Friday, December 30, 2011

Mitch Daniels Shuts out Hoosiers

Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana is limiting access to the State Capital to about 1,000 people at a time.

This will limit the ability of Hoosiers to speak to their legislators and is only a ploy to limit descent on the Republicans efforts to institute a Freeloaders bill in January.

Some Republican Senators have had enough guts to speak out against the Freeloaders bill, otherwise known as the Right to Work for less bill. They have put their thoughts in Hoosier newspapers and I give them credit for that.

Other Republican Representatives and Senators in the Indiana General Assembly, although permitted by their bosses to vote against the legislation because of the districts they represent, are so politically dependent on their leadership that they just can't get up enough courage to speak out for fear of losing  the political perks they're now enjoying.

Politicians who know in their hearts that a piece of legislation is just plain wrong and refuse to speak out against it are bums.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Chamber Thoughts on Benefits Without Dues Payment

Click Here to see what the Chamber of Commerce thinks about allowing members to receive benefits without payment of annual dues.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas to you all

Whatever your philosophy, religion or lack thereof, I hope during this Christmas season and into the new year that we all can at least pray (hope) for world peace and work towards that end.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert December 22, 2011

Capitol Hill Tax Stalemate Hurts Medicare
The congressional deadlock over extending payroll tax cuts – sparked by a revolt of House Tea Party Republicans – will hurt seniors on Medicare unless a resolution is reached quickly.  Seniors with incomes below $15,000 per year are at risk of losing access to critical medical services through the Qualified Individual (QI) program.  The program, which is set to expire on December 31, pays for Medicare Part B premiums that cover physician and other outpatient services, as well as the low income subsidy for Part D prescription drug coverage.  The QI benefit represents an average savings of $5,199 per year for these low-income seniors.  Without an extension of the program by Congress, states would have the right to terminate benefits on January 1.

Also caught in the crossfire are reimbursements to nearly 650,000 doctors who care for Medicare patients.  According to the Associated Press, Medicare sent an alert to doctors to say that they will hold up paying claims for the first 10 business days of the new year, but without congressional action it would then be forced to implement a 27.4 percent cut in reimbursement rates, which may prompt physicians to refuse to see Medicare patients.

Romney Stumbles on Medicaid, Iowa Alliance Members Protest GOP Plans for Seniors
Discussing Medicaid at a recent campaign event in Iowa, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he was not familiar with the program before he entered government at age 55, adding parenthetically, “by the way, I’m concerned about the poor.”  Speaking on a conference call with reporters, Alliance Executive Director Edward F. Coyle said, “Today’s comments show how badly out of touch Mitt Romney is with seniors.  For a majority of seniors, Medicaid  is the only way to afford nursing home and long-term care.  It may not mean much to someone like Mitt Romney, but for seniors, it is literally a matter of life and death.”

Iowa Alliance members joined with local labor activists outside the final candidate debate before the January 3 caucuses, protesting the forum participants’ stances on Social Security.  These include raising the retirement age, cutting benefits, and giving Wall Street firms a prominent role in a privatized Social Security system.  The protest was covered by local media.  For the latest on where the GOP candidates stand on Social Security, click here for new fact sheets prepared by the Strengthen Social Security campaign, a coalition in which the Alliance plays a leading role.

Commenting on what the elections mean for retirees, Alliance President Barbara J. Easterling wrote in this week’s Huffington Post that, “the current field of GOP presidential candidates offers little solace to seniors who are worried that their Medicare and Social Security, or that of their kids and grandkids, will be sacrificed to pay for even more tax breaks for those least in need.”  Please share the column, “When the Going Gets Tough, Seniors Must Get Voting” available at http://huff.to/sW4gDp.

Walmart’s Health Insurance Changes Bad for Older Workers
Responding to published reports that Walmart will be significantly increasing the burden of health care costs it places on associates, Ms. Easterling recently wrote to the company’s CEO, Mike Duke. “I am particularly concerned about older workers who have yet to reach the Medicare eligibility age.  People in this age group are often beginning to see medical problems develop or worsen.  I worry that these increased health care costs will keep many from seeing a doctor, and make these health problems more serious and costlier. Just think how our nation’s health care costs would go down if those in this age group were to have more affordable, preventive medical care during this critical period of their lives,” she said in her letter (read at http://bit.ly/tiGqk9).  The Alliance encouraged Walmart to meet with OUR Walmart http://forrespect.org/, an employee organization, to hear their concerns and respond to their proposed solutions for improving working conditions at the nation’s largest private sector employer.

84 year-old Loses Right to Vote, Sues to Block New Voter ID Law
Under a new law pushed by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, 84 year-old Ruthelle Frank of Brokaw, WI (pop. 107) has lost the right to vote.  According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Frank does not have a driver’s license, and lacks a birth certificate needed to get a state identification card.  She does however have Social Security and Medicare cards, as well as a baptism certificate.  Even if she were to pay $20 to get a birth certificate, her maiden name was misspelled by the attending physician at her home birth.  To rectify this, she would need to petition the courts and pay a $200 fee.  Frank, an elected member of her Village Board since 1996, recently became a plaintiff in a lawsuit to block the new law, which is similar to proposals in other states.  “Our generation, and those who came before us, fought and died for the right to vote.  We cannot let politicians take this away,” said Ruben J. Burks, Alliance Secretary-Treasurer.  For the latest developments on voting rights, visit http://www.lawyerscommittee.org/projects/voting_rights.


Happy Holidays from the Alliance
In our final edition of Friday Alert until January 6, we would like to extend our warmest wishes for the holiday season and thank you for your outstanding activism in 2011.

In 2011 we once again faced strong threats to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  But thanks to the powerful voice of activists across the country, seniors were spared from terribly unjust and painful cuts to these programs by the deficit reduction “Super Committee” on Capitol Hill.  Please see our website for photos and videos of all you did this year. 

As we head into the 2012 elections and a new session of Congress, we will need to be as educated and active as we can to protect and strengthen all that we have helped to achieve.  Thank you for all you do to help your fellow retirees.  We look forward to working with you in 2012.


Barbara J. Easterling            Ruben J. Burks                              Edward F. Coyle
President                            Secretary Treasurer                       Executive Director

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Good News - Boehner Surrenders

President Obama, after pressuring Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, was successful in getting House Speaker John Boehner to extent the payroll tax and unemployment compensation for two months.

As I understand it, Boehner will try to get it passed in the House by unanimous consent.

If that fails, he will call the House back into session for a full vote.

This is a real victory for American workers and those who are without jobs.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

When the Going Gets Tough, Seniors Must Get Voting

by Barbara J. Easterling

With Social Security and Medicare facing harsh threats from various politicians, retirees must keep a close eye on the 2012 elections.

The recently-deadlocked super committee was the latest in a line of blue-ribbon panels -- preceded by Domenici-Rivlin and Simpson-Bowles -- that have debated, and in two instances recommended, drastic cuts in Social Security and Medicare, landmark programs that have helped generations of seniors stay healthy and out of poverty.

These threats to retirement security will continue unless two pillars of our fiscal debates change: 1) the false but widely-held belief that Social Security increases our deficit, and 2) our fundamentally-flawed tax and spending policies that drain federal coffers to benefit corporations and those in the top one percent of incomes.

The current field of GOP presidential candidates offers little solace to seniors who are worried that their Medicare and Social Security, or that of their kids and grandchildren, will be sacrificed to pay for even more tax breaks for those least in need.

For example, Mitt Romney has called for a higher Social Security retirement age, which would hurt blue collar workers far more than venture capitalists. He wants to move toward a privatized "voucher" system for Medicare that would have seniors buying coverage from insurance companies. This would be a taxpayer-subsidized gift for corporations that already enjoy exorbitant profits. Moreover, under Romney's Medicare, seniors would face great risk and anxiety, as its funding levels would face annual votes in Congress.

