Congress Can't Escape Reality
By Max Richtman, Executive Vice-President of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare
Don't we all yearn for the days when we could fill our tanks for less than $50 and pay for prescriptions that didn't cost as much as a nice dinner out? As much as Americans might like to stop spending so much on life's essentials, we just don't have the option of telling our banker, "Sorry, I've capped my mortgage spending this year. I'm sure you'll understand. I have to make some tough budget choices."
Similarly, we hear a lot of talk in Washington about making tough budget choices. The problem is that creating arbitrary federal budget caps and deficit triggers is nothing more than an old ploy to slash popular programs without leaving fingerprints.Doing so based on flawed formulas yields unintended consequences for millions of middle-class Americans and provides Congress with an escape route from the hard choices it should address.
Rather than tackling the root causes of our federal debt, spending caps put our budgeting on autopilot, allowing Washington to claim credit for "being tough" now and watching from a distance later when across-the-board-cuts slash seniors programs, veterans programs and more. Setting spending levels to match yesteryears' averages ignores today's reality: huge increases in the cost of health care, the creation of the Part D drug benefit, increased homeland security spending in the post-9/11 era, multiple unfunded wars, an aging America and historically low tax levels. Pretending today's America is yesterday's America is risky business.
If cutting trillions of dollars from vital programs serving middle-class Americans while maintaining tax cuts benefiting the wealthiest is Congress' plan for our future, then our senators and representatives should come to the American people and make that case. Poll after poll shows that Americans of all political persuasions understand the importance of programs vital to their survival and expect a balanced approach. They've expressed those views in town hall meetings throughout the past week.
Implementing arbitrary across-the-board spending cuts based on our past and not our present isn't fiscal responsibility. It's an abdication of that responsibility.
Time traveling is still science fiction, especially when used as a federal budget strategy.
Max Richtman is executive vice president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.
CATEGORY: [Budget], [entitlement reform], [healthcare], [Medicare], [Social Security]
GOP Budget Chairman Paul Ryan introduced his 2012 budget plan several weeks ago that would end Medicare as we know it.
The Ryan plan would replace the current Medicare program with vouchers and leave seniors and the disabled – some of our most vulnerable Americans – hostage to the whims of the private marketplace. Over time, this will destroy the only health insurance program available to 47 million Americans. Vouchers are designed not to keep up with the increasing cost of health insurance… that is why they save money.” Max Richtman, NCPSSM Executive Vice President
On April 15, House Republicans voted to pass this budget. Now, GOP Representatives are home in their districts trying to sell this “CouponCare” proposal to their constituents. People aren’t buying it.
As Congressman Lou Barletta (R-PA) praised Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan at a recent Town Hall meeting, 64-year-old constituent Linda Christman spoke up
"Excuse me, I'd like to get something off my chest," she said, standing. "You seem to think that because I'm not effected I won't care if my niece, my grandson, my child is affected. I do care. What you're doing with this Ryan budget is you're taking Medicare and changing it from a guaranteed health care system to one that is a voucher system where you throw seniors on the mercy of for-profit insurance companies."
Although supporters of Paul Ryan’s plan claim they are “saving” Medicare for future generations, they are quick to mention these changes won’t affect current Medicare beneficiaries
. Something’s not adding up:
That message is crucial if Republicans hope to win support for their plan to privatize the popular government-run program, said John Feehery of Quinn Gillespie Communications and a former Republican congressional staffer.
"In order to be able to sell it, you've got to come up with a communications plan that tells senior citizens that are 55 and over that this is not going to touch you," Feehery said.
People under 55 are getting a raw deal. The Republicans know it. So do seniors. They’re not swayed by reassurances about their own benefits because they also care deeply about the future of Medicare for their own children and future generations of beneficiaries.
Poll after poll confirms what we already know. Americans support Medicare
and oppose cuts and believe the program is successful in helping older people access needed health care. It’s encouraging to see people speaking up. Linda Christman isn’t the only person asking her representative to be honest about this proposal. Several other papers
picked up stories of constituents opposing the Paul Ryan Medicare plan. If you want to contact your representative, go to our Legislative Action Center and send the letter “GOP Budget Wants to Turn Medicare Over to Private Insurance Companies.”
