December 14, 2012
A Sign of Hope that the Medicare Eligibility Age will not Rise
One of President Barack Obama‘s top Senate allies says he’s been assured by the White House that the President won’t yield to GOP demands to increase the eligibility age for Medicare. AP reports that Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) made the revelation to reporters on Thursday, after a Capitol Hill news conference. Increasing the eligibility age is a key demand by Republicans seeking cost curbs in popular benefit programs in exchange for higher tax revenues. Durbin said he’s been told that increasing the eligibility age from 65 is “no longer one of the items being considered by the White House.” On Tuesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) had written in USA Today that Republicans want to raise the eligibility age as part of any fiscal cliff deal (http://usat.ly/SkqZpm).
“We must remain vigilant – there is still a whole lot of risk,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “Other threats to Medicare, such as additional means testing, remain on the table. Call your U.S. Representative and Senators toll-free at 888-659-9401. Tell Congress, ‘No cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. And end the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2%.’”
102 House Members Send Letter Promising to Vote against Social Security Cuts
A group of 102 Representatives presented Speaker Boehner with a letter last Thursday informing him they would not be willing to support any cuts to Social Security for current or future retirees. Ms. Easterling stated, “We wish to thank the many Members of Congress who signed this letter. They have confirmed their intention to stand with America’s retirees, and for that we are deeply grateful.” To see the letter, go to http://bit.ly/UdExPd.
For a clear, concise video of Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) explaining the Chained CPI, a formula change that would lower future Social Security cost of living adjustments, go to http://bit.ly/ZlbuiM.
A poll from Congressional Connection has joined the list of surveys showing that the public opposes benefit cuts to Social Security and Medicare. More at http://bit.ly/UtFYrg.
Michigan Governor Signs Right-to-Work for Less Legislation
Over the chants of thousands of angry protesters, Republican lawmakers made Michigan a right-to-work state on Tuesday, dealing a devastating blow to a state that has been a bastion of the labor movement for generations.
The GOP-dominated state House ignored Democrats’ pleas to delay the final passage and instead approved two bills quickly – just as the state Senate did last week. One measure dealt with private-sector workers, the other with government employees. Republican Gov. Rick Snydersigned them both within hours. Right to work laws make union participation and fees optional, as opposed to mandatory. Michigan became the 24th state to enact right to work for less laws.
Despite what their proponents say, these laws are harmful to workers. They allow their employers to pay them less, give them fewer sick days, and skimp on safety measures, because the unions are not as capable of holding employers responsible for their actions. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the average worker in ‘right-to-work’ state earns $1,500 less each year. “Retirees know firsthand the benefits of a strong union and fully support today’s workers,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive director of the Alliance.
Candlelight Vigils Drive Home the Point: Don’t Cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid
On Monday, hundreds of Alliance members joined working families in a national Candlelight Campaign to urge Congress to say no to cuts to benefits for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and to end tax cuts for the richest 2%. Working families across the country commemorated International Human Rights Day and held candlelight vigils, town halls, rallies and other events to highlight the right to health care and the right to retire with dignity. A few highlights from the dozens of Alliance events: video footage of a San Francisco California Alliance flash mob at http://youtu.be/i_kok6Y73_A; a photo from the Dallas Morning News of members of the Texas Alliance, Texas Progress and MoveOn protesting outside Sen. John Cornyn‘s office in Dallas at http://dallasne.ws/UdC1bN; and Maryland/DC Alliance members in Baltimore urging Rep. Elijah Cummings to stay strong against cuts at http://bit.ly/XiyEAS. More athttp://bit.ly/SoCdcd. Also, North Carolina Alliance pictures are at http://bit.ly/VGfFyJ.
Democrats Announce Senate Committee Assignments
The U.S. Senate Democrats released their committee assignments for the 113th Congress, which begins on January 3, 2013. The link is at http://1.usa.gov/QXqzmY.
On Committees that most affect Alliance issues and programs, some of seniors’ best friends have won seats. Sen. Sherrod Brown (OH) goes on Finance (Social Security, taxation, much of Medicare and health care) along with Sen. Michael Bennet (CO). Sens. Tammy Baldwin (WI),Chris Murphy (CT) and Elizabeth Warren (MA) go on HELP (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions – labor and pension issues, parts of Medicare and health care); Sen. Bill Nelson (FL) becomes the new chair of the Aging Committee (which has oversight but no legislative jurisdiction on aging issues) and Sens. Baldwin, Joe Donnelly (IN), and Warren are new members; Sen.Patty Murray (WA) becomes the new Budget Committee chair, and Sens. Baldwin, Tim Kaine(VA) and Angus King (ME) are new members. Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) will chair the Veterans Affairs Committee and Sen. Mazie Hirono (HI) will join it.
The House has not made its assignments yet. “Alliance activists should feel great pride in the officials they worked hard to elect and re-elect,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “Our work during the elections clearly made a huge difference.”
Ohio Alliance Welcomes a New State President
The Ohio Alliance has a new State President: Norm Wernet, a longtime organizer for the Ohio Alliance. “I would like to offer Norm a warm, ‘welcome back,’” said Mr. Coyle. “He has always achieved great success, even in the face of daunting challenges of geography, a difficult economy, and an often hostile political climate.”