November 01, 2013
Social Security Benefits to go up just 1.5% in 2014
Social Security benefits will rise by 1.5% next year, one of the smallest increases ever in the program’s annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). The increase is down from the 1.7% increase for 2013. There was no COLA increase at all in 2010 and 2011, because prices fell during the recession. A 3.6% adjustment in 2012 has been the only significant rise in benefits in recent years.
Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance, explained the context of the COLA change as it relates to the chained CPI, a formula proposed by some politicians in order to reduce future Social Security COLAs. “Next year’s increase will be 1.5%. Imagine if it were even less,” said Mr. Coyle. “Then imagine if that smaller increase were to be compounded over time. That is the chained CPI,” Mr. Coyle said. To see the Alliance’s complete press statement reacting to the COLA news, go to http://tinyurl.com/oexe682.
Coinciding with the release of the COLA figure, Social Security Works hosted a conference of experts and advocates on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to discuss the retirement income crisis, the need to expand Social Security benefits, and how to make it a reality. Rich Fiesta, Director of Government and Political Affairs for the Alliance, and Alliance Legislative Representative Eva Dominguez spoke at the event. Several members of the U.S. House and Senate, as well as representatives from Alliance coalition partners, also headlined the event.
Tuesday, November 5 is Decision Day in Key Elections, Ballot Initiatives
Voters in Ohio, Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and New York are among those going to the polls on Tuesday to decide key races. Of particular interest to many Alliance members are the Virginia and New Jersey Governors’ races, and Issue 4 in Cincinnati, a Tea Party-backed ballot initiative to eliminate public workers’ pensions.
The Alliance has worked to get Cincinnatians to vote “No” on Issue 4. The issue greatly affects many workers and retirees who depend on their pensions because they don’t receive Social Security. The biggest change would be to workers employed by the city beginning in 2014: instead of getting a defined benefit at retirement, with a known payment each month, employees would have a 401(k) plan. Cost-of-living adjustments on current retirees’ pensions would also be cut, breaking the promise made to them. In addition, taxes and fees on Cincinnati residents would increase.
In Virginia, gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe (D) faces Ken Cuccinelli (R). The Alliance endorsed Mr. McAuliffe after he addressed Alliance members during a summer conference call. “Terry McAuliffe is a great friend of retirees,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “Terry wants to expand and strengthen Medicaid while his opponent wants to reject help that would give 400,000 Virginians health coverage they currently don’t have.” In New Jersey, State Senator Barbara Buono (D) is challenging Governor Chris Christie (R). Voters will also choose new mayors for New York City and Boston.
Conference Committee Holds Meeting in Advance of December 13 Budget Deadline
The agreement in October by the U.S. House and Senate to fund the government until January 15, and to raise the debt ceiling through February 7, has put in place a House-Senate conference committee charged with reaching a compromise on the FY 2014 budget by December 13. The conference committee had their first meeting on Wednesday. “There is danger of a ‘grand bargain’ that would cut seniors’ Social Security and Medicare benefits,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “If you have not already stood with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and our coalition partners in demanding, ‘No grand bargain in exchange for cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits,’ go to http://tinyurl.com/q326j93.”
Liberals have insisted that Democrats vigorously resist efforts to reduce long-term deficits with savings in Social Security or Medicare. Sen. Sanders has been particularly outspoken, saying he fears a budget deal will contain the chained CPI. President Obama had proposed that remedy only if Republicans agree to raise tax revenue, and GOP lawmakers involved in the current budget discussions have said they would reject such a deal.
Groups Act to Close Loopholes that Allow Many Companies to Pay No Taxes
Among companies listed on the S&P 500, over 10 percent paid an effective tax rate of zero percent — or even lower — over the past year, according to an analysis by USA Today and a write-up by thinkprogress.org at http://tinyurl.com/nnwd8u3. The national Alliance and several state chapters have signed on to a letter urging Congress to include Sen. Carl Levin’s (D-MI) bill, S. 1533, in the budget discussions by closing tax loopholes (http://tinyurl.com/jw2q35d). A wide range of labor, consumer, and civil rights groups support closing outrageous loopholes in the tax code.
Maryland-DC and Vermont Alliance Chapters Hold Annual Conferences
Jim Baldridge, President of the Baltimore Area Council for Retirees and Seniors, was elected President of the Maryland-DC Alliance at the group’s convention on Saturday in Pikesville, MD. Also elected to leadership positions were: Daisy Fields, Treasurer; Marjorie Taylor, Secretary;Dick Bissell, 1st Vice President; and Louis McLaughlin, 2nd Vice President. Twenty-five delegates and 14 guests attended. Speakers included Sen. Ben Cardin (D); Rep. John Sarbanes (D); Tefere Gebre, Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO; state Sen. Brian Frosh, the MD/DC AFL-CIO’s endorsed candidate for Attorney General; Maryland Delegate Veronica Turner; and Ms. Dominguez. The state chapter also presented a special Distinguished Service Award to Mr. Coyle. “I would like to say a heartfelt thank-you to outgoing President Frank Stellafor leading the Maryland-DC Alliance,” said Ms. Easterling. “For years, we have valued his perspective on a long list of issues that affect retirees.”
The Vermont Alliance hosted its own annual conference, in Barre, on Saturday. Attendees heard from David Reynolds, the state’s deputy director of health reform policy; health care exchange navigators Brenda Lindemann and Peter Sterling; and Mr. Fiesta. The following were elected to leadership positions: Jane Osgatharp, President; Terry Macaig, Vice President; Ms. Lindemann, Secretary; and Ed Hutchinson, Treasurer.