December 06, 2013
Budget Conference is Close to a Deal that Addresses Sequestration
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) are only a few billion dollars in budgetary savings away from a deal that would set spending levels and blunt the impact of across-the-board spending cuts for the next two years, according to Politico and its sources. The two are the lead negotiators of a budget conference that is charged with setting spending levels – and replacing part of the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester – by December 13. Murray and Ryan are trying to wrap up a budget agreement that would set 2014 discretionary spending levels near $1 trillion, while replacing the sequester with alternative, targeted spending cuts. Rumors are that the potential deal includes raising revenue by way of hiking fees on airline ticket purchases and other cost increases. It doesn’t include revenue from tax hikes. More at http://tinyurl.com/k5qs8sy.
Congress can work together to restore benefits and services by closing corporate tax loopholes and ending tax breaks for the wealthy. Tell your elected officials to reject any cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid as part of the budget deal; pledge now to make a call to tell Congress to end sequestration, close tax loopholes, and raise the revenues needed to protect vital services. See the Alliance’s call to action with coalition partners at http://bit.ly/18JAilg.
Republican Plan Would Go After Federal Employees’ Pension Benefits
As part of the federal budget deal, Reps. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) and Doug Lamborn (R-CO) have proposed increasing federal employees’ contribution toward their retirement program from 0.8 percent to 2.0 percent of pay over three years. Their plan would also eliminate the Federal Employee Retirement System Annuity Supplement for new employees and provide a more conservative formula, the chained CPI, for the calculation of inflation-adjusted retirement benefits. In short, the two are proposing to more than triple what federal employees pay for their pension, and this would amount to taking $20 billion from federal workers. Already, the federal workforce has contributed $114 billion toward deficit reduction and economic recovery – far more than any other group in America has been asked to sacrifice.
“We cannot have a race to the bottom, where 99% of the population accepts benefit cuts so that the wealthiest 1% can buy an extra yacht,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance. “Many middle-class retirees in the U.S. are exasperated at the growing income inequality in our country, and economists are searching for ways to address the problem,” he continued. “A good place to start will be rejecting attempts to force federal workers to pay 5.5 percent more for retirement.” To see the Alliance’s press release on the proposal, go tohttp://tinyurl.com/kcbandr.
Bankruptcy Judge Rules Detroit Can Cut City Retirees’ Promised Pension Benefits
In Michigan this week, a judge ruled that Detroit, as part of its bankruptcy proceedings, can cut the monthly pension benefits that have been promised to the city’s retirees. The ruling will allow the city to reduce pensions for retired city workers in spite of protections in the state constitution. The ruling in Michigan that public pensions are not protected from cuts could alter the course of bankrupt cities like Stockton and San Bernardino, Calif., that had been operating under the assumption that pensions were untouchable.
“Detroit’s retirees were promised those constitutionally-protected pension benefits,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “Governor Rick Snyder (R) could have said that those benefits were off the table as part of any deal, but he didn’t. It’s not fair to those who worked hard and played by the rules, and I am glad that AFSCME officials will appeal the ruling.”
Alan Simpson Calls Social Security and Medicare Lies
On Tuesday, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson went to Southern Methodist University to discuss the nation’s fiscal situation. In 2010, the two had co-chaired the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, and they later co-founded the Campaign to Fix the Debt. Bowles noted that the current budget cuts are “across the board” and mainly in discretionary spending, instead of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, as he believes they should have been. Bowles said the best case scenario in this fiscal climate is to make smarter cuts in military spending and to create a “few fees that Republicans won’t call tax increases.” Simpson recommended responding to those not wanting to give up their “precious Medicare” or “precious Social Security” by saying that the programs are a “Terminological inexactitude, you lying son of a b****,” using the phrase meaning “a lie” coined by Sir Winston Churchill. More athttp://tinyurl.com/oyk6d9b.
“Social Security and Medicare ARE precious,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “I definitely wouldn’t refer to them the way that Alan Simpson does.”
Affordable Care Act Saves Seniors $8.9 Billion
Seniors and people with disabilities with Medicare prescription drug plan coverage have saved $8.9 billion on their prescription drugs thanks to the Affordable Care Act, according to data released last week by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS –http://tinyurl.com/lum6q74).
Conservative Group ALEC Loses Many of its Supporters
On Tuesday, an article in The Guardian newspaper released internal documents revealing the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC’s) secret corporate influence in statehouses across the country, and showing how supporters are leaving the organization in droves. The influential lobbying network of Republican politicians and big businesses is seeking to avert a looming funding crisis by appealing to major donors that have abandoned it over the past two years, following criticism of its policy on gun laws and positions related to the Trayvon Martinshooting. The Guardian reported that ALEC has identified more than 40 lapsed corporate members it wants to attract back into the fold. See the documents and read the story athttp://tinyurl.com/lk9pc8l.
Alliance Raises Money on GivingTuesday
Thousands of non-profits, including the Alliance, came together this week to make the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, GivingTuesday, a day for fundraising. “Thank you to everyone who gave money,” said Ms. Easterling. “We know that times are tough for many of you, and we greatly appreciate everyone who reached into their pockets to support us financially during the past week.”