From the monthly archives: September 2012
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It appears the Romney/Ryan plan to privatize Medicare is on the same trajectory as President Bush’s failed Social Security privatization road show in 2005. The more the American people learn about these privatization schemes the less they like them. New polling released this week show that no matter how ending traditional Medicare is spun…Americans simply don’t support it.
It also shows that the GOP strategy of telling seniors “don’t worry we won’t touch you” doesn’t work. Why? Because the “greedy geezer” mythology that underpins this cynical ploy does not represent the average American senior. Retirees have said time and again, they want retirement security for their children and grandchildren just as much as for themselves.
New polling by Reuters/Ipsos indicates that during the past two weeks - since just after the Democratic National Convention - support for Romney among Americans age 60 and older has crumbled, from a 20-point lead over Democratic President Barack Obama to less than 4 points.
Romney's double-digit advantages among older voters on the issues of healthcare and Medicare - the nation's health insurance program for those over 65 and the disabled - also have evaporated, and Obama has begun to build an advantage in both areas. Reuters, September 24
These results aren’t an anomaly and mirror what Pew Research also found this month:
A Pew poll, conducted September 12-16 and released last week, showed Romney with only a 47 to 46 percent lead among registered voters aged 65-plus. He also trailed Obama by 7 points among people aged 45 to 64 - a huge potential voting bloc that analysts say is increasingly concerned about retirement security.
To illustrate the challenge that Romney could face in November, analysts note that Republican John McCain won 53 percent of the vote among those 65 and older in 2008, and lost to Obama with 46 percent of the overall vote."This is certainly a bit of a game changer," Ipsos pollster Julia Clark said of the increasing support for Obama among older Americans. "Older individuals vote. They're the ones who turn up on Election Day, for sure." Pew Research Center, September 19
This is exactly why the GOP’s political strategy was to avoid a full conversation of the Romney/Ryan voucher plan for Medicare during this campaign entirely, instructing their candidates to dodge and deflect to a rehash of health care reform instead. However, as our President/CEO, Max Richtman, predicted this summer:
“what this divert and deflect strategy ignores is how much easier it was to fool voters before the ACA was implemented. I predict this year will be different. It’s simply a lot harder now to believe a political candidate who’s telling you your Medicare benefits were slashed when you remember taking your $250 drug rebate check to the bank, you paid $600 less in drug costs this year, didn’t fall into the donut hole, and received your first free mammogram in Medicare. Now that seniors are seeing first hand their benefits were not cut, and were in fact improved, this Medicare myth can finally be laid to rest next to the infamous (and also false) “death panels” claim made by Republicans.
The GOP “Obamacare Robs Medicare” myth will finally be exposed and with the selection of Paul Ryan it should get the national attention needed to put a stop to it once and for all. Just as with President Bush’s campaign to privatize Social Security, the more the American people find out what the Ryan/GOP plan for Medicare contains the less they’ll like it. That process has just begun and it will be a real eye-opener for the millions of American retirees who continue to be the targets of one of most cynical Mediscare campaigns in political history.” Max Richtman, President/CEO, Huffington Post Oped
Recently, I had the chance to travel through the state of Ohio with rock n’ roll legend, Jon Bauman aka Bowzer from Sha Na Na. Documenting each moment from the eye of my lens, we had quite the road trip. Starting off in Columbus, Ohio, I really didn’t know how the next three days would go. In the past, I’ve travelled with musicians and artists all over the United States & Canada but what made this time different? Well, the obvious points to the subject matter: Social Security and Medicare.
Jon and I traveled throughout Ohio as part of the
National Committee’s Truth Tour, which is a national grassroots campaign to educate voters about how much is at stake when they go to the polls this November. The main point that Jon emphasized over these past three days was that both programs are under assault. Romney and Ryan have voiced their opinions and plans for the two programs very clearly. They want to privatize Social Security by creating private accounts and turn Medicare into a voucher program or “CouponCare”. When I am eligible for Medicare, I don’t want to use a coupon to purchase my Medicare. Coupons are for groceries, not Medicare. And I certainly don’t want my Social Security controlled by Wall Street.
With over six hours in the car, we spoke about these programs the majority of the time. Jumping from his amazing stories in the music industry to Medicare and Social Security, it became clear to me that Jon has always been an activist at heart and advocating for these programs as he himself turned 65 was a natural. In fact he told me, “There’s no better way to celebrate this birthday than being here talking to people about these programs.” Bowzer has had these two programs on his mind his whole life. But I have to admit that, for me, thinking about Social Security at a young age just hasn’t been on my mind. When I got my first job working for my father, all I knew was that a percentage of my paycheck was paid into Social Security. When I asked what that was, it was always described as: “Oh, you’ll see it in your 60s or maybe not at all.” I found that last part a bit disconcerting. If I am paying into it all my working life, then why won’t it be there?
The answer to that question is Social Security and Medicare
will be there for us as long as my generation doesn’t buy the lie that America can no longer afford these programs. Social Security would be in serious trouble if it’s privatized and put at the mercy of Wall Street. The program can be fixed with a few modest changes. One idea is raising the payroll tax cap to just $250,000, which would extend the solvency by decades. Lifting it entirely fixes the problem completely. But it’s up to my generation to educate ourselves and not buy into the generational warfare argument that tries to pit us against our parents and grandparents.