Newt Gingrich would privatize Social Security, allowing Wall Street to profit handsomely by managing individual accounts tied to the roller coaster of the stock market. After what we have seen in the past decade, do we really want Bear Stearns, AIG or Bernie Madoff getting their hands on our Social Security? Gingrich -- who once said he hoped Medicare would "wither on the vine" -- also supports a voucher program through private health insurance providers. The last time these companies got a piece of Medicare, courtesy of George W. Bush in 2003, it resulted in what the New York Times called, "a financial windfall larger than even the most optimistic Wall Street analysts had predicted."

America is getting older. The 2010 Census showed that the over 65 population grew by 15.1 percent, versus 9.7 percent for all ages.

The 2012 elections will be the first in American history in which the majority of the voting age population is over 45. These demographic changes not only make Social Security and Medicare more important than ever, but they also give older workers and retirees more political clout.

But this increased political voice makes retirees a tempting target for election-year lies and scare tactics. We have already seen benign-sounding groups, such as RetireSafe and 60 Plus Association, that echo industry talking points in high-dollar advertising campaigns that mislead seniors.

The 2010 Affordable Care Act has been a particular target, despite the fact that it has helped over 2.65 million retirees save an average of $569 per year on their prescription drugs. These shameful efforts to scare seniors carry on the legacy started by Sarah Palin's baseless warnings about "death panels."

So what should seniors do between now and November? The most important thing will be to start separating fact from fiction in election year rhetoric. Retirees must reach out to their neighbors to help them better understand the issues and where the candidates stand. It's also important that they educate their children and grandchildren. It's truly time to bring people of all ages together to help save the American dream of a safe and secure retirement when our working days are done.

Social Security and Medicare are two great American success stories. Before, too many people worked until the day they died or lived out their final years in pain and poverty. Our nation has come a long way, and in the 2012 elections we cannot turn back.

Barbara J. Easterling is president of the Alliance for Retired Americans. She was previously the secretary-treasurer of the Communications Workers of America. For more information, visit www.retiredamericans.org or call 1-800-333-7212.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert December 16, 2011

Wyden-Ryan Medicare Plan Would Raise Premiums for Seniors

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), a leader in the fight to privatize Medicare, unveiled a new approach on Thursday in order to save money on the federal health program. According to Politico, the proposal has some key differences from the Ryan blueprint that Republicans had rallied around earlier this year — and which Democrats have criticized as the beginning of the end of Medicare. Working with Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), Ryan is developing a framework that would allow seniors to choose between staying in traditional Medicare or opting into new, private plan alternatives. Wyden is the first Democrat on Capitol Hill to so strongly embrace a modification of Ryan’s approach.  Seniors would receive a set amount of money from the government to buy private insurance - vouchers - as they would under the Medicare proposal Ryan included in the budget blueprint that passed the House last year. The new proposal still installs a cap on total Medicare spending; under the Ryan-Wyden approach, seniors would have to pay the difference between the sticker price for care and the premium support or subsidy, although low-income people would get more help.

Ryan and Wyden said they would not draft legislation, since Ryan does not expect action on major issues such as Medicare until a new Congress is seated in 2013. However, they said that by forcing private insurers to bid to provide Medicare coverage and encouraging beneficiaries to choose the plan with the lowest costs, the measure could drive down costs. To see the full Politico article on the proposal, go to http://bit.ly/vebSnm. “We’ve been to this rodeo before. Once again, guaranteed benefits would be replaced with vouchers,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “It’s like handing every senior one single dollar and saying, ‘spend it however you like’ – then bragging about how much money the government is saving.”

Payroll Tax Cut and Doc Fix Update
The focus on the payroll tax cut is shifting to the Senate, now that the House has ignored a White House veto threat and approved a payroll tax cut bill that opens the door for an oil pipeline and spending cuts that Democrats oppose. The House approved the Republican bill Tuesday by 234-193. For a tally of the vote, go to http://1.usa.gov/ssvp1A. If the House and Senate don’t agree on a plan to approve the payroll tax cut extension by Dec. 31, workers would pay a 6.2 percent Social Security tax on the first $110,100 of wages, up from 4.2 percent this year. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the legislation passed by the House cannot pass in his Democratic-run chamber. Reid and Republican leaders are about $90 billion apart on a deal to extend the payroll tax holiday, the centerpiece of President Obama’s jobs agenda, according to a senior Senate aide. In case they are unable to reach a bigger deal, Reid and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are also working on a two-month backstop to save average middle-class families from a $1,000 tax increase and keep unemployment benefits from running out. According to The Hill, the fail-safe measure would also protect doctors from scheduled cuts in Medicare reimbursements.

Early Retiree Health Care Program’s Funding to End This Month
The Early Retiree Reinsurance Program (ERRP) is a program run by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) which provides reimbursement to eligible sponsors of employment-based plans for a portion of the costs of providing health coverage to early retirees (and eligible spouses, surviving spouses, and dependents of such retirees). However, CMS has decided that, based on the remaining available funds, ERRP reimbursement requests that include claims incurred after Dec. 31, 2011 will be denied in their entirety. The CMS decision is based on the actual availability of remaining appropriated ERRP funds and the rate at which reimbursements have been disbursed, as opposed to the projected amounts of ERRP reimbursements that applicants listed in their ERRP applications. $5 billion had been available under the program, and that fund has been exhausted.

Fair Pay for Home Care Workers May Be Coming Soon
The 18th initiative in President Obama's “We Can't Wait” campaign against Congress has the Department of Labor proposing a rule that will allow nearly 2 million home care workers to qualify for federal wage and overtime protections. “Home care workers are essential in providing at-home care for our nation’s elderly and disabled citizens; their job has evolved to include health care services, such as managing medications and monitoring vital signs,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. Yet, the average home care worker earns $17,000 to $20,000 a year - more than the $7.25-per-hour minimum wage, but low enough to put many beneath the poverty line and enable them to qualify for public assistance. This new rule would ensure that home health care workers receive the same minimum wage and overtime protections as virtually all other working people. The nation's over-65 population is projected to grow from 40 million to 72 million by 2030; the government estimates that 27 million Americans will need home care by 2050. By allowing fair pay and overtime, the home care industry will be able to attract new workers while reducing turnover among existing employees.

Voter Suppression Continues to Rear its Ugly Head in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania
A federal lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Milwaukee alleging that Wisconsin's new voter ID law is unconstitutional and will deprive people of the right to vote. The suit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, claims top state officials, including Gov. Scott Walker, have created a poll tax and other obstacles that present a “severe and undue burden on the fundamental right to vote.” In October, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Network had filed suit.

For video footage of Pennsylvania Alliance President Jean Friday speaking out against voter suppression efforts in her state, go to http://bit.ly/tx5wJv.

New Hampshire Alliance Chapter Works to Protect Funding for Seniors
Santa's seniors are making a special holiday delivery to Rep. Charlie Bass (R) in New Hampshire today. The New Hampshire Alliance is bringing Rep. Bass post cards, petitions and personal stories that ask him to protect Social Security and Medicare. Volunteers are sitting down with him in order to hold him accountable for being on the wrong side of important senior issues.

Editor’s Note: The next Friday Alert will be published on Thursday, December 22.  Happy Holidays!

Download a printable version
Posted 12:56PM on December 16 2011 by David Blank

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bosma Dead Wrong

It’s time for our state lawmakers to focus on creating good jobs but instead, Speaker Bosma of the Indiana House indicated in the South Bend Tribune's December 10 issue that his number one priority is to pass a so-called “right to work” law that is just another corporate hand out that hurts the middle class.

The last thing we need is for our state politicians to reward their CEO friends by passing laws that will undermine workers’ rights. So called Right to Work is not good for our families and it’s not good for our state.

States with so-called “right to work” laws have higher workplace fatality rates, have fewer people with health insurance and workers make less averaging $5,500 less a year.  We can’t afford a law like this in Indiana.

The only way this kind of law will increase employment is that it will require even more workers to work two jobs to support their families.

Urge your Indiana Senator and Representative to do all he/she can to oppose right to work legislation.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

46th Wedding Anniversary

It was 46 years ago today that I married Elaine Adams. We got hitched at the City Methodist Church in Gary, Indiana on December 11th, 1965 with a dinner afterwards at the Hotel Gary.

