Alliance Members Tell Congress, "Don't Make Us Work 'Til We Die!"

April 21, 2011

Last Friday, the U.S. House approved a draconian 2012 budget that ends Medicare as we know it, provides a roadmap for eliminating Social Security, and cuts $1.4 trillion from Medicaid over 10 years. Meanwhile, in the Senate, there is a major bipartisan initiative to raise the retirement age or cut Social Security benefits in other ways. With Congress in recess until May 3, Alliance members are using this time to tell members of the House and Senate, the media, and supporters that Congress should keep its hands off Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid! “Our goals are to ensure that: Social Security not be included in a deficit-reduction deal; Medicare not be turned over to insurance companies; the eligibility age for Medicare benefits not be raised to 67, from 65; and severe cuts to Medicaid be blocked,” explained Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

The Alliance is teaming with “Strengthen Social Security” and other groups with rallies, advertisements, and grassroots lobbying campaigns to defend Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security from the proposed cuts. Retirees across the country will be showing the effects of what diminishing retirement security legislation means to “real people” by dressing up in work clothes and demonstrating what it means to “Work ’Til We Die.” This past Monday, New Hampshire Alliance members donned hardhats and crutches on Tax Day to tell Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH) that his vote last week in favor of the plan of the House Budget Committee Chairman, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) – a proposal which would replace Medicare with a voucher system and raise the retirement age – would keep people working much too late in life. A group of twenty retirees and workers using wheelchairs, walkers, and crutches gathered at the Manchester Post Office to challenge Guinta's vote. Then they marched to Guinta's office [ http://bit.ly/gvmvY6 ] and gave his staff a long list of grievances stemming from the vote. To learn about upcoming, similar Alliance events around the country, planned for next week, go to http://bit.ly/eelptA. To see the “Don’t Make Us Work ’Til We Die” video from “Strengthen Social Security,” go to http://bit.ly/i7cfe9. To see video of Rep. Ryan being booed at a town hall for defending tax breaks for the wealthy while suggesting major Medicare and Social Security cuts for the middle class, go to http://bit.ly/eOvG0Y.

 The Washington Post: The Budget, America’s Preferences, and the Senior Vote

“Despite growing concerns about the country’s long-term fiscal problems and an intensifying debate in Washington about how to deal with them, Americans strongly oppose some of the major remedies under consideration,” according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll [http://wapo.st/fL85oV]. The survey finds that Americans prefer to keep Medicare just the way it is. More than half say they are against small, across-the-board tax increases combined with modest reductions in Medicare and Social Security benefits. Only President Obama’s call to raise tax rates on the wealthiest Americans enjoys solid support. The Post-ABC poll finds that 78% oppose cutting spending on Medicare as a way to chip away at the debt. Only 34% of Americans say Medicare should be changed along the lines outlined in the Ryan budget proposal.

A separate Washington Post article, at http://wapo.st/fZWyX7, looks at the Ryan budget and the senior vote. In 2010, seniors turned out in big numbers, and Republicans carried voters over 65 by 21 points — by far their biggest margin among any age group. “The 2012 budget proposed by Rep. Ryan and passed by House Republicans on Friday would privatize Medicare and shift most of the entitlement’s future costs onto seniors,” the article states.  The piece then questions whether the trend of seniors voting with Republicans can continue.

Senate “Gang of Six” Attack Social Security

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), a member of the Senate’s “Gang of Six” that is trying to address the budget deficit, recently told reporters that he does not support separating the discussion about Social Security reform from the larger conversation about reducing the federal deficit. Durbin criticized legislation that would prevent Social Security from being cut in an effort to reduce the deficit as “going too far.” The bipartisan group of six senators, which includes Durbin as well as Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Mike Crapo (R-ID), is working to produce a budget proposal that would be based on the recommendations of the Fiscal Commission that was chaired by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson. Members of the group have promised that their proposal will include reforms to Social Security, including a reduction of benefits for “wealthy” recipients and a possible increase in the retirement age. “I urge the Gang of Six to keep in mind that Social Security has not contributed one dime to the deficit,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

CEO’s Receive 23 Percent Salary Increase

The CEO’s who lead companies in Standard and Poor’s 500 Index earned an average of $11.4 million in compensation in 2010, according to Executive Pay Watch, an initiative of the AFL-CIO. This represents a 23% increase from the average CEO compensation in 2009. The report notes that the average secretary makes a median salary of $29,980, while someone such as Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf is compensated more than 632 times that amount, approximately $18,973,722. CEO compensation is public information thanks to a provision in the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Consequently, many banks and major corporations are lobbying Congress to weaken the law. For more, go to http://www.aflcio.org/corporatewatch/paywatch.

Indiana Alliance Stands Up for Home Care

Elmer Blankenship, President of the Indiana Alliance, and Denny Lanane, the state president of United Senior Action, are the co-authors of an op-ed that was published in a recent edition of the Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne, Indiana. In the piece, they detail the ways in which Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) has misrepresented facts and led the Indiana General Assembly to believe that Medicare waivers are cheaper than the costs of the Community and Home Options to Institutional Care for the Elderly and Disabled (CHOICE) home care program, thereby forcing people into nursing homes. In truth, Medicare waivers cost the state of Indiana an average of $12,000 per person, whereas the CHOICE program costs the state an average of about $3,994 per person. “Sad to say, the senior staff at FSSA cannot bring themselves to tell the Indiana General Assembly the truth about the CHOICE and the Medicaid aged and disabled waiver programs,” said Mr. Blankenship and Mr. Lanane. To see the op-ed, go to http://bit.ly/fnm5Sj.

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