"Raising the retirement age would inflict further hardship among a group of workers who are likely to face health and economic problems in their 60s." –Doug Hart, President, Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans
"Of all the lies and confusion that still surround the Affordable Care Act, perhaps the greatest is that it is bad for seniors." - Dave Meinell, President, Missouri Alliance for Retired Americans
"My father died when I was three. Because of Social Security (survivors) benefits, my Mom, my younger sister and I survived." – Diane Fleming, DC Alliance Member
"We fear that Congress will balance the budget on the backs of the 98 percent, which is working Montanans and retired Montanans. We simply cannot afford these devastating cuts to vital services such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid," –John Forkan, President, Montana Alliance for Retired Americans
"Along with national parks and Social Security, Medicare is one of the best ideas we Americans have ever devised." -Tim Cunningham, New Mexico Alliance Member
"Seniors have earned and deserve their Social Security checks, and they shouldn't have to go to Congress every 10 years and beg for the program to be renewed." –James Parent, Alliance for Retired Americans Regional Board Member
"Today's retirees paid Medicare and Social Security taxes in every paycheck we ever earned. Now that we are retired, these programs help us to be able to stay healthy and pay our bills. They are the promise we make to people who worked hard all their lives, and we need to keep that promise for today’s workers." –Tony Fransetta, President, Florida Alliance for Retired Americans
"Today's seniors want to lower the budget deficit. We do not want a large debt to be the legacy we leave to future generations, but we should not punish people who have paid Social Security taxes all their lives." –Jim Moore, President, North Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans
"Social Security should remain what it has been for 77 years – a solid, reliable way that generations of workers have been able to retire with dignity, economic security, and peace of mind." –Barbara J. Easterling, President, Alliance for Retired Americans
"The fight for Social Security and Medicare is part of a larger fight for justice and fairness"—Barbara J. Easterling, President, Alliance for Retired Americans
"The health insurance reform helps not just seniors, but also middle-class families and young Americans, who are just starting to see the benefits. Don’t let Republicans take all that away." –Don Rowen, President Emeritus, Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans
"Honoring the promise of Social Security and Medicare should not be a partisan issue. Honoring the contributions that we make throughout our working years so that we may feed and clothe ourselves, keep a roof over our heads and those of our family, there is no reason for that to be a hotly contested partisan issue." –Edward Coyle, Executive Director, Alliance for Retired Americans
"We need to make sure that people who need Social Security to make ends meet will have it, and not fall victim to ill-informed and unnecessary cuts to these vital programs."
–Barbara J. Easterling, President, Alliance for Retired Americans
Harry Reid: No Grand Bargain in the Near Future
On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) ruled out the possibility that a budget conference committee convening next week will reach a “grand bargain” that would cut Social Security and Medicare, raise taxes and reduce spending. “We are not going to have a grand bargain in the near future,” he said. Instead, he suggested negotiators should focus on a replacement for sequestration and forget “happy talk” about a grand bargain. The comments came a week after the deal he reached with Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling.
A House-Senate budget conference will be established to come up with long-term spending plans by December 13, 2013. Congress faces a Jan. 15 deadline to fund the government again to prevent a shutdown, and a Feb. 7 deadline to raise the debt ceiling. Reid said a wider deal could happen next year if mainstream Republicans can take control of the GOP away from the Tea Party. Mr. Reid signaled that he could be open to minor trimming of some Medicare or Social Security spending as part of deal that involves tax revenue. More at http://tinyurl.com/pk6n5to.
“We still have to mobilize vigorously to make sure that seniors’ programs are not cut as part of the budget conference deal,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance.
Key Negotiator, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Does Not Want to Reduce Medicare Benefits
On Tuesday, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (MD), the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said that said he would be open to finding Medicare savings in ways that give care providers incentives to cut costs, but that he would want to avoid changes that reduce the benefits that Americans receive. He said he would consider some changes to Medicare. One idea that would be a tough sell with Democrats is a change in the way that cost-of-living increases are calculated in Social Security. The change would be made by adopting the less-generous gauge of inflation known as the chained CPI. Such a plan “creates a whole lot of problems within the Democratic caucus,” Van Hollen acknowledged. To read more, go to http://tinyurl.com/ofdwvhx.
