November 05, 2010

GOP Takes Over U.S. House, Captures Six Senate Seats in Midterm Elections

In the U.S. House, Republicans have netted 60 seats so far, with 8 Democratic districts too close to call. According to The Washington Post, most projections put the total GOP gain in the mid-60s, although several of the uncalled contests are almost certainly headed for recounts. GOP candidates defeated not only Democratic incumbents who won their seats in 2006 or 2008, but also long-serving incumbents such as Reps. John Spratt (S.C.), Ike Skelton (Mo.), Rick Boucher (Va.) and Jim Oberstar (Minn.). Historically, the Republican gains mark the biggest midterm election seat swap since 1938, when Democrats lost 71 House seats.  Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) is set to become the next Speaker of the House.

 

In the Senate, Republicans made solid gains but will remain in the minority when the 112th Congress convenes. The GOP gained six seats -- Illinois, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Arkansas, Indiana and Wisconsin -- on Tuesday night, with a race in Alaska still not called. West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) won the seat of the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D) claimed the seat of retiring Sen. Chris Dodd (D). The timing of California Sen. Barbara Boxer's (D) victory ensured Democrats would retain the majority. Democrats also won a major symbolic victory in Nevada as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) defeated former state assemblywoman Sharron Angle (R). Rep. Mark Kirk (R) and former Rep. Pat Toomey (R) emerged victorious in very close contests for the Senate seats in Illinois and Pennsylvania, respectively.  Sen. Michael Bennet (D) and Sen. Patty Murray (D) won close races in Colorado and Washington.

 

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October 29, 2010

Midterm Elections Just Days Away - Your Vote Matters

This Tuesday is Election Day, and seniors have as much at stake as any age group this year. “For anyone you know who thinks that voting doesn’t matter, tell them that 104 lawmakers are on record as supporting the privatization of Social Security,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.  “If those lawmakers become the majority, we are more likely than ever to see our Social Security benefits gambled away on Wall Street.  Please vote.”  For a list of the 104, go to http://thinkprogress.org/2010/10/27/gop-privatize-socialsecurity.  Privatizers are not the only problem that could be coming down the pike with a bad election outcome. In an interview with National Journal out this week, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell was asked what his party's main political job will be after next week's election. He gave a blunt answer: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

 

“We now have it on record that, if Republicans win control of the Senate, the man who aspires to be Majority Leader is placing his own political interests ahead of the needs of seniors and everyone else,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.  Seniors are set to have a massive impact on the election results. For anyone who has difficulty casting a ballot, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights has set up a national hotline at 1-866-Our-Vote to address problems.


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October 22, 2010

Protection Available for Those Who Experience Problems While Voting

Ten years have passed since the “hanging chad” problem in Florida, and since then a majority of states across the nation have overhauled their voting methods in hopes of simplifying the process and making it more accurate. One of the most pronounced changes has been the move away from lever and paper voting in favor of optical and electric voting methods.  However, limited funds for voting equipment and rapidly aging voting machines in some areas are an indication that the country is not immune from problems re-emerging. In addition, voter suppression occurred recently when a front group called “Latinos for Reform,” run by a major donor to former President George W. Bush, was caught running television ads in Nevada telling Hispanic voters NOT to vote on November 2nd as a way of protesting.  The ads are now off the air.

 

The following resources focus on election protection. They are produced by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, who have set up a national hotline for any voting problems: 1-866-Our-Vote. For information on fundamental voting rights and commonly asked questions, go to http://www.866ourvote.org/elections-101. For pages with state-specific laws and pdf's with more detailed information on your state's election laws, click on http://www.866ourvote.org/state. In addition, for information on the voting rights of the disabled from the National Disability Rights Network, go to http://bit.ly/bokzr8. “Voters can go the polls with peace of mind, knowing that the system has improved,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “However, if you do experience a problem, help is available. Don’t go home without casting your ballot.”


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October 15, 2010

Alliance Supports Legislation to Address Lack of 2011 Social Security COLA

The federal government announced today that tens of millions of Social Security recipients will go through another year in 2011 without an increase in their monthly benefits, marking only the second year without an increase since automatic adjustments for inflation were adopted. The first year was 2010. The cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, are set each year by an inflation measure that was adopted by Congress back in 1975. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) announced that when Congress returns in November, he will press for passage of $250 in emergency relief for Social Security recipients and disabled veterans to compensate for the lack of a COLA. That same proposal was defeated in the Senate on March 3, when only one Republican voted to allow the amendment to be considered. Sanders said the estimated $13 billion cost of the help for seniors is only a fraction of the $70 billion in annual tax breaks that Senate Republicans are pushing for the wealthiest Americans.

 

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October 08, 2010

Early Voting is Under Way in Fourteen States

According to USA Today, early voting, in which a voter may cast a ballot at an elections office, is underway in 14 states. Early voting gets underway in another 17 states and in the District of Columbia over the next two weeks. In all, 33 states and the District of Columbia offer some form of in-person early voting, while other states allow voters to file absentee ballots early, according to the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS). Vermont kicked the voting off on Sept. 20, followed by South Dakota on Sept. 21, Iowa and Wyoming on Sept. 23, Nebraska on Sept. 27, Ohio on September 28, Wisconsin on October 3, California and Indiana on Oct. 4, and Arizona on October 7. Rather than setting a date far in advance, some states began offering ballots when they became available. For the first time this year, Illinois voters are casting absentee ballots without having to explain why they are doing so; this is known as “no excuse” absentee voting. “I encourage Alliance members to take advantage of early voting, so that your ballot will count even if you can’t make it to the polls on Election Day,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.