When I think of how long I’ve known Elaine I really do have to think about it. Let’s see…I met her in 7th grade. We were in the same home-room together. Home-rooms were the first period of the class day and were made up of students according to alphabetical last names.

I remember so well how pretty I thought she was. Although I had my eye on her, she wouldn’t give me the time of day. As a matter of fact, she teased me. She sat a few seats in front of me and I do remember our eyes meeting once and she just batted them at me.

I couldn’t let anyone know I was interested in her because I was on the football team, and we weren’t really supposed to be very interested in girls. Most of the gals dated Freshman boys anyway.

It wasn’t until we were Juniors that we began dating. It was in August at the beginning of football season. After practice one day, she and a friend of mine who lived across the street from me and his girlfriend stopped in front of the house and honked their horn. I went out to see who it was and we ended up going to Lo-Jacks drive-in for a rum coke which were very popular in those days. The very next evening, they stopped by again honking their horn. We did the rum coke thing again and then parked in his drive way. I remember Elaine planted a kiss on me so hard it hurt my lip.

Well, a few more similar evenings put me madly in love. I recall soon after telling her that I was going to marry her some day.

We dated off and on our senior year, and after graduation in 1961, I went into the Navy and Elaine became a hair dresser. I was stationed in Pearl Harbor and came home two times for a month at a time.

I got out of the Navy in August 1965 and we set the wedding date for December 11.

So, I think we’ve known each other since about 1956 which would make it about 55 years.

We haven't changed a bit, right?

Today of course is very special for us both.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Jimmy's Peanut Brittle

The following recipe and method for making the world famous “Jimmy’s Peanut Brittle” is being divulged with permission. Jim Chandler has become famous in Northern Indiana for his much loved brittle.

Recipe:

2 cups of sugar
1 cup of light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
2 Tablespoons of butter
2 cups of raw peanuts
2 teaspoons of baking soda

Method:

  1. First of all, dampen a couple of towels and spread them on a flat surface.
  2. Place a cookie sheet on top of the towels and smear butter over the cookie sheet to keep the stuff from sticking.
  3. Prepare a glass of water to put the thermometer in later.
  4. Measure out the baking soda and have it ready for later.
  5. In a 3 quart sauce pan, dump in the sugar, corn syrup and water.
  6. Put the pan on the stove top and turn the burner on high.
  7. Put a candy thermometer on the side of the pan and make sure it doesn’t touch the bottom of the pan. (use a heat pad whenever you touch the thermometer.)
  8. Stir the stuff with a wooden paddle until the sugar dissolves.
  9. Keep stirring it once in awhile until it starts to boil.
  10. Slide in the butter (don’t let it plop in cause you don’t want it to splash.
  11. Stir frequently and bring the temperature to 250 degrees.
  12. Dump in the peanuts and stir it up good.
  13. Stir it once in awhile and allow the temperature to come up to 310 degrees.
  14. Take out the thermometer and put it in the glass of water.
  15. Shut off the burner and put the pan on a cool surface.
  16. Add the baking soda.
  17. Stir it up well until the mixture begins to change color.
  18. Pour the stuff onto the buttered cookie sheet
  19. After a minute or so, slip a metal spatula under the brittle all the way around.
  20. Invert the spatula and slide it under the brittle and then move it towards the outside of the cookie sheet stretching it so as to make the stuff as thin as possible. That's sort of learned technique but you'll get the hang of it. You can also use your fingers to stretch it but be careful not to burn yourself.
  21. Take a pair of scissors and cut the stuff into four sections.
  22. Flip the four sections over.
  23. Put the cookie sheet outside to cool off.
  24. Bring it in and break it into your preferred size.
  25. Start eating it or put it into plastic bags…………………...Makes 2 1/2 pounds
  26. Next time you make it, try using pecans.
No Charge

Friday, December 09, 2011

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert Dec. 9, 2011


Payroll Tax Cut, “Doc Fix” Likely to be Rolled into One Catch-All Package
Elected officials are discussing several competing plans to cut the payroll tax that is used to fund the Social Security Trust Fund. The employee share of the tax is scheduled to go back to 6.2% on January 1, from a current rate of 4.2%, if no legislation is passed, and President Obama wants to lower the tax to 3.1% next year. A Democratic-written bill in the Senate would lower the rate to that 3.1% level. It is financed chiefly by a 1.9% surtax on income over $1 million, a proposal that is almost universally opposed by Republicans, and GOP senators are expected to defeat the measure.

A House bill would drop next year’s payroll tax to 4.2% - this year’s level. It would be financed by extending the current pay freeze on federal workers through 2015 and many other, smaller savings, including charging higher Medicare premiums to higher-earning seniors.

Bipartisan concerns that extending the payroll-tax cut would weaken Social Security are complicating the effort to allow the tax break for workers. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I - Vt.), a leading liberal voice, last week voted against a Democratic bill to extend the tax cut. That put him on the same side as Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the No. 2 Senate Republican, and Jerry Moran (R - Kan.), a member of the tea-party caucus. “If you do it for two years, you know what it's probably going to be harder to break that habit in the third year,” Sen. Sanders said, adding, “in which case you've got a permanent process by which you've cut the payroll tax and diverted huge sums of money.”

Republican and Democratic aides predicted in Roll Call that the payroll tax cut will be extended by Congress in an end-of-the-year catch-all package that is likely to include extensions of unemployment benefits and increased Medicare payments to doctors. If no action is taken on the Medicare reimbursement rate for doctors, it would fall by a whopping 27% on January 1.

Mitt Romney Elaborates on Medicare
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney clarified his plan to partially privatize the Medicare program during an interview with the Washington Examiner’s editorial board Wednesday morning, suggesting that he would allow Congress to vote on the amount of “premium support” credits (or vouchers) seniors receive to buy health care coverage every year. Like House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), Romney, the former Governor of Massachusetts, seeks to gradually privatize the Medicare program for future enrollees by shifting seniors into private coverage and issuing everyone a “voucher” with which to purchase insurance. The plan also preserves the traditional Medicare option — known as fee-for-service — and seniors would be given a choice between using their vouchers towards the existing Medicare program or private insurance.

According to www.thinkprogress.org , “the government’s vouchers won’t keep up with premium increases, and as a result, seniors who cannot afford to pay anything above the government contribution may be stuck in cheaper and perhaps lower quality health plans that contract with lower quality providers or cover fewer expensive tests and procedures.” During the interview, Romney reiterated that the voucher would not grow with health care spending and hinted that Congress would be responsible for approving voucher increases annually.

“Governor Romney is proposing to let the impulses of Congress, which the vast majority of the country sees as a dysfunctional body, create great uncertainty for America’s seniors,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance.

“In addition, Romney wants to partially privatize Medicare and turn it into a voucher system that shifts costs to retirees,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “He has even proposed changing Medicare from a guaranteed program and turning it into one that Congress would have to vote annually to fund. That means the value of the vouchers that seniors would depend on to buy private insurance could vary each year based on the mood of Congress, leading to more gridlock.”

Health Care Law Has Saved the Average Senior $569 on Prescriptions in 10 Months
More than 2.65 million Medicare beneficiaries have saved more than $1.5 billion on their prescriptions this year, a $569-per-person average, while premiums have remained stable, the federal government announced on Tuesday. That's because of the provision of the health care law that put a 50% discount on name-brand prescription drugs in the “doughnut hole,” the coverage gap that exists before catastrophic coverage begins. Before the health care law took effect, Medicare patients had to pay full price for their prescriptions once they reached that gap. Drug companies now must provide the 50% discount in order to participate in the prescription plan. The prescription data are through the end of October. As of the end of November, more than 24 million people, or about half of those with traditional Medicare, have gone in for a free annual physical or other screening exam since the rules changed, allowing those benefits to be offered at no cost to patients.

Something on Your Mind?  Write Letter, Win Pen!
Have an opinion about the 2012 elections?  Is there something you want other seniors 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 by one’s neighbors,” said Alliance Secretary-Treasurer Ruben Burks. “Given the wealthy, corporate interests of Wall Street that we face, it’s nice to have an option that doesn’t cost money.”

