April 15, 2011

Alliance Reacts to President Obama’s Plan to Reduce the National Deficit

On Wednesday, President Obama gave a speech outlining his plan for reducing the national deficit by $4 trillion before 2023. The President’s framework rejects plans that would “end Medicare as we know it” or transform Medicaid into a dramatically underfunded block grant.  The President also separated his call for Social Security reform from the efforts to lower the deficit, and he promised that he would not renew the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy when they expire at the end of 2012. “As this debate proceeds, grassroots activists with the Alliance for Retired Americans will be urging their elected officials to address the root causes of our deficit – the badly-unneeded tax breaks for wealthy individuals and corporations – and to protect and strengthen Social Security and Medicare, two great American success stories that have helped generations of seniors stay healthy and out of poverty,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. For the Alliance’s full statement on the President’s budget, go tohttp://bit.ly/dHMnsn.

Many Reasons Not to Like Rep. Paul Ryan’s Budget

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 235-193 today to pass the Paul Ryan (WI) Republican 2012 Budget. No Democrat voted for Rep. Ryan’s budget, while 4 Republicans voted against it:Walter Jones (NC), David McKinley (WV), Ron Paul (TX), and Denny Rehberg (MT).  Four members did not vote. Here is a link to the roll call: http://1.usa.gov/gI8Mv4. The Ryan budget would severely hurt America’s seniors and retirees by privatizing Medicare; promoting rationing by private insurance companies; fast-tracking cuts to Social Security; and slashing support for seniors and the disabled in nursing homes. The Ryan blueprint would also reconfigure Medicaid into a state block-grant program, while cutting the federal budget by an estimated $6 trillion over a decade. Alliance members joined members of the Congressional Seniors Task Force at a press conference today on Capitol Hill in denouncing the plan. Despite the details of the proposal, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said on Wednesday that the GOP’s Medicare privatization plan does not privatize Medicare. “We’re transforming Medicare so that it’ll be there for the future,” he explained.

Alliance members sent more than 3,400 letters to 411 Representatives stressing their outrage over Ryan’s blueprint. “Once again, our members came through in the clutch,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “Thank you to everyone who sent a letter.” The Alliance also sent its own letter to each Representative echoing the strong disapproval.  To read the letter, go to http://bit.ly/fCGrvq. House Democrats, led on the issue by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), unveiled a $3.68 trillion budget proposal Wednesday that would cut billions of dollars in defense spending while increasing taxes on the wealthy. However, the plan failed to pass in the House.

Nevada Alliance Wastes No Time Drawing Attention to Ryan-Budget Supporters

Yesterday, 60 members of the Nevada Alliance gathered outside of Rep. Dean Heller’s (R) offices in Reno and Las Vegas to protest his support of the Ryan/GOP budget proposal. Seniors chanted “Hell no Heller!” and flaunted signs that read “BASIC NEEDS NOT CORPORATE GREED” and “Our Grandchildren Can’t Afford Heller’s Budget.” NARA President Scotty Wattssaid at the rally, “Under the plan Heller supports, many seniors would no longer be able to go to or stay in a nursing home, receive long-term care, or receive any care at all in their homes and communities.”

Raise the Retirement Age to 70??

On Wednesday, three Senate Republicans introduced legislation, S. 804, to modify Social Security by raising the retirement age to 70 and cutting benefits for high-income beneficiaries. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that freshmen Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY) were “the only two guys I could find” to sign onto the proposal, but that they were continuing to talk with lawmakers of both parties. Their plan would gradually increase the retirement age for Social Security to 70 by 2032, so that those born in 1970, or after, would not receive full benefits until age 70. After 2032, under the proposal, the retirement age would be indexed to changes in life expectancy. Currently, the retirement age is being phased up to age 67 for those who were born after 1960. Wealthier earners would receive reduced payments after 2018 under the proposal. “Everybody has to contribute to the solution, if you’re unable to work, you can apply for disability,” said Graham. He added, “My situation now is much different than it was in the 70s when my parents died, back then cuts would have been devastating.  Now, I can afford to forgo some of my benefits.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is pushing legislation to make lawmakers eligible for their federal retirement benefits only when they reach Social Security retirement age. His bill, the 2011 Shared Retirement Sacrifice Act, is in response to lawmakers asking for the Social Security retirement age to be increased to 69 or 70 years old. Under the Federal Employees Retirement System, lawmakers who retire at 50 and have at least two decades of federal service can immediately collect full pension benefits, while those who are 62 will get the same if they retire with at least five years government experience. Brown and other progressives from both chambers of Congress have also gotten behind legislation that would only allow changes to Social Security with the approval of two-thirds of both the House and the Senate.

Leon Burzynski Gives Testimony to Wisconsin Lawmakers

This week, Leon Burzynski, the President of the Wisconsin Alliance (WIARA), delivered testimony to the Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee. The testimony focused on Governor Scott Walker (R), his 2011-2013 budget proposal, and the effect his budget will have on seniors. Walker’s budget proposal calls for eliminating the state’s drug program for seniors, SeniorCare, and making seniors enroll in Medicare Part D instead. Implementing this change would cost most seniors in Wisconsin up to an extra $4,550 a year. The budget also proposes capping the number of participants in the state’s long-term care program, which would increase out of pocket expenses for many seniors. Additionally, the budget would cut $9.6 million from transportation assistance.

Register Now for the Alliance Legislative Conference

The Alliance has lots of exciting things planned to celebrate its 10-year anniversary at the 2011 Legislative Conference in Washington DC, September 6-9. We will be mailing more information, and registration forms, in the next few weeks. You may also register online at http://bit.ly/hQro1V. Please contact Joni Jones at 202-637-5377 or jjones@retiredamericans.org with any questions.

Editor’s Note: Due to holidays, the next Friday Alert will be published on Thursday, April 21, 2011.

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