June 10, 2011

It’s Back… Social Security Privatization Bill Introduced on Capitol Hill

A bad idea that just won’t go away, Social Security privatization is once again back in the public debate with the recent introduction of a bill in Congress to create private savings plans in lieu of Social Security.  The legislation, H.R. 2109, was introduced by Rep. Pete Sessions (TX), who also serves as head of the House Republican campaign committee.  The bill has been co-sponsored by Reps. Marsha Blackburn (TN), Dan Burton (IN), Randy Neugebauer (TX),Lamar Smith (TX), Lee Terry (NE) and Jeb Hensarling (TX), all Republicans.

“Current and future retirees can ill-afford to gamble away their life savings on the roulette wheel of the stock market.  Can you imagine if George W. Bush had gotten his way and Social Security had been privatized?  It would have been a disaster if we had turned Social Security over toBernie Madoff, AIG, and Lehman Brothers.  Privatizing is a risk very few Americans can afford to take,” said Edward F. Coyle, the Alliance’s Executive Director.

Senators: Keep Medicare Out of Budget Talks
Five U.S. Senators sent a letter earlier this week to Vice President Joe Biden, urging him to take Medicare off the table in the bipartisan budget talks he is leading.  The negotiations are in advance of upcoming congressional action on raising the nation’s debt ceiling.  Congressional Republicans have been demanding cuts in Medicare, and earlier this year the U.S. House passed a budget proposal by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) which would end Medicare as know it, privatizing the program and dramatically raising costs for seniors.  The letter to Biden was signed by five Democrats:  Sens. Claire McCaskill (MO), Jon Tester (MT), Sherrod Brown (OH), Ben Cardin(MD), and Bill Nelson (FL).

Last Friday, the Rhode Island Alliance for Retired Americans presented U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse with their Social Security & Medicare Hero Award. Whitehouse, who was honored for his advocacy on behalf of Rhode Island seniors, received the award from RI Alliance at a ceremony in North Providence attended by over 100 seniors.  “The goal of the Rhode Island Alliance is to become a voice for all older Americans. Senator Whitehouse has consistently been that voice, not only for the Rhode Island Alliance members, but for seniors, women, children, minorities and people with disabilities across the nation. That’s why he is our Social Security & Medicare Hero,” said Rhode Island Alliance president John A. Pernorio.

With polls showing that voters are overwhelming opposed to Medicare cuts, Republicans have embarked on a new campaign to misinform and scare seniors.  A slew of ads, including one from the business-backed “60 Plus Association,” touts the Ryan plan as a way to save Medicare, despite the fact that under the Ryan plan Medicare is privatized and seniors are forced to pay more for less coverage. The new ad severely distorts the facts, and misleads seniors about how the Republican proposal adversely affects Medicare.  “With the Republican misinformation machine in full swing, seniors need to be more informed than ever before so they can separate fact from fiction” said Ed Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance.

New York Times Spotlights Pivotal 2012 Senior Vote
A recent article in the New York Times focused on how seniors will play an integral role in deciding the outcome of the 2012 elections.  While Election Day is still 17 months away, seniors have already emerged as a key voting bloc because of heightened attention to programs such as Medicare and Social Security in fiscal debates.  This was shown most dramatically in the May 24 election to fill a vacant U.S. House seat in upstate New York.  Political analysts have said that the winner, Democrat Kathy Hochul, greatly benefited from rising public sentiment against Republican plans to privatize Medicare.  Hochul won a seat that had been held by Republicans for 40 years.

The New York Times noted that with baby boomers retiring, and the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis still lingering, Americans are now paying closer attention to Medicare and Social Security. According to the National Council on Aging, a non-profit advocacy group, approximately 13 million older Americans are economically insecure, living on $22,000 or less.  These financial stresses, combined with history of high turnout, could make seniors a swing voting bloc in the upcoming election. “It will be crucial for seniors to know where the candidates stand on issues affecting current and future retirees” said Barbara Easterling, President of the Alliance.

Texas Retirees Elect New Officers
The Texas Alliance for Retired Americans held its convention on Wednesday, mapping plans for the future and electing new officers: Shane Fox (President), Gene Lantz (Secretary), Elaine Jones (Treasurer), and Judy Bryant, Charles Hightower, and Jim Rivers as At-Large Executive Board members.  Dani Pere, the national Alliance’s Director of Field Mobilization, addressed the convention, updating Texas retirees on the Alliance’s efforts to educate and mobilize retirees on emerging threats to Social Security and Medicare.

Alliance President Barbara J. Easterling spoke today at the Texas AFL-CIO’s convention, inducting Communications Workers activist Rosa Walker into the Texas Labor Hall of Fame.  Encouraging attendees to work closely with the Texas Alliance, Easterling said, “Rosa is a reminder that for union retirees, our working days may be over, but our fighting spirit burns as strong as ever.”

Something on Your Mind?  Write Letter, Win Pen!
Have an opinion about selling off Medicare to the insurance companies?  Does the thought of privatizing Social Security make you mad?  Is there something you want retirees in your community to know about?  Take a moment to write a letter to the editor, and if it is published, the Alliance will send you a free, union-made “Retirees with the Write Stuff” pen.

“Letters to the editor are free and are often widely read,” said Alliance Secretary-TreasurerRuben Burks, “with the deep-pocketed business interests we are up against, it’s nice to have an option that doesn’t cost money.”

Most recently, Harold Aldrich, Charlie Balban, Elmer Blankenship, Leon Burzynski, Buzz Davis, Robert Dougherty, Billy Feitlinger, Barbara Franklin, Dave Friesner, Tony Fransetta, Jo Jacobson, Gene Lantz, Richard Miller, Joyce Reiland, Terry Schleder, Scott Watts, Norm Wernet, Charlie Williams, and Barbara Winter contributed to their local papers. If you have had a letter published recently, please email letters@retiredamericans.org.

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