In the last few months, Mel Aaronson, Lou Albano, Sam Burnett, Leon Burzynski,  Tony Fransetta, Dave Friesner, David Jones, Lewis Neuman, Jr., John Pernorio, Donald Singer, Margot Smith, Dennis Tracey, Norm Wernet and Charlie Williams have contributed to their local papers. If you had a letter published recently, please email aracommunications@retiredamericans.org.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Hoosiers Reject Right to Work Legislation

Today we've got some big news to share with you.  There is a newly released poll that shows all Hoosiers – including Republicans – are overwhelmingly rejecting the partisan "right to work" legislation and believe their elected officials should focus on jobs and the economy instead of divisive attacks on working family's collective bargaining rights.

The poll, which was commissioned by the AFL-CIO, found that support among Hoosier voters for this controversial, union busting bill is weak, with just 38 percent favoring its passage while 47 percent stand in opposition. The survey also found that 67 percent of Hoosiers disagree with Statehouse Republicans' decision to make "right to work" their top priority and wish they would move on to other issues.

Among self-identified Republicans only 59 percent support the bill, well below the level of support one would expect for their top legislative priority, and considerably weaker than the 72 percent opposition among Democrats.

This poll clearly shows that Hoosiers' patience for these divisive and partisan attacks has run out. The numbers – among Democrats, Republicans and Independents – all show that Hoosiers are ready to move away from "right to work" and onto more important issues like fixing the economy.

As we've been saying all along, we have the facts and the people on our side – and this new poll is just further proof of it.

In Solidarity,
Nancy Guyott
President, Indiana AFL-CIO

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Part D Open Enrollment Ends Tomorrow

Open Enrollment Ends December 7

Remember: Medicare Open Enrollment ends earlier this year. You have until December
7 to make sure your health and drug coverage still meets your needs. That's tomorrow.

If you're happy with your current coverage, you don't need to do anything. But
make sure you understand any upcoming changes to your plan's costs or benefits.
If you want to change plans, or if you need help choosing the right plan, visit
www.medicare.gov and get personalized information about plans in your area.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

You Have Been Forewarned

Be aware that Cooper tires are being made in Findley, Ohio by unqualified workers. These tires are potentially susceptible to premature failure and should be avoided.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Friday Alert December 2, 2011


With Super Committee Deadline Passed, December Brings More Decisions
The November 23rd deadline for the Super Committee to vote on a legislative proposal that achieves $1.2 - $1.5 trillion in savings has come and gone without producing any type of report. “We dodged a bullet, but we’re not out of the woods. Attempts to cut Social Security and Medicare could come back awfully soon, as Congress and the Administration continue to look for ways to meet deficit reduction goals,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. Alliance members made more than 2,500 patch-through calls to five Super Committee members who represented them legislatively. Over 240 Alliance members then dialed in for a conference call on Wednesday, November 30th, a national conversation with leaders and advocates about a collective strategy, next steps, and what the month of December should look like.

Employees and employers pay into the Social Security system through a payroll tax, and last year, Congress passed legislation to reduce payroll taxes for workers by 2%, to 4.2%. House Republicans are now drafting legislation to renew an expiring unemployment benefits program, and intend to add it to a planned extension of that Social Security payroll tax cut, due to run out on Dec. 31. Senate Democrats held a vote late Thursday on their plan, which would have halved  the payroll tax from 6.2% to 3.1% and would be paid for with a surcharge of 3.25% on earnings above $1 million. That vote failed, as did a Republican Senate alternative. Republican and Democratic leaders have begun discussions on legislation to avert a 27% cut in payments to doctors who treat Medicare patients. The measure has bipartisan support. Lawmakers are eager to adjourn for the year at mid-month.

Beware RetireSafe, a Front Group for the Pharmaceutical Industry
This fall, a little-known group called RetireSafe honored more than 20 vulnerable Republican Members of Congress for supporting seniors. According to Roll Call, the operation is led by “former Bush and Reagan administration officials, small-government activists and pharmaceutical industry lobbyists and consultants.” It is funded at least in part by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the drug industry’s chief lobbying group, and has served to validate the industry’s agenda. RetireSafe’s awards provided these Republicans with valuable political cover for supporting controversial bills, such as the budget proposed by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) that would have dramatically revamped Medicare. Federal records show that the bulk of RetireSafe’s expenditures, about $2.2 million, go to direct mail such as a flier that voters in Michigan received this fall praising freshman Rep. Dan Benishek (R-Mich.) for protecting Medicare Part D. Other Republican freshmen who have won awards from RetireSafe include Reps. Jon Runyan (N.J.), Allen West (Fla.) and Paul Gosar (Ariz.). RetireSafe currently is opposing Democratic efforts to require drug manufacturers to pay a rebate to the government for drugs sold to low-income seniors through Medicare Part D. The move is strongly opposed by the pharmaceutical industry. “This is the latest example of a front group forming to try to fool seniors. Well, I’m here to say we won’t be fooled!” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

Gingrich and Romney Differ in Ways to Cut Programs for Seniors
Rising in the polls for the Republican nomination for President, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has laid out a plan that would give Americans the option of having a private Social Security account – a proposal similar to the partial privatization that President George W. Bush proposed in 2005. Under Gingrich’s proposal, part of the employee-funded portion could be invested in a personal savings account. According to The Boston Globe, Gingrich attacked those who like Social Security in its current form, saying, “If you are dumb enough that you prefer to get less money with less control while relying on politicians, that’s your prerogative. You’re an American. You’re allowed to be dumb.”

The Globe also reports that presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s plan to rein in federal Medicare spending would give the nation’s seniors a choice: choose government insurance or use a federal voucher to buy medical insurance from private companies. Seniors would be exposed to potential costs that they do not pay now. The Globe calls Romney’s plan “vague on politically sensitive points.” It does not spell out what share of premiums seniors would be required to pay from their pockets. While Romney proposes increasing the eligibility age for future Medicare enrollees from the current 65, he does not say what the new age should be. “Whether it’s leaving out details or trying a plan that has already been rejected, some of the presidential hopefuls are showing that they are poor candidates for seniors,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

Census Data Shows 65 – 69 Age Group is Growing the Fastest
On Wednesday, the U.S. Bureau of the Census released data from the 2010 census on the American population over 65. The census found that there are 40.3 million Americans over 65, an increase of nearly 8 million from the 2000 census. Seniors now compose 13% of the population. America’s older population grew at a 15.1% rate while the population as a whole grew at a lower rate of 9.7%. The greatest growth occurred in the number of people 65-69, reflecting the aging of the Baby Boom generation. The five states with the greatest percentage of people over 65 are: Florida (17.3%); West Virginia (16.0%); Maine (15.9%); Pennsylvania (15.4%); and Iowa (14.9%).   Sumter County, Florida, which includes The Villages retirement complex, has the highest county population of seniors at 43.4%. The city of Scottsdale, AZ has the highest city percentage of seniors at 20.0%. For more information on seniors and the 2010 census, go to http://bit.ly/rNHMxM.

Frank Stella Elected President of the Maryland-DC Alliance
On November 19, Frank Stella was elected President of the Maryland-DC Alliance at the group’s convention in Silver Spring, MD. Speakers included Member of the Super Committee and U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), and Mr. Coyle. On December 1, Coyle traveled to Phoenix, Arizona for a meeting of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) Executive Board.

Alliance’s Midwest Convention to Take Place in Milwaukee
Join us for the Alliance's Midwest Regional meeting, March 5-7, 2012 at the Milwaukee Hilton in Milwaukee, Wisconsin! To RSVP, or for more information, please call Event Coordinator Joni Jones at 202-637-5377 or e-mail jjones@retiredamericans.org.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cooper Tire Turns Rogue

More information, contact: Tony Montana, USW – 412-562-2592

Pittsburgh – The United Steelworkers (USW) today condemned Cooper Tire and Rubber Company’s decision to lock-out workers at the company’s profitable Findlay, Ohio production facility, despite the union’s good faith offer to keep working while negotiations toward a new labor contract proceeded.
USW District 1 Director Dave McCall said that he expects the union to pursue unlawful bargaining charges against Cooper with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and added that the union is still committed to negotiating a fair contract in Findlay.

