Alliance Seeks Open Government as Fiscal Commission Holds Its First Meeting

April 23, 2010



Alliance Seeks Open Government as Fiscal Commission Holds Its First Meeting
Two important summit meetings will be held in Washington next week to discuss ways of reducing the federal deficit. The first will be President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which holds its first meeting on Tuesday, April 27.  In advance of the meeting, the Alliance sent a letter on Thursday to Bruce Reed, Executive Director of the Commission.  The joint letter - from Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance, Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance, and Edward F. Coyle, the Alliance's Executive Director - stated that while retirees fully support President Obama on the critical need to reduce our nation's budget deficit, many have been troubled by statements by commission members suggesting that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will be a primary focus to meet deficit reduction goals.  The three Alliance leaders continued that they are "extremely disturbed by reports that the Commission chairs have decided to have committee meetings in three areas - tax reform, discretionary spending, and mandatory spending - held behind closed doors without public access, since this arrangement directly contradicts President Obama's commitment to an open, transparent government."  They offered the following recommendations on ways to ensure the American public's participation and engagement in this important national dialogue:

  • The Commission should conduct field hearings across the country to listen to the American public and specifically hear from individuals and representatives of those affected by potential recommendations;
  • The Commission's planning meetings, working meetings, drafting sessions, public meetings, and all other sessions where Commission work is performed or planned should be open to the public and available to the public via C-SPAN coverage or internet streaming; and
  • The contact information for the Commission, its members and support staff should be made available for the public.

"It is critically important that the process governing the work of the commission is highly inclusive and fully transparent to the American people," the three concluded.

Peterson Foundation to Meet on Wednesday; Seeks Social Security, Medicare Cuts
Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson will convene a fiscal summit through his Peter G. Peterson Foundation the next day.  According to The Huffington Post, Peterson, previously the CEO of the now belly-up Lehman Brothers and formerly the chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, underwrites the foundation with his own funds - "and his agenda is no secret."  He views the coming retirement of baby boomers as a threat to the economy and the federal budget.  He seeks to use his billions to achieve aggressive cuts in Social Security and Medicare benefits, as well as the creation of a commission that would have legal authority to create a plan to reduce the deficit and then simply present it to Congress for an up or down vote, with no debates and no amendments.

New Hampshire State Senate Votes to Help Citizens Pay for Hearing Aids
The New Hampshire Alliance celebrated yesterday when the NH Senate voted to require insurance companies to provide $1,500 coverage over five years for hearing aids, fitting, and adjustment services.  Sen. Maggie Hassan of Exeter led the NH Senate to pass the hearing aid bill, HB 561. New Hampshire Alliance members worked hard placing calls, writing letters, and now celebrate this big win for retirees, individuals with hearing loss, and their families.  "A good hearing aid can cost as much as $6,000," said Charlie Balban, NH Alliance President. "Retirees use them more than anyone else, but most retirees live on fixed incomes so it's hard for them to afford an effective hearing aid. This bill will help retirees and also help people still in the workforce."  The bill was endorsed by the Commission on Deafness and Hearing Loss, AFL-CIO, Granite State Independent Living, and the NH Alliance, and will next go to the Governor's desk.

Maintaining Health Care Fixes
There is still a great deal of talk from elected Republicans about repealing "The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act."  With the 2010 elections approaching, many Republican candidates are raising this issue.  In response, elected officials who voted for the bill and members of the public are asking why filling the doughnut hole, requiring large insurers - including Medicare Advantage - to expend 85 cents of each dollar they receive on benefits, allowing children to stay on their parents plan until age 26, is such a bad thing that requires repair.  [ http://bit.ly/b0DXPD ]

New on the Alliance Web Site
Materials from the Alliance's national convention are now available on the Alliance's web site.  Click on the button that says "2010 National Convention," or go to http://bit.ly/1jIzz2 for copies of remarks, Powerpoint presentations, and handouts.  Also, go to http://bit.ly/b2PHo9 for three new fact sheets on the health reform law: one on health insurance exchanges, one on Medicare benefits and changes, and one on frequently asked questions.

Happy 90th Birthday, Will Parry!
Mr. Coyle is traveling to Seattle, Washington today to help celebrate the 90th birthday of longtime Alliance activist Will Parry, an integral part in building the Puget Sound National Council of Senior Citizens, the Puget Sound Alliance, the Washington State Alliance, and the national Alliance.  "Will was one of the earliest and most dedicated activists for health care reform, educating and mobilizing people of all ages on how health care should be a basic right for all, not a special privilege for a few," Coyle noted.