January 28, 2011

President’s State of the Union Address Avoids Call to Cut Social Security

With Social Security expected to be on the agenda, the Alliance held 46 State of the Union address “watch parties” on Tuesday in 21 states to educate retirees on key issues. In his remarks, President Obama said, “To put us on solid ground, we should also find a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations.  And we must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market.”

A Social Security letter from 30 state Alliance Presidents sent last week to Obama may have made a difference, since he also did not call for an increase in the retirement age. “While Tuesday night’s speech was a success, the battle is far from over. Soon there will be contentious debates surrounding the president’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget proposal, Congress completing the Fiscal Year 2011 appropriations, and the raising of the federal debt limit. These will be heated battles, and it will be up to us to help retirees separate fact from fiction,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance.

Many retirees were apprehensive before the remarks because the House Republicans who would be responding to the President’s speech, Reps. Paul Ryan (WI), chair of the House Budget Committee, and Michele Bachmann (MN), founder of the House Tea Party Caucus, were leaders in voting to repeal the 2010 health reform law. Moreover, Ryan’s self-touted “Roadmap” would turn a privatized Social Security over to Wall Street; cut benefits; raise the retirement age; and end Medicare as it currently exists, turning it into a voucher program that would have many seniors paying more for less medical coverage. Bachmann has termed Social Security a “tremendous fraud” and spoken of the need to “wean” away current workers from Social Security.

“Hidden beneath the buzzwords and bromides of Ryan’s speech was the reality that Ryan’s self-touted “Roadmap” would be a dead end for retirees (http://bit.ly/f0Mwrv) in Wisconsin and across the country,” said Leon Burzynski, President of the Wisconsin Alliance.

In Florida, media were invited to join a conference call with Alliance activists immediately following the President’s address to hear retirees’ reactions to the speeches.

The Battle over Health Care Wages on

The GOP has indicated that it will not curb its efforts to do away with the 2010 health reform law. With the chances that the Senate will vote to repeal the law remaining slim, and an almost certain Presidential veto looming, Republicans are looking for ways to weaken it by either repealing pieces of the law or withholding the congressional funding needed to implement parts of it. A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health indicates that 62 percent of Americans are not in favor of de-funding provisions of the law. The GOP has yet to release a plan for a replacement health care law. It is expected that whatever they suggest will closely resemble the substitute plan that the party offered in November of 2009. That substitute plan did not guarantee coverage for pre-existing conditions; did not guarantee free preventive care for seniors or close the doughnut hole gap in prescription drug coverage; and only covered 3 million of the over 30 million Americans covered by the law who do not currently have health insurance.

EPI: Raising the Retirement Age is NOT a Solution for Social Security

Social Security currently runs a healthy surplus, and despite conventional wisdom, the shortfall in Social Security projected to develop over the next 75 years is not primarily driven by an increase in life expectancy.  That is the theme of a new briefing paper written by Monique Morrissey, a researcher with the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a non-partisan think tank. She writes that the projected shortfall is more the result of earnings inequality and weak wage growth, which account for more than half of the projected shortfall. Morrissey states that the increase in the normal retirement age from 65 to 67 that is currently underway already offsets gains in life expectancy for workers born before 1960, and that longevity gains for younger generations account for only a fifth of the projected Social Security shortfall. To see the paper, go to http://bit.ly/eI49Pc.

The EPI briefing states that a higher retirement age would most negatively impact low-income workers, who have seen only modest gains in life expectancy and who can least afford a reduction in benefits. The briefing goes on to suggest that the best first step to restoring long-term solvency to Social Security is to raise or eliminate the taxable earnings cap, which is currently set at $106,800. “The greatest way to strengthen Social Security is not to make those seniors who have the least work longer, but to make those Americans that have the most pay more in to Social Security,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

You Can Help Us Make It to 2,000 Fans on Facebook!

It’s easy! If you are already a member on Facebook, go to www.facebook.com/retiredamericansand click “Like” for timely Facebook updates and the ability to interact with other people online interested in the same issues as you. If you already “like” us on Facebook, please click (under the Alliance logo on the left side of the screen) “Suggest to Friends” and select people who are your Facebook friends who would also be interested in interacting with the Alliance online. “Thanks for helping us educate, mobilize and build capacity for retiree and working family issues,” saidRuben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

In Memoriam: Bob Kortkamp

More information is available following last week’s announcement that Robert “Bob” Kortkamp, 82, died on Jan. 20. He had suffered a heart attack at his home in Chesterfield, MO. A longtime Secretary-Treasurer of the Greater St. Louis Labor Council, he also served as the first president of the Missouri Alliance, a position he held from 2002 to 2008. Additionally, he was the founder of the Missouri Alliance, a co-founder and board member of the national Alliance, and a regional board member. Friends said he had been vibrant until the end. He was preceded in death by his wife, Elizabeth “Betty” Towers, whom he called his inspiration, and is survived by nine nieces and nephews. Memorials may be made to Places for People, 4130 Lindell Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63108; Wings of Hope, 18370 Wings of Hope Boulevard, Chesterfield, MO 63005; and the United Way of Greater St. Louis, Attn: Pledge Processing, P.O. Box 500280, St. Louis, MO 63150.

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