“These negotiations have been hindered considerably by Cooper’s behavior at the bargaining table and the company’s determination to instigate a labor dispute,” said USW District 1 sub-director Patrick Gallagher. “Cooper’s intent to test our solidarity became clear the moment the company refused our offer to continue working until we reached a new contract.”

“Our members are proud of their longstanding relationships with Cooper’s loyal customers,” said Rod Nelson, USW Local 207L president “We urge Cooper management to return to negotiations at once so that these relationships are not strained.”

USW Local 207L represents more than 1,000 hourly workers in Findlay, while USW Local 752L represents Cooper employees in Texarkana, Texas.

The USW represents about 850,000 working men and women in the United States and Canada in a wide variety of industries, ranging from glass making to mining, paper, steel, tire and rubber and other manufacturing environments to the public sector, service and health care industries.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Indiana Doesn't Need Right-to-Work Legislation

By Rich James
Last Modified: Nov 25, 2011 10:00AM

When the General Assembly convenes on Jan. 4, the eyes of the nation may well be on Indiana.

Not because the state remains the best in the nation when it comes to high school basketball, but because there will be an unwarrated attack upon organized labor.

The Republicans, who do the bidding of corporations and other businesses, will seek the passage of a right-to-work bill.

The bill would force organized labor to represent workers who refuse to pay union dues.

The bill also would be a significant step by Republicans to destroy the unions that built America.

The Republicans say right-to-work will clear the way for additional businesses to relocate to Indiana.

Those are the very same businesses that have no desire to deal with unions. They want to drive down workers’ wages and increase corporate profits and power.

Statistics show the average worker in a right-to-work state makes about $5,333 a year less than workers in other states.

Twenty-one percent more people in right-to-work states don’t have health insurance.

And the list goes on.

Do Republicans care? Of course not, although they will try to tell you otherwise. And they wonder why they can’t get the union vote.

Republicans contend corporations have shipped jobs overseas because of the cost of dealing with unions. Don’t buy it. It’s about greed.

Republicans also will tell you that Democrats oppose right to work because of the money that unions contribute to their party.

While there is truth to that, there is a bigger issue involved here.

It is about quality of life for the middle class — a group that has been declining in numbers because of attacks like the one planned by Republican legislators.

The CEO of a company may take up residence on the top floor, but it’s the union folks who laid the bricks, hammered the nails and ran the electricity and plumbing that made it all possible.

Unions aren’t perfect, but they provide quality craftsmanship and are an integral part of a community.

Gov. Mitch Daniels keeps boasting that Indiana is one of the most attractive states in the country for new business.

If that in fact is the case, and I have no reason to doubt it, why the push for right-to-work?

I guess the easy answer is that they can. Republicans control the House and Senate and the governor’s office.

Some say the Republicans want to eliminate the voice of the working man from the political process. Hard to argue against that.

When Republicans introduced legislation to do the same thing early this year, some Democrats walked out for five weeks, preventing a quorum. The bill died.

Might the Democrats skip out again? It’s possible, but I don’t think so. Walking out again might well work against the Democrats.

Staying in the Statehouse while Hoosiers from across Indiana rally in Indianapolis for several weeks could be a political plus for Democrats come November 2012.

And you can bet the vast majority of Hoosier teachers, who saw Republicans take away the majority of their bargaining rights earlier this year, will be at the fore when the unions take to the streets.

Might right to work lure a few more businesses to Indiana? Probably. Might they be worth it? Probably not.

So, why are Republicans going out of their way to rip the state apart when they don’t have to?
Money. Greed. And most of all — arrogance.

Rich James’ column appears on Fridays in the Post-Tribune, A Chicago Sun-Times Publication

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Steelworker Retirees Prepare

Gary Gaines, SOAR Coordinator in USW District 7 is shown in this photo presenting the charter for a new SOAR Chapter made up of retirees USW Local 7-669.
The rogue Honeywell company locked out their workers from June 28, 2010 to August 2, 2011 but found out that Steelworkers have staying power and will last one day longer.
By joining SOAR and establishing their own chapter, these retirees will be in a much better position to help their union in the future........a great group of retirees.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Largest newspaper of the year

Going out to the mail box this morning to retrieve the newspaper brought back memories of my days as a paper boy arount 1954 or so, delivering the Chicago Tribune to the business district in Hobart, Indiana.
All the paperboys dreaded delivering the paper on Thanksgiving as it had more pages in it than any other paper of the year. It made the job much harder than usual. The newspapers barely fit into the canvas bag we used and sometimes we even had to go back for another load.
It also made it really difficult to steer my bicycle with that huge bag on the handlebars.
It was a good time of the year for tips though. The day I made my collections, one of the saloons in town always sat me at the bar and gave me free shots of Ginger Ale. And then Abbots restaurant always provided me with a free breakfast of anything I wanted.
We have a rural delivery now and I imagine that those carriers have an equally difficult time handling those big newspapers as well.
Tip your newspaper carrier well, they deserve every penny.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Open Enrollment Ends December 7


Remember: Medicare Open Enrollment ends earlier this year. You have until December 7 to make sure your health and drug coverage still meets your needs.

If you're happy with your current coverage, you don't need to do anything. But make sure you understand any upcoming changes to your plan's costs or benefits.

If you want to change plans, or if you need help choosing the right plan, visit www.medicare.gov and get personalized information about plans in your area.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Friday Alert Alliance for Retired Americans


Excepts from the November 18, 2011 edition

Super Committee Negotiations Go Down to the Wire
Just five days before the deadline for a deficit reduction deal, the Super Committee dealing with the nation’s budget deficit in Congress still did not seem close to reaching an agreement on tax reforms and spending cuts. According to CNN, 72 conservative House Republicans made public their opposition to any Super Committee agreement that includes tax increases. Such a large voting bloc in the Republican majority means Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) would need support from Democrats to get a deal that contains tax increases to pass the House. Democrats said they would not accept Republican demands to raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67, lower cost-of-living increases for Social Security beneficiaries, and permanently reduce all income tax rates. The special joint congressional committee has until November 23 to come up with a plan. A majority of the panel's 12 members, evenly split between Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate, need to agree on savings of at least $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. If they reach a deal, then Congress will have until December 23 to vote on it without amending it. A failure to pass any agreement would result in $1.2 trillion in automatic across-the-board spending cuts starting in 2013, evenly divided between defense and non-defense spending.



Brown-Mikulski-Merkley Bill Would Help Seniors by Changing Social Security COLA
On Wednesday, Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced S. 1876, the Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers Act. It is a bill to change the Social Security COLA to what is called the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E) formula. "Retirees spend more of their financial resources on health care and housing than the general population. Because health care inflation rates, in particular, have been much higher than general inflation during the past twenty years, the current formula used to calculate the Social Security annual COLA does not accurately reflect the everyday costs that seniors face.  This legislation would be a financial help to seniors by addressing the existing disparity in calculating the COLA formula," said David Friesner, President of the Ohio Alliance and a constituent of Sen. Brown. The bill comes at a crucial time, given news stories about the Super Committee’s possible plans to adjust the COLA downward, and is a counterweight to those frightening reports.

Alliance Activists Take to the Streets, Community
As the Super Committee nears its deadline, Alliance activists this week made their voices heard all across the country.  At events ranging from protests and rallies in California, Arizona and Texas to Social Security and Medicare forums in Iowa, Florida, and New York, to a state convention in West Virginia, Alliance members educated their local community on issues facing current and future retirees.  Watch the Arizona Alliance on the TV news in Phoenix at http://bit.ly/syghWL. "From city sidewalks to senior centers in small towns, Alliance members are out there every single week, fighting for social and economic justice," said Ruben Burks, the Alliance’s Secretary-Treasurer.

