Friday, November 06, 2015

How Do You Prevent Republican Majorities In The House And Senate From Cutting Social Security Benefits?


As we've been discussing for the last month or so-- and despite the indisputable fact that real costs the seniors have to spend (housing, medical, food...) have been rising-- next year will see no Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for Social Security beneficiaries. Progressives in Congress-- as opposed to Republicans or Democrats from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party (the New Dems and Blue Dogs)-- are furious that seniors are being kicked to the curb. Elizabeth Warren in the Senate and Alan Grayson in the House are introducing legislation to increase income for seniors and disabled veterans-- ending tax subsidies for million-dollar corporate bonuses to give 70 million Americans emergency relief. Warren's bill-- with a host of co-sponsors like Bernie Sanders, Tammy Baldwin, Jeff Merkley, Ed Markey, Al Franken and Mazie Hirono-- is meant to provide an emergency payment of 3.9% (around $580) for 2016 to all Americans who receive Social Security, SSI and veterans benefits, while fully covering the costs by closing corporate compensation loopholes. The Act would close the "performance pay" loophole that costs taxpayers billions annually in tax subsidies for runaway corporate executive compensation packages. This idea has bipartisan support, and is based on the House Republican Ways and Means Committee Chairman’s 2014 tax reform proposal. 

A $581 increase could cover almost three months of groceries for seniors or a year's worth of out-of-pocket costs on critical prescription drugs for the average Medicare beneficiary. The bill would lift more than 1 million Americans out of poverty.

..."If we do nothing, on January 1st, more than 70 million seniors, veterans, and other Americans won't get an extra dime in much-needed Social Security and other benefits. And while Congress sits on its hands and pretends that there's nothing we can do, taxpayers will keep right on subsidizing billions of dollars' worth of bonuses for highly paid CEOs," Senator Warren said. "Giving seniors a little help with their Social Security and stitching up corporate tax write-offs isn't just about economics; it's about our values. Congress should pass the SAVE Benefits Act today to give a boost to millions of Americans who have earned it."
Bernie Sanders, one of the most outspoken cosponsors said that "It is unacceptable that millions of senior citizens and disabled veterans did not receive a cost-of-living adjustment this year to keep up with their rising living expenses. At a time when senior poverty is going up and more than two-thirds of the elderly population rely on Social Security for more than half of their income, our job must be to expand, not cut, Social Security. At the very least, we must do everything we can to make sure that every senior citizen and disabled veteran in this country receives a fair cost-of-living adjustment to keep up with the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs and health care."

Even if this bill gets through the Senate, Grayson's companion bill in the House will be much more difficult, despite the fact that Grayson has managed to pass more legislation through the Republican-controlled House than any other Democrat. As Robert Costa and Ed O'Keefe reported in the Washington Post yesterday, House Republicans are feuding among themselves about how to approach Social Security and Medicare-- with the extremists wanting to force even worse changes than cutting out the 2016 COLA, while more mainstream Republicans petrified that in non-Confederate states and in less gerrymandered districts, harming Social Security or Medicare could be career-ending.
The rift was exemplified this week by the biggest GOP stars of the moment. Newly installed House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said he plans to pursue a “bold alternative agenda” that would include major revisions in entitlements. At the same time, leading GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump railed against proposals to end or significantly change Medicare.

The dispute is part of a larger GOP argument over which policies Republicans will present to voters next year and how far the party should go in pushing for changes. Three years ago, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Ryan, his running mate, faced withering Democratic attacks after endorsing dramatic overhauls of Medicare and Social Security that proved unpopular.

...For years, Ryan has embraced proposals that would privatize parts of Social Security, slash Medicaid and convert Medicare to a voucher-based program. His vow to try again as House speaker quickly earned the attention of top Democrats, who are eager to revive attacks they’ve used against Ryan and other Republicans in the past.

...Trump and other populist contenders, including former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, have disputed the need for drastic changes and have warned against riling the seniors who have become a crucial voting bloc. This week, Trump attacked emerging front-runner Ben Carson-- his main GOP rival-- for advocating sweeping changes to Medicare.

“Ben wants to get rid of Medicare,” Trump said during a news conference at Trump Tower in New York on Tuesday. “You can’t get rid of Medicare. It’d be a horrible thing to get rid of. It actually works. You get rid of the fraud, waste and abuse-- it works.”