Detroit’s Bankruptcy Trial Begins
The trial over the city of Detroit’s eligibility for bankruptcy began on Wednesday. In an unexpected development, a lawyer for Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said that the governor had agreed to testify at the trial, most likely next week. According to The New York Times, “Hundreds of protesters circled the downtown courthouse on Wednesday for the opening of the trial, many carrying banners and signs that attacked Mr. Snyder as favoring bondholders and banks over the city’s employees and its 23,000 retirees.” Lawyers for unions and retiree groups challenged an assertion that the city had made a good-faith effort to reach a deal with workers and retirees. They argued that the governor's handpicked emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, called for significant cuts in employee pensions and health care without offering unions an opportunity to bargain on the issue. Jennifer Green, a lawyer for some city pension funds, said e-mails and documents showed that it was a “foregone conclusion” that Mr. Orr’s law firm would pursue a “Chapter 9” filing as a way to circumvent a provision in the Michigan Constitution that protects public employee pensions. The judge in the case wants more information on why the legislation was passed as an appropriations bill, which makes it immune from a referendum to repeal it. More at http://tinyurl.com/ldqs7lg. To see a great video from AFSCME regarding the Detroit bankruptcy filing, go to http://www.afscme.org/giftroit.
Troubling Trade Deal on the Horizon
Have you heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement? If not, you’re not alone – the American people, by design, know very little about what U.S. negotiators are promising in closed-door talks with Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and other countries. 600 corporate advisors have access to the text, but the rest of us do not. “What has come to light is that in addition to corporate-favored terms that would send American jobs offshore and decrease environmental and health safeguards, the TPP could undermine the ability of states or the federal government to moderate escalating prescription drug, biologic drug and medical device costs in public programs,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “That includes limiting the government’s ability to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs through Medicaid and the Veterans Administration.”
The Alliance is joining with labor, public interest groups and others in urging Congress and the President to make the process of these negotiations transparent, allow public input, and ensure that the TPP agreement and future trade agreements do not limit the tools of states or the federal government to manage pharmaceutical and medical device costs in public programs or bind the U.S. to a 12-year exclusivity period for brand-name biologic drugs. More at http://www.citizen.org/TPP.
New Hampshire and New Mexico Alliance Chapters Hold Conferences, Elect Officers
Thirty activists attended the New Hampshire Alliance’s conference in Hooksett last Friday. Elected to leadership positions on the board were: Lucy Edwards, President; Jane Lang, Executive Vice President; Terry Lochhead, Secretary; and Jerry Conner, Treasurer. One speaker, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, advised seniors to be engaged politically in order to protect Social Security and Medicare. She was quoted in the Manchester Union Leader saying, “If you don’t sit at the table, you will be on the menu. Seniors, get active; let everyone know you won’t be on the menu.”
The next day, New Mexico activists gathered in Albuquerque for the New Mexico Alliance for Retired Americans’ Triennial Convention. Guests gave engaging speeches on the convention theme of “Retirees Built the American Dream” to another crowd of 30. Following a keynote by state senator Linda Lopez, delegates elected: John “JD” Doran, President; Elva Santos, 1st Vice President; Sally Gallosa, 2nd Vice President; Carolyn Devore-Parks, Treasurer; and Carlos Caballero, Secretary. Other speakers included Rep. Michelle Lujan-Grisham (D), state Federation of Labor President Jon Hendry, state Attorney General Gary King, and State Reps. Sheryl Williams-Stapleton and Patricia Roybal-Caballero. Go to http://tinyurl.com/q88dzgb for Facebook photos.
“I would like to say a big thank-you to both of our outgoing Presidents, Pablo Trujillo in New Mexico and Ron Geoffroy in New Hampshire, for their hard work and dedication to further the cause of retirees,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the national Alliance.
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