Regional Meetings Begin in February

Be sure to hold the following dates for the Alliance’s 2012 Regional Meetings:
•    Western Regional: February 29 – March 2, 2012 - Las Vegas, Nevada - Bally’s Hotel

•    Midwest Regional: March 5-8, 2012 - Milwaukee, Wisconsin – Hilton Hotel Milwaukee

•    Southern Regional: April 29 – May 1, 2012 - Orlando, Florida – Buena Vista Palace Hotel
•    Northeastern Regional: May 14-16, 2012 - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Sheraton City Center Hotel

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Veterans Serve in other than the Military

I was reminded this morning that many able bodied folks who did not serve in the armed forces during past wars were serving in other much needed capacities.
My Father made steel during those wars as did Elaine's Father. As well, Elaine's Aunt was one of the original Rosie the Riveters by becoming a crane operator in one of the steel mills. Other spouses cared for their families while their spouses were either off to war or working in occupations necessary to support the war effort.
So let's also remember and thank those other "veterans" of service to our country during this Veterans Day week end.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day for all who served

Those who served our country in the past or today deserve our thanks. It doesn't matter which service they served in either. Those who weren't able to serve in the military or who chose another direction have no idea the sacrifice these folks have made. Their sacrifice is just simply unbelievable.
Thanks to all of our veterans.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Top Question of the day

Q. Where can the worlds smallest font be found?
A. The "Member Services" phone number on the back of an Anthem insurance card.

I wonder if the reason could be that they don't wish to field questions from their members?

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert Nov 4, 2011

Washington Post Misleads Seniors on Social Security
The Washington Post published a Halloween-Eve front page "Prediction of Doom" feature piece riddled with misleading statements and inaccuracies about Social Security and its financial footing [http://wapo.st/tuG2Jy].  The 12-member panel is less than a month away from its deadline for finding at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction, but it’s said to be looking for closer to $4 trillion. "The timing was particularly bad, because we’re in the homestretch of the Super Committee negotiations," said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. In a letter to the editor, Mr. Coyle wrote, "Your October 30 feature 'The debt fallout: How Social Security went 'cash negative' earlier than expected' not only contained misleading information about Social Security, but falsely connects the program to the federal budget deficit...(There) is enough money to fully pay benefits through 2036, and if we were to require millionaires to pay the same proportion of Social Security taxes as middle class workers, the Trust Fund would be sound well toward the end of this century." The group Media Matters posted a thorough debunking of the Washington Post story at http://bit.ly/uPVLDu.

Super Committee Taking Hard Look at Social Security, Medicare Cuts
Politico reports that the Super Committee, charged with drastically reducing the nation’s budget deficit, is taking a serious look at Social Security and Medicare. On Tuesday, former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, as well as founding Director of the Congressional Budget Office Alice Rivlin and former Senate Budget Chairman Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) testified at a public hearing before the Committee about their two sweeping bipartisan budget plans. The Simpson-Bowles and Rivlin-Domenici frameworks contain major Social Security and Medicare cuts in addition to tax code overhauls.

Mr. Bowles, the co-chairman of President Obama's fiscal commission, offered a range of possible Medicare cuts, from policies like provider cuts to highly charged proposals such as a public insurance option. "I don’t know why in the world you wouldn’t have Medicare negotiate" prescription drug prices, Bowles said, while also calling for aggressive tort reform. In addition, he said he would support raising the Medicare eligibility age, which the fiscal commission did not recommend. Bowles proposes saving $200 billion by using a less generous formula – the Chained CPI (Consumer Price Index) - to calculate cost-of-living adjustments in Social Security. To see how such a plan would hurt seniors, go to http://bit.ly/skmv0w.
Dr. Rivlin and former Sen. Domenici presented the Committee with a new model for Medicare "premium support." Their proposal would give seniors a choice to either take their Medicare benefits in the form of a voucher for private insurance or remain in the existing program. However, Congressional Democrats strongly resisted earlier proposals to convert Medicare entirely into a premium-support system. Democratic Super Committee members also raised questions about Rivlin and Domenici’s new plan.

"All four witnesses have a track record of being willing to cut senior programs severely," said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

The Alliance’s Halloween: Spotlighting Politicians’ Tricks & Treats
Since Arizona Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) is a member of the Super Committee, Arizona Alliance members dressed up for Halloween to protest possible cuts in Social Security and Medicare. To see the photos, go to http://bit.ly/vq1Id1.

Mr. Coyle joined Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV) and two Nevada seniors on a conference call with reporters on Wednesday to highlight the anti-senior voting record of U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) on Social Security and Medicare.  Coyle said, "Sen. Heller says that he is a friend of seniors, but his voting record says otherwise. Dean Heller voted against a one-time $250 payment to help seniors. $250 may be just dinner and drinks for Dean Heller's Wall Street donors, but to seniors in Nevada and across the country, it would have made a real difference.

Both the Iowa and South Carolina Alliance chapters will have held educational forums for seniors on national and state issues by the end of this week. The Iowa Alliance joined the group "Know Your Care" on Wednesday in Des Moines for a public forum on strengthening Social Security and Medicare. South Carolina Alliance members will be gathering in Myrtle Beach tomorrow for a forum that will encompass Social Security, Medicare, debt reduction, the Super Committee recommendations, Medicaid, financial security for seniors in a volatile market, identity theft, and senior scams. Richard Fiesta, Director of the Department of Government and Political Affairs for the Alliance, spoke at the Vermont Alliance convention last Saturday.

Retirees Support “Occupy Cleveland”
A video shows Ohio Alliance members, led by Wynne Antonio and John Gallo, visiting with "Occupy Cleveland" protesters, sharing their lessons from lifelong activism and offering their support and encouragement.  To view it, go to http://bit.ly/tAYZ3F. Alliance President Barbara J. Easterling - an Ohio native - said of the video, "What a great show of inter-generational activism this event was. Retirees know firsthand how Wall Street greed and gambling has devastated retirement savings for millions of Americans.  We can never let Wall Street get their hands on a privatized Social Security system."

Obama to Speed up Production of Life-Saving Drugs
On Monday, President Obama signed an Executive Order that will help prevent shortages that lead to prescription drug price gouging and direct the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate illegal price gouging. Drug shortages drive vendors to charge outrageous prices for drugs - one report found that price-gouging vendors mark up prices on drugs in short supply by 650 percent on average. The Executive Order directs the FDA to expand reporting about situations that might lead to drug shortages, and also to work with the Department of Justice to investigate illegal price gouging.

Editor’s Note: Due to Veterans Day, the next Friday Alert will be published on Thursday, November 10, 2011.
Download a printable version of this document at http://bit.ly/sVg481.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Senators Lugar and Coates, Get on the Stick

As President Obama said, "We Can't Wait."

It's time for you two to do what's right for the country and quit stalling.

Pitiful.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Good News for Seniors

According to news from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services today, beneficiaries over 65 who have been paying $96.40 a month in Medicare Part B premiums, will see their premiums rise next year to $99.90. This is significantly less than the increase predicted by CMS for 2012.  New Medicare enrollees who have been paying $115.40 a month will actually see their premiums go down. The Part B deductible decreases as well, by $22, and premiums for Medicare's Part D prescription benefit will remain unchanged for 2012. 


Today’s Medicare announcement follows news last week that seniors will receive a 3.6% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) in their 2012 Social Security checks.  That means the average retiree will receive a nearly $40 per month increase in their Social Security checks even including the Part B premium increase.

Source: The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The 99% Seek a Just Economy, Not Just an Economy


Republicans jammed together a mess of old, failed and vague schemes and called it a jobs bill. Sen. John McCain conceded the reason for the rehash:  “Part of it is in response to the president saying we don’t have a proposal.”

They still don’t.  This despite the fact that they promised voters during their campaign to take control of the U.S. House one year ago that they’d create jobs. That they’d focus on jobs. That nothing was more important to them than jobs.

Now, what they’ve offered instead of actual jobs is a polyglot of GOP talking points. It’s certainly no vision to move the country forward. It’s a plot to set the country back – to repeal the health care law that will soon help provide coverage for the nearly 50 million Americans without insurance, to rescind the Wall Street reform law designed to prevent another financial sector-caused meltdown, and to thwart regulations, like those that stopped distribution of listeria-infected cantaloupe that killed 25.

GOP Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio called the Republican polyglot a “pro-growth proposal to create the environment for jobs.” It is, in fact, a pro-business proposal to permit corporations to destroy the environment for humans.

