Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Real Democrats Stand Strong For Social Security-- The Others Are Little More Than Republicans In Disguise


I asked one of the sharpest minds I know on Capitol Hill if there's a single issue facing Congress right now-- just one-- that separates conservatives from progressives. He didn't miss a beat: the Social Security Enhancement and Protection Act and the Strengthening Social Security. Act. Yesterday we had a guest post from the progressive candidate for the Maine Senate seat, Shenna Bellows, on the topic. Today I caught up with a few of the Blue America-endorsed House candidates and asked them about the bill, which is quietly being buried in the House Ways and Means Committee by anti-Social Security fanatic Dave Camp (R-MI).

Friday, when Ari Rabin-Havt interviewed Third Way Co-founder Jim Kessler about why the Wall Street-backed group he heads had attacked Elizabeth Warren a few days earlier in the Wall Street Journal, Kessler admitted it was because he and his circle fear that Warren is too effective a voice against Third Way's and other conservative group's plans to dismantle Social Security on behalf of the banisters that pay their salaries and finance their miserable careers. Kessler didn't admit his career is miserable. What he said was that Elizabeth Warren's "Social Security plan was the final moment for us. That Social Security plan had been out there but really languishing-- because Senator Warren has such a powerful compelling voice, she started talking about it, and it suddenly it became much more talked about and viable alternative… She is a very compelling elected official and national figure. Her involvement in that particular bill, we just looked at it and said 'okay, this seems to be starting to get out of hand'." And they attacked.

But the attack backfired. Three Third Way honorary co-chairs, conservative Democrats Allyson Schwartz (New Dem-PA), Joe Crowley (New Dem-NY) and Ron Kind (New Dem-WI), denounced them and their attempts to undermine Social Security. And now progressive candidates are coming out in force against Third Way's very Republican goal of decreasing benefits. Although the DCCC has an anti-Social Security shill, Pete Aguilar, in the race, the progressive running in CA-31, Eloise Reyes is a strong backer of strengthening Social Security:
Social Security was never meant to be a static program. It was designed to span across generations, with the expectation that the circumstances impacting the financial needs and economic security of Americans would undoubtedly vary from one decade to the next. Right now, middle class families are reeling from the impact of the recession. They have seen the value of their homes, their savings and their retirement accounts plummet, and they are depending on Social Security, more than ever, to avoid the impending retirement crisis that so many Americans see on the horizon beyond their working years. Our Social Security program must constantly evolve to adapt to these changing realities.

That’s why HR 1374 is such a critical piece of legislation. Not only does it account for the fact that more and more people are using Social Security benefits later into life, but it more fairly values the work of low-wage workers and childrearers who are currently at a disadvantage when it comes to accruing retirement benefits. Even as it expands Social Security benefits, HR 1374 extends the life of the program by at least 35 more years by eliminating the cap on payroll contributions. These are all fair and commonsense reforms that reflect the essential purpose of Social Security and its very critical role in the lives of millions of Americans.

Our Social Security program reflects our values, our duties and our commitment to ensuring that our elders, the disabled and those struggling through difficult times do not fall through the cracks. And HR 1374 makes it possible for us to continue keeping that promise to one another.
Pennsylvania state Senator Daylin Leach-- in a tough battle for Congress against Marjorie Margolies who admits she is eager to cut benefits for retired seniors and disabled vets-- is, like Eloise, backing the Social Security Enhancement and Protection Act approach: "Social Security has literally lifted entire generations of seniors out of poverty. But at a time when pensions are shrinking or going away and people are living longer, we must do better if Social Security is going to fulfill its promise of a reasonable life for retirees. H.R. 1374 reafirms that this nation won't let seniors go hungry or wanting for the basics of life."

Same for Tom Guild in Oklahoma City, who is running for the seat occupied by one of the primary plotters against Social Security, GOP extremist James Lankford. "If the national government funded just two programs adequately, they would be Social Security and national defense," Tom told us yesterday. "There is a proposal to adequately fund Social Security. It would protect and enhance benefits, and increase the revenue stream supporting this vital program by abolishing the cap on income subject to the tax dedicated to Social Security, and increase the dedicated tax by 1/20th of 1% for six years. This would secure Social Security for additional decades. Since 2/3 of today’s retirees receive more than half of their income from Social Security, and about 1/5th are completely dependent on this source of income, this proposal would greatly enhance tens of millions of Americans’ retirement security.  It would ensure that seniors’ cost-of-living would not continue to outpace benefits received by recipients, who paid into the Social Security fund for their entire working lives. Sometimes we should just do the right thing for those who spent their lives building our country. That time has arrived."

