November 16, 2012

Lame Duck Agenda Threatens Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid

With the election over, all eyes are focused on the lame-duck session of Congress and the battle to come to a budget agreement to avert the fiscal cliff, a combination of automatic tax increases and massive budget cuts set to go into effect at the end of this year. President Barack Obama is entering negotiations with Congressional leaders today and seeking $1.6 trillion in new revenues through taxes aimed at the wealthiest Americans and corporations.  Republican leaders have balked at this proposal, and have continued their opposition to any kind of tax increase, even though the federal tax burden is at its lowest point in decades. The GOP is insisting that any budget deal must include massive cuts to Medicare and Social Security, programs that retirees depend upon.

“With the threat of sequestration ahead, it is more critical than ever for lawmakers to stand up for the programs that ensure a dignified retirement for current and future retirees,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.  “To keep tax breaks for the wealthy, while slashing Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, is absolutely unacceptable.” Sequestration is defined as the action of taking legal possession of assets until a debt has been paid or other claims have been met. Columnist Paul Krugman also warned this week of “using deficit fears to shred the social safety net.” (

Democrats do not support House Speaker John Boehner’s offer to raise revenue without raising tax rates. The Democrats are also looking to double the amount of revenue that was on the table during last year’s debt-ceiling debate.

On Wednesday, Senate Democratic leaders said “no” to another Republican priority, when they rejected putting forward cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid before a meeting scheduled for today. Also on Wednesday, Harry Reid, the Democratic leader of the U.S. Senate, repeated his stance on Social Security: that he opposes including it in budget negotiations to avoid the fiscal cliff. Asked by National Journal Daily what Democrats are putting on the table, Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin, both members of Reid’s leadership team, echoed the majority leader. “He’s not bringing entitlements to the table,” Durbin said.

Alliance Speaker Adds Key Voice at Capitol Hill Press Conference

Yesterday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) and the U.S. Senate Defending Social Security Caucus held a special Summit on Capitol Hill to demand the protection of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Speakers noted that CEOs from some of America’s biggest and least-taxed corporations are working to unleash a plan to cut the Social Security system, Medicare and Medicaid during the lame-duck session of Congress. Allies from across the progressive movement joined one of their champions, Sen. Sanders, in showing that they will not roll over.

Diane J. Fleming, a retired United Airlines employee and also an International Association of Machinists retiree, spoke on behalf of the Alliance. Ms. Fleming told Congress and the media how Social Security has helped her family, including how it allowed her widowed mother to raise two small children.  Since Ms. Fleming lost much of her pension when United went bankrupt, Social Security’s guaranteed, stable benefits have been a lifesaver. Sens. Tom Harkin (IA), Ben Cardin(MD), and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), as well as Reps. Keith Ellison (MN), Raúl Grijalva (AZ),Jan Schakowsky (IL), Barbara Lee (CA), and Mike Honda (CA) also spoke at the event. The meeting was standing room only. For Facebook photos, go to

“There are fair ways to reduce the $1 trillion federal deficit and $16 trillion national debt, but balancing the budget on the backs of the elderly, the sick, the children and the poor is not among them,” Sanders said. “We are here today to send a very loud and very clear message to the leadership in the House, in the Senate and in the White House: Do not cut Social Security; do not cut Medicare, do not cut Medicaid and do not provide more tax breaks to the top 2 percent who are doing phenomenally well and in many cases have never had it so good.”

Want to Save Social Security and Medicare? Call Congress!
The Alliance urges activists to call Congress to insist that elected officials keep the promise of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2%. The toll-free number to call is (888) 497-9539. For more information on what to say, go to “Tell Congress that seniors are particularly outraged that the cuts to programs they rely on could be enacted in order to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

About 35 protesters, including Montana Alliance seniors, rallied for tax fairness on Monday in Butte, Montana before Congress went into its lame-duck Session. Several speakers voiced their support of ending the Bush tax cuts, because the repercussions of keeping them would affect them locally. “We fear that Congress will balance the budget on the backs of the 98 percent, which is working Montanans’ and retired Montanans,” said Montana Alliance for Retired Americans President John Forkan.

Connecticut Alliance’s Awards Luncheon Gets a Special Visitor

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT) is joining Connecticut Alliance members at their annual awards luncheon today. The event honors long-time labor movement activists Dave Roche, President of the Connecticut Building Trades Council, and Nina Wolfson, President of the New Haven Federation of Teachers retirees.

Did You Know…

The last time three consecutive Presidents served two full terms was when Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe completed two terms each – the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Presidents.

Editor’s Note: The next Friday Alert will be published on November 30.  Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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