It is another GOP ploy to appease, accommodate and absolve corporations. It is another GOP ruse to firmly establish in America an economy designed for, dedicated to and directed by corporations rather than a just economy controlled by and beneficial to the 99 percent.

Republicans offered up their “Jobs Through Growth Act” mishmash after the GOP minority in the Senate wielded the filibuster again to block a vote on President Obama’s $447 billion American Jobs Act, a measure that even Republican economists determined would create 1.9 million jobs and reduce the nation’s aching 9.1 percent unemployment by as much as 1 percent.

The Republican measure, by contrast, could hurt the economy, according to Gus Faucher, director of macroeconomics at Moody’s Analytics, an independent firm whose chief economist advised the McCain presidential campaign. Here is what Faucher said:
“Should we look at regulations and make sure they make sense from a cost benefit standpoint? Certainly. Should we reduce the budget deficit over the long run? Certainly.  But in the short term, demand is weak, businesses aren’t hiring, and consumers aren’t spending. That’s the cause of the current weakness, and Republican Senate proposals aren’t going to address that in the short term. In fact, they could be harmful in the short run if the focus is on cutting spending.”

Of all the Republican proposals, the most insidious, the most dangerous, the absolutely most outrageous is their demand to roll back Wall Street reform, to repeal the Dodd-Frank Act that was passed in an attempt to prevent recurrence of the 2008 financial collapse that destroyed the U.S. economy and caused the highest levels of foreclosures, unemployment and misery among the 99 percent since the Great Depression.

Go back, the Republicans are saying. Go back to 2007 when Wall Street financiers sold worthless mortgage-backed securities to unsuspecting investors, contending with a straight face that these were assets. Go back to 2008 when these firms made hundreds of millions betting those securities would fail. Go back to 2009 when the banksters, bailed out by taxpayers, awarded billions in bonuses to the executives who’d gotten the firms and the U.S. economy into so much trouble. Go back to early 2010, the Republicans are saying, before Obama signed the Dodd-Frank reform act, and allow Wall Street to do it all over again. Reprise unfettered, irresponsible Wall Street, the Republicans demand.

For Republicans, it’s all about enforcing freedom for the few – allowing corporations and millionaires to do whatever they want. No matter what that means to the freedoms of the 99 percent. The GOP demand for repeal of health care reform is another example of that. Already, this law has expanded health coverage for a million young adults because it allows them to remain on their parents’ plan until age 26. It has also helped 1.2 million senior citizens afford their prescription drugs by beginning to close the “donut hole” during which they must pay.

Still, Republicans want to get rid of that law. They want to regress to those free-for-all days when health insurance corporations could make unlimited profits from illness, deny coverage to those with chronic illnesses and terminate coverage when policy holders got sick. They want those young adults dropped. They want senior citizens to pay more for their prescriptions again. For Republicans, it’s all about enforcing freedom for the few – allowing health insurance corporations to do whatever they want. No matter what that means to the freedoms of the 99 percent.

The Republican rebuke of any attempt to control the 1 percent is highlighted in their “jobs bill” by its call for a regulation moratorium.  No new rules! The country is in the midst of the deadliest outbreak of foodborne illness in 25 years. Twenty-five people are dead. A total of 125 people in 26 states have been sickened by listeria-poisoned cantaloupe from Jensen Farms in Holly, Colo. One sickened woman suffered a miscarriage. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says more illnesses and deaths may occur over the next several weeks.

If the Republicans got their way, the FDA would be unable to write new regulations to prevent another such incident. It’s fine with the GOP that Jensen had hired its own inspector, a firm that certified the Jensen packing plant fine and dandy just before listeria-tainted cantaloupes killed 25 and just before the FDA found numerous, obvious violations.

That’s because the Republican precept is: an economy just for the 1 percent.
***
Leo W. Gerard also is a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Committee and chairs the labor federation’s Public Policy Committee. President Barack Obama recently appointed him to the President’s Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations. He serves as co-chairman of the BlueGreen Alliance and on the boards of the Apollo Alliance, Campaign for America’s Future and the Economic Policy Institute.  He is a member of the IMF and ICEM global labor federations and was instrumental in creating Workers Uniting, the first global union. Follow @USWBlogger

Thursday, October 20, 2011

We're Movin In

S.S. COLA Clouded by looming Threat on Capitol Hill


 “Super Committee” Considering Drastic Cut to Future Benefits

The following statement was issued today by Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans:

“Seniors are pleased by today’s announcement of a 3.6 percent Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) for Social Security beneficiaries.  After two years of no increase, this will help retirees be better able to pay their bills and stay healthy.

“But today’s news is tempered by reports that the congressional “Super Committee” is considering changes to Social Security that will severely hinder retirees’ ability to keep pace with the rising cost of living.  The panel may recommend a new statistical formula for future COLAs, one that would grossly understate the growing financial pressures on retirees.

“What the proponents of the change clinically call a ‘Chained-CPI,’ is what millions of seniors would call ‘food, shelter, clothing.’  A recent study showed that, if this change took effect, a worker retiring this year at age 65 would lose $6,000 in benefits by age 80.

“Social Security did not create our budget deficit – it is fully-funded by worker and employer payroll taxes.  It is inexcusable for politicians who never met a tax break they didn’t like to try to balance the budget on the backs of current and future retirees.

“Today’s COLA is good news for retirees, but I worry that it could be the last one many seniors ever see.  Workers and retirees must mobilize to protect the Social Security benefits millions of seniors count on to make ends meet.”


###
The Alliance for Retired Americans is a national organization that advocates for the rights and well being of over 4 million retirees and their families.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Social Security COLA Increase - Finally

Social Security COLA Increase Finally Coming, but Offset by Medicare Premiums

After two years without an inflation adjustment, the Social Security Administration is expected to announce a 2012 cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) of more than 3 percent on October 19th. The annual Social Security COLA is determined by a formula that averages inflation for the third quarter, as reflected by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). No COLA was awarded in 2010 or 2011 due to a spike in the third quarter of 2008, which resulted in a 5.8 percent COLA for 2009. By law, subsequent Social Security payments couldn’t rise until the CPI-W exceeded the 2008 level. Many seniors will see a substantial part of the COLA consumed by a higher premium for Medicare Part B (doctor visits and outpatient services), which usually is deducted from Social Security payments. For those who receive the average benefit of $1,177 per month, a 3.5 percent COLA would lift their gross 2012 payment to $1,218. Assuming that the official Part B premium is, as projected, $106.60, seniors could pay $10.20 more monthly for Part B, reducing their net benefit to $1,207 – an increase of 2.63 percent. However, if you are among the one-third of seniors who receive a monthly benefit between $500 and $1,000, that could translate to a COLA of 2.04 percent after Part B premiums. Part B’s impact on Social Security is a reminder that seniors are affected by different types of inflation than the general population, mainly due to medical costs. To learn more, go to http://reut.rs/pr4i0E.

Source: Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert

Wanna Be a Pirate?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Unbelievable

I was out for the afternoon and just arrived home. We turned on the television and what do we see the U.S. House of Representative doing? Trying to pass legislation to prohibit women to belong to an insurance plan through the Medical Insurance exchanges that provide for abortion coverage, even though that person would have to pay for the coverage themselves.
I just find it hard to understand, with all of the people unemployed in our country that Republicans would want to spend their time trying to pass such legislation knowing that it wouldn't pass the Senate and would be vetoed by the President.
It just doesn't make any sense to me.
It used to be that only the rich could get a safe abortion by traveling out of the country. Those who couldn't afford to do that got their abortions in the alley ways or in parking lots.
What in the world are these Republicans doing?
It shows me that they do not care one whit for those children that are already born.
Nuts.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Republicans Want the Country to Fail

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OSHA - Our Government in Action

The Blue Green Alliance is a national, strategic partnership between labor unions and environmental organizations dedicated to expanding the number and quality of jobs in the green economy. It was launched in 2006 by the United Steelworkers and the Sierra Club.

The Blue Green Alliance unites more than eight and a half million people in pursuit of good jobs, a clean environment and a green economy.