...Trump has shrugged off Ryan’s proposals as political missteps. “He’s been so anti-Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, in a sense,” Trump said of Ryan last month on CBS’s Face the Nation. “Now, he would say he hasn’t been, but [Democrats] certainly played that up hard” in the 2012 race.
It's issues like this that animates Blue America and other progressive support groups into action. We need more progressives in the House to stand with men and women like Grayson, Donna Edwards, Raul Grijalva, Keith Ellison, Barbara Lee, Mark Pocan, Jerry Nadler, Jan Schakowsky, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Ted Lieu, Ruben Gallego and Judy Chu, not more Wall Street shills from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- the Blue Dogs and New Dems who vote with the Republicans-- like Patrick Murphy (FL), Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), Sean Patrick Maloney (NY), Jim Costa (CA), Henry Cuellar (TX), Scott Peters (CA), Collin Peterson (MN), Ami Bera (CA), Dan Lipinski (IL), Donald Norcross (NJ), Pete Aguilar (CA), Brad Ashford (NE), Cheri Bustos (IL) and Gwen Graham (FL). Unfortunately, almost none of these conservaDems are facing primaries. One who is though is Donald Norcross in south Jersey. His progressive opponent, Alex Law, didn't hesitate for second when we asked him his reaction to the proposal. "Alan Grayson and Elizabeth Warren," he said, "are two of the leaders in Congress I look up to the most. As a progressive, Bernie Sanders supporter, and candidate for Congress I whole heartedly support this bill. Closing corporate loopholes to help real people in need is something that our government needs to do. When I get to Congress, I look forward to lending my voice and vote towards initiatives like this."

Eric Kingson is the progressive running for the congressional seat centered in Syracuse. The founder of Social Security Works, he told us that "Elizabeth Warren's 'Seniors And Veterans Emergency (SAVE) Benefits Act' is good policy and good politics. Senators will not be able to hide from it. They will need to declare whether they are on the side of 70 million Americans who receive modest Social Security, Veterans and SSI benefits. Or on the side of over-compensated CEOs."

State Senator Mike Noland is running for the northern Illinois seat Tammy Duckworth is giving up west of Chicago. He's extremely excited about the bill Elizabeth Warren wrote. Here's what he told us: "Dedicated public servants like Elizabeth Warren, Al Franken and Alan Grayson should be an inspiration for all of us. They aren't lining up for handouts from Wall Street banks for their re-election campaigns. They are looking out for the most vulnerable among us: Seniors who have worked their whole lives and disabled vets who have given so much to protect the rest of us. Here in Illinois there are so many people who depend on the Social Security benefits they've rightly earned. As congressman from the 8th Congressional District, I will never vote to cut the benefits of working men and women. Rather, I vow, not promise, but vow, to strengthen and expand them. These are our parents and grandparents. We should honor them by ensuring that in the twilight of their years they will live lives of dignity."

Pat Murphy is the progressive former Speaker of the Iowa House of Representatives, running for the northeast Iowa district currently held by Freedom Caucus/Tea Party extremist Rod Blum. Pat is excited about the twin bills Senator Warren and Rep. Grayson are introducing. "This is what Congress should be doing. Making sure that seniors, veterans, and the disabled receive an increase when many on Social Security are getting notices of increased rates from their insurance companies on Medicare Part B. This is not just fair, it is the right thing to do. Funding this by closing corporate loopholes shows Democrats are fiscally responsible while trying to make the tax system more fair."

Blue America's newest endorsed candidate, DuWayne Gregory on Long Island, is running for the Nassau/Suffolk seat on the south shore that Peter King occupies. He told us that "We owe a great debt to our veterans and our seniors for their contributions to our country. They have fought for our freedom, raised a generation, and laid the foundation of our economy. I commend Senator Warren for her fiscally-responsible legislation that will help our parents and grandparents keep up with the ever-increasing cost-of-living. Fulfilling our nation's promise to them is the least we can do."

All the grassroots campaigns of the Blue America candidates ready and eager to go in and make sure conservatives-- from whichever party-- do not cut Social Security and Medicare benefits can be found on this page.

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