Rob Zerban, the progressive Democrat going up against the architect of the GOP plan to undermine Social Security, Paul Ryan. Yesterday, he told us that "Republicans and corporate Democrats have sold their souls by pandering to corporate interests. By allowing corporations to pay meager wages, provide no health insurance, and to abandon or not fully fund defined benefit retirement plans, Congress has once again implemented structural corporate welfare system paid for by the tax payers. Now they don't want corporations to pay their fair share. By allowing huge corporations to skip out on their obligations, by not holding them accountable to care for their workers by paying a livable wage, providing health insurance or a decent retirement plan, they put even greater stressors on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Seniors and children benefit the most from Medicaid. Before Social Security, 1 in 3 seniors lived in poverty. Before Medicare many seniors did not receive healthcare.  Now after giving big corporations a free pass they want to destroy the only help many people rely on to eat and receive much needed health care. We must not allow them to further erode these safety nets so many rely upon. We need to increase the efficiencies and efficacy of these programs so they can do the greatest good for the greatest number and I will support any and all efforts to accomplish this goal."

Pat Murphy was the Speaker of the Iowa House and today he's running for the open Iowa House seat Bruce Braley. He has a phenomenal record backing up his claims that he's the bets and most effective progressive running. When it comes to protecting Social Security, I can't think of better hands to put it in. “My parents," he told us, "raised me to keep my word and stand up for what’s right. We’ve made a promise to seniors who have worked hard and paid into Social Security for decades that their benefits will be there when they need them, and I intend to keep that promise. It’s the right thing to do. We need to find long-term solutions to the solvency issues that are facing Social Security, but these can't be unfair measures, like chained CPI, that cut benefits and threaten the quality of the program. By raising the cap on the Social Security tax we can extend solvency and create a tax system that fairly taxes income, whether you make $50,000 or $500,000 a year.”

Paul Clements is running for the Michigan seat that Fred Upton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee holds. Unlike Upton, Clements is a strong supporter of a vibrant social safety net. "Rising income inequality among Americans, as President Obama addressed in a recent speech," he told us, "represents a threat to American democracy. Until we all have a real chance to participate in community and political life, we don’t yet have full democracy. As America’s economic resources are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, so is political power.

"For the elderly and disabled, participation requires having the means to live in dignity, not to be left by the wayside or dependent on the good will of others. The Social Security Enhancement and Protection Act protects and extends this dignity, and it does it fairly, reducing income inequality.

"It secures benefits for women who have stayed home with children and for people who have held low income jobs. It helps ophans attend college. And it defends Social Security overall by addressing its impending funding crisis.

"It increases funding for Social Security mainly by removing the cap on Social Security payroll contributions. This makes sense. Our common security is paid for by those who have the means to do so, and the threat of rising income inequality is reduced."

Nick Ruiz, the Florida professor and author running against John Mica just north of Orlando would go even further. A huge proponent of expanding the New Deal protections for ordinary working families, he worries that, while well-intentioned, HR 1374 needs more work. "My role in the 114th Congress," he explained this morning, "will be to shed light on where these sorts of efforts fall short, to disclose what is truly needed, and to offer better legislation that actually accomplishes a significant component of a New Deal safety net fit for our era and circumstances. For example, lifting the FICA cap is great-- but benefits should be extended by at least 20% across the board to account for the massive erosion of middle class wealth of the past three decades. Likewise, retirement should be available earlier, in whole or in part, by 55 years of age. And as for ACA, for example, it must be revamped to simply offer universal care to anyone with a social security number across the board without exception, and such universal care afforded must be comparable to that of any federal employee, such as a U.S. representative. It's time to move beyond antiquated discriminatory concepts like Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance-- all of these programs are by definition exclusionary and discriminatory. The same is true for Social Security-- I would propose the 'American Retirement Act' in its place, that extends and broadens the concept of what social security actually is and does for our people."

Ruiz also pointed out that most Americans want to see unfair corporate loopholes closed as part of any budget deal, something Paul Ryan adamantly opposes. "Do you know anyone who's against closing offshore tax loopholes, aside from Mica and Ryan and a gaggle of congressional Republicans? That poll I sent you shows that by a margin of 62% to 36% people favor closing corporate loopholes designed to allow corporations and wealthy individuals to avoid paying U.S. taxes by shifting income to offshore tax havens.” Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) proposed legislation, HR 3666 to stop tax haven abuse but House Republicans won't allow it to come to a vote. If voters want to see Congress close corporate loopholes, they should replace corporately-backed candidates, like John Mica, with independent progressives… like yours truly."

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At 8:06 PM, Blogger Dave said...

Republicans and Democrats both are this country's greatest threat, and should be executed for treason.


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