The Alliance believes that in the pursuit of earning a living, workers shouldn’t have to forfeit their health or their lives.

In 1970, I was working for the Northern Indiana Public Service Company, commonly known as NIPSCO. I worked at the Bailly Generating station which is a coal fired generating station on the southern shore of Lake Michigan. The boiler was under a positive pressure using forced draft fans to push the hot gases and smoke through the boiler and out the smoke stack. Any leak, regardless of size in the boiler skin or the duct work would spew out noxious and poisonous flue gas throughout the plant. It was particularly bad in the winter time when they made us close all the windows. There was a constant haze in the plant, making the air we had to breathe a grey - almost bluish color.

The workers suffered from runny noses, headaches, burning eyes, breathing problems, colds, sore throats, flue like symptoms, vomiting and getting sick to their stomachs. It was so bad that when mechanics had to work in the upper elevations, they had to wear an oxygen mask attached to a hose that let to a box where another person pumped fresh air to them. It was terrible.

Often times when visitors were taken on tours of the plant they would go up via an elevator to the upper elevations and when the elevator door opened, the gas would fill the elevator and the visitors would become sick and have to be escorted out of the plant.

Although the workers complained, the management didn’t seem to really care. Of course, they stayed in their air conditioned offices.

We had Scott air packs which were to be used in emergencies which are designed to allow a worker to be in a gaseous atmosphere in an emergency but I couldn’t understand why we shouldn’t use them for even routine work, so although management didn’t like it (because they would have to make sure they were filled when empty), I used them anyway.

It wasn’t long before I noticed a big yellow poster on the bulletin board explaining the new Williams-Steiger Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. It guaranteed that if we complained to OSHA, the company couldn’t discipline us.

Being a relatively new employee having just five years with the company, the OSHA law served to give me the nerve to complain more loudly and I filed my first grievance.

It wasn’t long before I found myself in the plant managers office with union representation. That was unheard of to have the plant manager hear a grievance. As I remember it was a loud and long meeting.

I bid out of the generating station a short time later, but I’m told that about three years later, the company installed induced draft fans that place a negative pressure on the boiler which causes any flue gas leaks in the boiler skin or duct work to suck air into the boiler rather that spew poisonous gas into the work environment.

The reason I’m thinking of this experience today is that so many in the Tea Party and the Republican Party complain about too much regulation and too much government. Well, I can tell you that OSHA is one governmental agency that I hope these wild eyed politicians don’t do away with.

Charlie Averill

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Sunday, October 02, 2011

USW Supports the 'Occupy Wall Street' Protest Movement




Leo W. Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers (USW), North America's largest industrial union with 1.2 million active and retired members, today issued the following statement in support of the Occupy Wall Street protest movement:

"The United Steelworkers (USW) union stands in solidarity with and strongly supports Occupy Wall Street. The brave men and women, many of them young people without jobs, who have been demonstrating around-the-clock for nearly two weeks in New York City are speaking out for the many in our world. We are fed up with the corporate greed, corruption and arrogance that have inflicted pain on far too many for far too long.

Our union has been standing up and fighting these captains of finance who promote Wall Street over Main Street. We know firsthand the devastation caused by a global economy where workers, their families, the environment and our futures are sacrificed so that a privileged few can make more money on everyone's labor but their own.

Source: www.usw.org

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Friday Alert

Sickest Medicare Patients May Be Greatly Affected by the Super Committee

The “Super Committee” in Congress is tasked with finding $1.2 trillion worth of savings by November 23. If its members fail to do so, automatic spending cuts will kick in, taking that amount evenly from domestic and military spending. With only two out of the six meetings the committee has held thus far having been public, observers’ apprehension is growing. The few things that have trickled out include tax reform, as well as Medicare and Medicaid cuts. When it comes to spending cuts, both Democrats and Republicans seem to find common ground on the topic of “dual-eligibles,” the sickest and most costly patients. The term refers to people who are eligible for medical coverage under both Medicare and Medicaid; these patients make up about 16% of Medicare beneficiaries, yet make up about 27% of the program’s total spending. Right now, a possible solution being considered is forcing these patients into managed care, which currently about 100,000 of the 9 million dual patients are enrolled in. Whatever the Super Committee decides to do, the repercussions will be felt throughout the senior community and beyond. “With many states already cutting back on Medicaid, managed care plans for dual-eligibles could endanger the quality of care on which some of America's most vulnerable citizens depend,” warned Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

New on our Web Site: the Alliance’s 10-Year Anniversary Report
Visit http://bit.ly/pjVbXy for the Alliance’s 10-Year Anniversary report, which includes highlights of achievements since the Alliance’s launch in 2001. That web site also contains the latest video footage and material from our 2011 Legislative Conference. For pictures of the Iowa Alliance Quad Cities affiliate members - with their redistricted new U.S. Representative, David Loebsack (D) - go to http://bit.ly/qkDdhq.

Study Shows Medicare Advantage Increases Medicare Spending
In 2004, the Medicare program began to adjust its payments to private plans for enrollees’ health status. As a result, a plan would receive a higher “risk-adjusted” payment for a recipient with diabetes or heart disease than for an otherwise identical person without these conditions. For the National Bureau of Economic Research report, How Does Risk Selection Respond to Risk Adjustment? Evidence for the Medicare Advantage Program [ http://bit.ly/ovW0n1 ], researchers studied individual-level data for 55,000 people in the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey from 1994 to 2006. The authors were able to show that the private Medicare Advantage (MA) program has increased total Medicare spending, and transferred Medicare resources from the relatively sick to the relatively healthy. For example, before risk-adjustment began in 2004, switching from fee-for-service Medicare to Medicare Advantage increased average individual Medicare spending by $1,800. The authors calculated that using risk adjustment formulas on the population that enrolled before 2004 would have reduced MA overpayments by more than $800 a person. But when the reimbursement formula changed, so did the pattern of enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans. After 2004, switching from fee-for-service to Medicare Advantage increased Medicare spending by approximately $3,000 per person. The pattern suggests that Medicare Advantage plans invest more resources in their relatively healthy enrollees, perhaps to differentially retain them.

Attempts to Rig the 2012 Elections Suspected
According to an editorial by Harold Meyerson in The Washington Post, [ http://wapo.st/neaKFL ], ever since the Republicans gained power in the 2010 elections, they have made it increasingly difficult for minority, poor and young voters to participate in elections. Tactics include voter identification requirements, which can amount to a poll tax if the ID is not free. “There is no evidence that widespread voter impersonation is taking place in Pennsylvania,” said Pennsylvania Alliance President Jean Friday, and Alliance members have been e-mailing Pennsylvania state senators about voter ID requirements there. Another proposal in Pennsylvania has emerged that will change the practice of giving all the electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote. This has been the practice in all past presidential campaigns, as well as in 47 other states. State Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi is pushing a plan that will give the candidate the number of electoral votes equal to the number of districts he wins. This re-working of the Electoral College, along with Pennsylvania redrawing its district lines, will give the GOP a majority of 12 districts. That means President Obama could still win the popular vote in Pennsylvania by carrying the urban areas, such as Philadelphia, but lose the majority of the Electoral College votes. A number of other swing states are thinking of adopting this system as well. To combat these and similar efforts, the Lawyers’ Committee has created the interactive “Map of Shame” at www.mapofshame.com or www.lawyerscommittee.org. In addition to highlighting the states with voter suppression legislation, the Lawyers’ Committee has created a tool to provide details about the changes.

Illinois Alliance Holds its State Convention
The Illinois Alliance convention was held last Friday at a UAW center in Ottawa, IL. Barbara Franklin was re-elected state President.  Other officers elected: Homer K. Spaulding, re-elected as Executive Vice President; Katie Jordan, re-elected as Treasurer; and Jane Russell, Secretary. Speakers included Ms. Easterling and Kris Sadur of Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s office. Terri Gendel, Director of Benefits and Advocacy at AgeOptions, spoke about their Senior Medicare Patrol, a national program to stop Medicare Fraud. To learn more, go to http://bit.ly/gkTfyn.

Source: Alliance for Retired Americans