Fiscal Commission Meets for the Fifth Time as NOW Confronts Alan Simpson

October 01, 2010

The President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, looking for ways to balance the federal budget, met for the fifth time on Wednesday, but hard decisions are not expected until after the November 2 elections. Social Security is one of several areas being considered by the panel for changes, and picketers outside the meeting demanded the commission keep its hands off the program. A top target of protesters was Alan Simpson, the former Republican senator and now a co-chairman of the commission, who this summer described Social Security as “a milk cow with 310 million tits.”  The National Organization for Women (NOW) has a new slogan: “Tits for an Ass,” and NOW members arrived on Capitol Hill on Wednesday with 1,500 rubber baby bottle tops (nipples) and presented them to the Fiscal Commission as part of its campaign calling for the removal of Simpson. According to The Washington Post, NOW President Terry O'Neill told Simpson that she was giving him the nipples “in hopes that you'll have the decency to resign from the commission.”  When Simpson said that cutting Social Security had historically never happened, O’Neill responded, “Well let's hope that your efforts to make it happen now fail.”


Members of Congress Hold Press Call to Announce, “Hands off Social Security”

On Thursday, Alliance President Barbara J. Easterling joined Senators Bernard Sanders (I-VT) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), as well as Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), John Conyers (D-MI) and Dan Maffei (D-NY) and AFSCME International President Gerald McEntee, on a conference call with reporters.  Organized by the Strengthen Social Security Campaign, the call briefed members of the press on how the participants’ efforts to protect Social Security against harmful benefit cuts are gaining momentum in Congress. Senators Sanders and Brown discussed the Sanders resolution, S. Res. 664, which opposes raising the retirement age, risky privatization schemes, or cutting Social Security benefits. This resolution now has 11 co-sponsors. The Giffords Resolution, a similar resolution in the House, is H. Res. 1670 and has 56 co-sponsors.


Reps. Grijalva, Conyers and Maffei also discussed the letter they are spearheading to President Obama against any form of Social Security benefit cuts, including raising the retirement age. The Grijalva-Conyers-Maffei letter has now been signed by over 100 of their colleagues in Congress. The current retirement age is 67, and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has raised the possibility of raising it to 70. “Thank you once again to our dedicated Alliance members, who have sent more than 2,300 letters to their House members urging them not to raise the retirement age,” Ms. Easterling said on Thursday. The House and Senate could face a proposal to cut Social Security benefits in the lame duck session, should it be recommended by the Fiscal Commission on Dec. 1.


Republican Third Party Groups Outspend Democrats

According to the Federal Election Commission, as of September 25, GOP third party groups (not the party itself) had so far declared their intentions to spend $25.8 million in independent expenditures on this year’s U.S. House races and $24.2 million on Senate races.  Democratic third party groups will be spending much less: $7.3 million for House races and $4.2 million on Senate races.  The 60 Plus Association, a GOP front group funded in the past by the pharmaceutical industry and profiled in last week’s Friday Alert, has announced plans to spend the most of all groups - more than $6.1 million on just the House by October 13.  “60 Plus” targets seniors, opposes health care reform, and advocates for the privatization of Social Security.


Nevada Alliance Activity

On Monday, Nevada Alliance for Retired Americans (NARA) members participated in two events around the state with the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius. Both events explained the benefits contained in the Affordable Care Act, including some that became available last week. In addition to educating people about the new health care law, Sebelius was in Nevada to support Harry Reid in his re-election to the U.S. Senate and Shelley Berkley and Dina Titus in their runs for re-election to the U.S. House. NARA President Scotty Watts and Treasurer Jo Etta Brown joined the morning panel discussion in Reno. NARA Vice President Rich Miller attended the 100-person meeting in Henderson and reported that several attendees had spoken about how the new health law would be of great benefit to their families. Of the Nevada Alliance’s work in the state around the Affordable Care Act, Miller added, “We’re doing the best we can to get the information out. There’s no doubt that every opportunity we have to go to the press, to hold educational panels, and to lobby, we do that.”


Income Disparity in America is Getting Worse

A disturbing Census report that came out on income inequality this week is available at According to the report and the program Democracy Now!, the U.S. has the greatest income disparity among Western industrialized nations, with data showing that the income gap between the richest and poorest Americans grew last year to its widest amount on record. The top earning 20% of Americans received more than 49% of all income generated in the country in 2009. The income gap has nearly doubled since 1968. With the success of Social Security, poverty for older Americans is now at 9%, as compared to a 21% poverty rate for children. Much of the spike was driven by the share of total income accrued by the richest 1% of households. Between 1980 and 2008, their share rose from 10.0 % to 21.0%. According to the Joint Economic Committee, high levels of income inequality can precipitate economic crises: peaks in income inequality preceded both the Great Depression and this decade’s Great Recession.  “The highest earners in the U.S. need to pay their share in order to fix the economy,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.


Alliance Leaders Go West to Washington State

Ms. Easterling is in Tacoma, Washington today to help launch the Tacoma chapter of the Alliance for Retired Americans.  The Washington State Alliance held its 2010 Annual Meeting on Wednesday.  Speakers included national Alliance Executive Vice President Judy Cato as well as Dean Baker, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and one of the few economists to predict the recent economic meltdown.
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