd to think that America’s wealthiest Americans and the industry that helped create this economic collapse in the first place share some of the sacrifice to fix it?  By all accounts, neither of these options were seriously considered by Simpson/Bowles.  So much for promises of a balanced approach with shared sacrifices.  This plan isn’t even close.
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