This trip has taught me a lot but the one point that stands out the most is that baby boomers and millennials have a lot in common when it comes to Social Security and Medicare. Both generations have earned this economic security in our retirement and both need (and will need) the guaranteed benefits they provide. No matter our age, baby boomers like Jon and millennials like me don’t want our retirement years put at the mercy of private insurance companies and Wall Street.
So, that’s why the Baby Boomer and the Millennial took a little road trip. Hopefully, you’ll join us too.
Senator Bernie Sanders has circulated a dear colleague letter in the Senate declaring that Social Security benefit cuts should NOT be a part of any deficit so-called “Grand Bargain” destined to be the focal-point of this fall’s lame duck Congressional session. Sen. Sanders is the founder of the Senate’s Defending Social Security Caucus, and organized this effort with the help of Senators Begich(D-AK), Franken(D-MN) and Whitehouse (D-RI). The letter, signed by 29 Democratic Senators, says:
“Contrary to some claims, Social Security is not the cause of our nation’s deficit problem. Not only does the program operate independently, but it is prohibited from borrowing. Social Security must pay all benefits from its own trust fund. If there are insufficient funds to pay out full benefits, benefits are automatically reduced to the level supported by the program’s own revenues. Social Security cannot drive up the deficit by tapping general revenues to pay benefits. To be sure, Social Security has its own long-term challenges that will need to be addressed in the decades ahead. But the budget and Social Security are separate, and should be considered separately."
The vast majority of American’s couldn’t agree more. However, we have to wonder why only 29 signatures on this letter? Where are the others?
So who didn’t sign? Max Baucus, Michael Bennet, Jeff Bingaman, Tom Carper, Bob Casey, Kent Conrad, Chris Coons, Dick Durbin, Dianne Feinstein, Kay Hagan, John Kerry, Amy Klobuchar, Herb Kohl, Mary Landrieu, Joe Lieberman, Claire McCaskill, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Mark Pryor, Jeanne Shaheen, Jon Tester, Mark Udall, Mark Warner, Jim Webb.
A number of these members are retiring so it’s also important to factor in their replacements and where these new Senators stand on cutting Social Security benefits to reduce the deficit. We recommend you read David Dayen’s breakdown of some of the other missing signees and what it could mean for Social Security.
No doubt you’ve already seen the Mitt Romney video in which he describes to a group of $50,000 per plate donors his view of almost half of America’s population:
“There are 47 percent who are with him, (Obama) who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax. “[M]y job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” Mitt Romney, Florida Fundraising Event
While Governor Romney later described his comments as “not elegantly stated”, he stands by his basic point that nearly half of America see themselves victims and believe they are entitled to something. So where does this 47% come from? Romney’s comments are an odd amalgam of two reports: one on the number of Americans who don’t pay income taxes (not all taxes) and the other on the number of Americans who receive some form of government benefit including: retirees, college students, veterans and farmers – just to name a few. Together these two reports are used to bolster the often-expressed GOP view that America is a nation of “makers vs. takers”.
America’s retirees need to listen up…you are among the “takers” Mitt Romney criticizes as “dependent” because of your tax status and that you dare to receive the Social Security and Medicare benefits you’ve earned. Ezra Klein describes how seniors work into the Romney tax argument:
“The vast majority of households that don’t pay federal income taxes are either elderly or paying payroll taxes. As you can see below, 60 percent of those who don’t pay income tax are still working and paying taxes for Social Security and Medicare. Their tax liability is just too low to qualify for the income tax. Another 22 percent of non-payers are retirees. Only about 7.9 percent of households are not paying any federal taxes at all. That’s usually because they’re either unemployed or on disability or students or are very poor.”
So, targeted tax credits for the elderly puts retirees among the GOP “taker” class -- regardless of the fact that most seniors paid a lifetime of income taxes while employed and continue to pay other taxes even into retirement. In addition, collecting the Social Security and Medicare benefits that you contributed to throughout your working lifetime also makes you “dependent” and “entitled” in the Romney/Ryan political perspective in which safety net programs are simply:
“…a hammock that lulls able-bodied people into lives of dependency and complacency, that drains them of their will and the intent to make the most of their lives.” Paul Ryan, March 2012
The Romney/Ryan economic strategy which claims our nation can’t afford tax cuts benefiting the poor and middle-class while at the same time proposing more tax cuts for the wealthy – to be paid for with benefit cuts for average Americans – has been laid out for all to see.
“Republicans have become outraged over the predictable effect of tax cuts they passed and are using that outrage as the justification for an agenda that further cuts taxes on the rich and pays for it by cutting social services for the non-rich. That’s why Romney’s theory here is more than merely impolitic. It’s actually core to his economic agenda.” Washington Post, Wonk Blog
“Romney's message is that in order to lower taxes for his wealthy friends he will demand that retirees who worked hard, played by the rules, saved for retirement and counted on the promise of Social Security and Medicare, "take personal responsibility" and pay higher taxes, receive less in Social Security and trade in the promise of Medicare for Ryan's Vouchercare, ending Medicare as we know it.” Daily Kos
Seniors need to ask themselves -- Does this really sound like a President who will fight to preserve your economic security or your family’s? Because if you're not Mitt Romney's worry just 48 days before election day when will you be?
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