May 20, 2011

Nevada Activists Say Fund Medicare Fully, Rather Than Subsidizing Oil Companies

Senate Republicans did not help their relationship with seniors and working Americans this week when they voted to keep $4 billion per year in subsidies for oil companies while supporting a budget plan that would end Medicare as we know it. Even with polls showing a majority of Americans wanting to keep Medicare intact, Senate Republicans voted to keep the oil subsidies after they had previously embraced an agenda to turn Medicare into a voucher system. The nation’s five largest oil companies made nearly $1 trillion in profits in the past decade, and profits are soaring even more with gas prices hovering today around $4 a gallon. Edward Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance, reacted to those budget priorities on Thursday during a press conference phone call with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). “To me, it is unconscionable for the Republicans to decimate Medicare so we can keep the big oil companies feeding off the federal trough. I believe that it is more important to help an elderly woman pay her medical bills than it is to use tax dollars to inflate the already obscene profits of an oil company,” Coyle said. Coyle was joined on the call by Nevada Alliance activists Dick Collins from Las Vegas and Gail Dietrich from Sparks, who each described how important Medicare is to them.

Medicare Spotlight Shines Again on Newt Gingrich

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) spent Monday defending the plan to dismantle Medicare after it came under fire in surprising fashion from a fellow Republican, Newt Gingrich. Gingrich became the first GOP presidential candidate to openly rip the plan, which would convert Medicare into a private insurance program, after the proposal — part of a House budget blueprint to tame federal spending — drew heavy criticism from some voters, and polls showed it to be unpopular. Gingrich later called his statement criticizing the Ryan plan a “mistake.”  However, in 1995, when he was Speaker of the House, Gingrich had told a gathering of Blue Cross/Blue Shield executives that he and his fellow Republicans planned to present “a free-market plan” that would compete with Medicare and ultimately drive it out of business. “We believe it’s going to wither on the vine,” he said then, “because we think people are voluntarily going to leave it.”

“Newt Gingrich actually had it right when he was criticizing the Ryan plan,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “Too bad he didn’t stand his ground and maintain that stance.”

Alliance Leaders Reach out from Coast to Coast

Alliance Executive Vice President Judy Cato was honored on Wednesday by Prince George’s County, Maryland. Ms. Cato was given the Award of Excellence by Rushern L. Baker, III, County Executive, for her extraordinary dedication to volunteer service in the county through the Retired Senior Volunteer Program.

Alliance President Barbara J. Easterling traveled to Long Island on Tuesday to address New York State United Teachers Retiree Council 17. On Thursday, Ms. Easterling flew to Indiana to speak at the Indiana Alliance state convention and to hold a Friday press event decrying recent actions in Washington that threaten the health care and economic security of retirees with cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. “The fact is we cannot trust Wall Street with our Social Security. We cannot trust governors like Mitch Daniels and John Kasich with our collective bargaining rights. And we cannot trust the big insurance companies with our Medicare,” said Ms. Easterling, referencing the Governors of Indiana and neighboring state Ohio.

Earlier in the week, on the West Coast, Richard Fiesta, Director of the Department of Government and Political Affairs of the Alliance, addressed the International Association of Machinists retirees in Seattle.

Alliance in the Midwest: Making a Difference in Illinois, Ohio, and Iowa

Rep. Ryan, who is chairman of the House Budget Committee, was in Illinois on Monday to speak at the Economic Club of Chicago. When he arrived, 225 Illinois Alliance members and coalition partners were there to greet him and protest his budget proposal for privatizing Medicare, gutting Medicaid and fast-tracking cuts to Social Security. For pictures, go to  Later in the week, on Wednesday, Chicago-area Alliance members discussed the implications of proposed cuts to Social Security at a forum with Rep. Jan Schakowsky and other experts on the subject.

On Saturday in Columbus, Ohio Alliance members met with Sen. Sherrod Brown to discuss how proposed cuts to Medicare and Social Security would affect them. For pictures from Ohio and other “Don’t Make Us Work ‘Til We Die” events, go to The following day, Iowa Alliance members met with Senator Tom Harkin and Congressman Leonard Boswell at a downtown Des Moines apartment building for seniors and people with disabilities. They took part in a Q&A session to find out how they could help Sen. Harkin and Rep. Boswell defend Medicare.

Nine Groups Sign Letter Promoting Drug Safety

The Alliance is one of nine organizations to sign on to a letter commissioned by Community Catalyst, a national non-profit advocacy organization building consumer and community leadership to transform the American health care system. In the letter, the groups voice their strong support for H.R. 1483 – a bill that would ensure that drugs and their ingredients imported to the U.S. are safe – introduced April 12 by Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman (CA), John Dingell (MI), Frank Pallone (NJ) and Diana DeGette (CO). H.R. 1483 allows mandatory recalls and the ability to stop importation of drugs from plants that fail safety inspections or deny access to FDA inspectors. H.R. 1483 also increases FDA oversight of foreign plants, and requires that industry meet new standards for adherence with Good Manufacturing Practices. To see the letter, go to

Alliance Convention: September 6-9, 2011

Help us mark our 10-year Anniversary at our upcoming Legislative Conference, Celebrating Our Past, Fighting for Your Future, on September 6 – 9, 2011 in Washington, D.C.! Information and registration forms were mailed last week. You may also register online at Take part in the discussion about the direction that our country should take concerning Social Security and Medicare. Workshops will include, among others, Making Progress Together: Working with Coalition Partners in Your State and Advocacy in Your State. Any questions, please contact Joni Jones, Event Coordinator, at or 202-637-5377.

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