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

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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