CATEGORY: [Budget], [entitlement reform], [healthcare], [Medicare], [privatization]
“After so many months of heated budget partisanship and rhetoric, President Obama confirmed what America’s seniors have known for a lifetime—programs like Social Security and Medicare are investments which help make us the great nation we are today—and should not be sacrificed for deficit reduction. We applaud the President for stating clearly that destroying programs and services which benefit middle class Americans and seniors does not represent the kind of America most of us are proud of. GOP budget proposals which end Medicare as we know it while providing even more tax cuts for the wealthy is not shared sacrifice and America’s seniors understand that.” Barbara B. Kennelly, President/CEO
President Obama’s budget proposal provides a clear and dramatic contrast with the GOP Budget plan introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan. Under the GOP plan, America’s retirees would go back in time to the day before Medicare was enacted and over one-half of the senior population had no health care coverage at all. President Obama vowed he would not allow the dismantling of Medicare and the shifting of healthcare costs to seniors proposed in the GOP plan.
President Obama also acknowledged a basic truth, too often ignored in Washington these days, that Social Security has not caused the current deficit crisis. This fact is exactly why the National Committee, representing millions of members and supporters nationwide, believe Social Security has no place in this deficit reduction debate.
“As always, the devil’s in the details being hammered out behind closed doors but America’s seniors should celebrate the fact that there is a budget proposal on the table that better represents the real world our retirees are living in. We will continue to urge Congress to reject any proposals which limit seniors’ access to care in Medicare or propose Social Security benefit cuts in the name of deficit reduction. Our work is far from over but at least now fairness for America’s seniors and their families is brought back into the debate.”
CATEGORY: [baby boomers], [Budget], [entitlement reform], [healthcare], [Medicare], [Social Security]
One of our members asked us the other day…"Since when did cutting benefits for seniors living at or near the poverty level become the test of leadership in Washington?” Good question. The truth is, this campaign to cut America’s safety net has been generations in the making
and has far more to do with political ideology than our current economic mess. As Paul Ryan
"This isn't a budget. This is a cause."
But will it be President Obama’s cause too? Media reports
say the President will now endorse the recommendations made by Fiscal Commission Co-Chairmen, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson in a speech tomorrow. The Commission Chairmen’s recommendations (issued when it was the clear they couldn’t get the votes for a full Commission report) proposes deep benefit cuts in programs, like Social Security and Medicare. Under this proposal, middle class Americans and seniors will pay the price of Washington’s newfound zeal for deficit reduction. We talked to the Associated Press
about our concerns:
“But now that Obama plans to propose his own changes in health care entitlements or Social Security, some of his own supporters are wary. They argue that the president ceded too much ground when he cut a tax deal with Republicans last December and in yielding spending cuts last week.
"I want to have confidence, but I've got to see something," said Barbara Kennelly, a former Democratic congresswoman and president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, an advocacy group. "They can't continue to give in."
Many liberals say Obama has not been a strong bargainer.
"Their weakness in getting the most out of negotiations is their strategic belief that they don't want to be seen as fighting, they want to appear above the fray and beyond partisanship," said Lawrence Mishel, president of the labor-leaning Economic Policy Institute. "They also believe that they shouldn't get out there on a position where they may not succeed. These are characteristics that make for a weak negotiator."
It’s important that everyone understands what the Bowles/Simpson plan proposes for millions of American Seniors. Here is our analysis of the Commission’s Social Security
It’s clear that too many in Washington see Social Security and Medicare primarily as numbers on a balance sheet because “that’s where they money is.
” Cut benefits, raise the retirement age, reduce or eliminate the COLA, means test…these are the tools these budget cutters will use to repair the economic damage caused by years of borrow and spend policies that have absolutely nothing to do with Social Security. Contrary to all this rhetoric…balancing the budget on the backs of seniors is not fiscal responsibility and it’s certainly not political leadership.
We will be watching the President closely tomorrow to see if he agrees.
CATEGORY: [entitlement reform], [fiscal commission], [Medicare], [Social Security]
Not many people can-- but that will be the price tag for seniors if the GOP Budget
plan to eliminate Medicare and replace its guaranteed benefit with privatized
CouponCare becomes law. The Congressional Budget Office says the GOP vouchers will (by definition) fail to keep pace with increases in health care costs meaning seniors will pay much more for the same benefits they receive now. In fact, according to the CBO
, a typical senior will spend more than twice as much of his or her income under the GOP CouponCare plan compared to the current Medicare system.
How much will this plan cost you
? Here’s a wonderful interactive map, which allows seniors to see the impact of the GOP budget plan on your state. We warn you…the results are shocking:
CATEGORY: [Budget], [healthcare], [Medicare], [privatization]
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