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October 01, 2010

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

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.”
 
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September 24, 2010

House GOP Agenda Leaves Seniors with Unanswered Questions

House Republicans released their “Pledge to America” on Thursday for the fall elections, calling to “repeal and replace” the new health care law, and offering little in what they would do for seniors. Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance, responded in a statement, “Today’s agenda provides few specifics for voters concerned about Social Security and Medicare. Conspicuously absent from today’s plan are both aspiring-Speaker John Boehner’s pledge to increase the Social Security retirement age to 70, and also the ‘Roadmap’ of the Budget Committee’s Paul Ryan which would let Wall Street run a privatized Social Security and end Medicare as we know it.” To view Mr. Coyle’s full statement, including questions regarding Republican plans to take away seniors’ benefits under the new health law, go to http://bit.ly/af1hM8. Rep. Ryan admitted on CNN on Thursday that Republicans are still pursuing the privatization of Social Security, saying that the “Pledge to America” encompasses just the “initial first steps” of the House Republican agenda, and that Social Security privatization would come later on.

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September 17, 2010

New York Times Spotlights Perils for Older Workers if Retirement Age Increased

This week the New York Times ran a powerful portrait of life on the job for many older Americans, showing just how devastating a retirement age increase would be for millions of workers. Against a backdrop of House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) pledging that a Republican-led Congress would increase the age to 70, the Times told the stories of several workers – an airline baggage handler, a nursing assistant, and a tire maker – including one who noted that at work, “dessert with lunch is ibuprofen.”  A recent study by the Center for Economic Policy Research found that one in three workers over age 58 works a physically demanding job.

 

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September 10, 2010

House Democrats Say: No Social Security Cuts!

According to the “Talking Points Memo” blog, House Democrats, led by Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) co-chair Raul Grijalva (AZ), are drawing a line in the sand before the White House's fiscal commission: If your report recommends cuts or other changes to Social Security, they will say, you'll lose our support. In a letter to be sent to President Obama, House Democrats will pledge to vote against any legislation based on the commission's report unless Social Security is taken off the table. “We oppose any cuts to Social Security benefits, including raising the retirement age,” the letter reads. “We also oppose any effort to privatize Social Security, in whole or in part.... If any of the Commission's recommendations cut or diminish Social Security in any way, we will stand firmly against them.” The effort is intended to tie the commission's hands, at least on this issue. Grijalva's effort is a response to signals and reports suggesting that the commission is reaching common ground on Social Security cuts. Democrats and advocates are rounding up signers, and will deliver the letter to Obama once the numbers climb, likely after Congress returns later this month. The original cosigners are Grijalva, John Conyers (D-MI), Dan Maffei (D-NY), Mary Jo Kilroy (D-OH), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), and CPC co-chair Lynn Woolsey (D-CA). They issued a “Dear Colleague” letter to House members last Friday and have identified dozens of potential signatories based on pledges and past statements. You can read the text of the letter in its entirety at http://bit.ly/9zwX4F.  “Alliance members will have the opportunity to take part in a movement to increase the number of co-sponsors in an upcoming Friday Alert,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. According to the AFL-CIO blog [http://bit.ly/akYyr8], phasing out, privatizing, or otherwise eliminating Social Security does not sit well with the vast majority of the voting public: the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that 68% of voters are “uncomfortable” with candidates who support such ideas.

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September 03, 2010

Tell Congress: Don't Raise Retirement Age!

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) plans to introduce a resolution expressing the sense of Congress against raising the retirement age when Congress reconvenes this month. "This resolution, especially with a large number of cosponsors, can be a good counterweight to proposals at the Fiscal Commission to raise the retirement age,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. In a “Dear Colleague” letter sent to members of the House recently, Giffords said that an increase in the retirement age is simply a cut in benefits. Current cosponsors include: Reps. Travis Childers (D-MS), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Laura Richardson (D-CA), Diane Watson (D-CA), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) and Joe Courtney (D-CT). To ask your Member of Congress to co-sponsor the resolution, go to http://bit.ly/9SbUfN.

 

“For 75 years, Social Security has been a bedrock promise.  Seniors have earned it with a lifetime of hard work and depend on it to live independently and with dignity in their retirement. That's why I unequivocally oppose proposals to cut Social Security benefits and balance the budget on the backs of seniors by raising the Social Security retirement age,” Giffords wrote in her letter. Rep. Giffords listed several reasons for not raising the retirement age: the surplus within the Social Security trust fund is estimated to grow to more than $4 trillion by 2023; also, the normal retirement age, currently 66, was already increased by two months each year in 1983 until it reaches 67 in 2022.  In addition, she wrote that raising the retirement age will place a greater burden on older, blue-collar workers in physically demanding occupations, like nurses, auto workers and teachers, who may not be able to continue to work in their jobs into their mid-to-late 60s; that the burden of raising the retirement age will fall most heavily on older workers with limited employment opportunities; and that life expectancy numbers are skewed in favor of men, higher income earners, and the more educated.

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