Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What is SOAR

The Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR) was established in 1985 to provide retirees with an organization to enable them to continue to act collectively on issues of concern to working families, both active and retired, and as a means to continue to interact socially with co-workers.
SOAR currently has a membership of approximately 70,000 in the U.S. and Canada. This membership is made up of retired members and their spouses.

The Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR) is dedicated to providing a vehicle for retirees and their spouses to remain active and involved in the union and in their communities; through community groups, and labor bodies as well as their own Chapter activities.

SOAR serves as a source for activists to participate in legislative and political activities related to issues of concern to retired workers, as well as active workers. Some of their activities include rallies in support of striking workers, rallies in D.C. and at state capitals, and working on campaigns for labor friendly candidates.

The organization is not affiliated with any political party, but works to support candidates based on the issues that they support.

Executive Board. SOAR has an Executive Board made up of a President, C.L. “Connie” Entrekin; a Vice-President, Harry Hynd; a Vice-President (West) Albert Becco; a Secretary-Treasurer, Charlie Averill; and an elected representative from each of the USW’s 13 districts in North America.
Jack Munro, former President of the IWA, has been appointed to the Board to help build SOAR within the former IWA membership. Bill Gibbons has been appointed to the Board to help build SOAR within the former PACE membership.

Coordinators. Each District also has Coordinators who are appointed by the District Directors.

Chapters. Dues paying members belong to SOAR Chapters. These Chapters can be made up of members exclusively from one local union or may be made up of all USW retirees in the geographic area. These Chapters are autonomous and elect their own leadership.

Director. Jim Centner is currently the Director of SOAR, appointed by the International President.

Dues to belong to a SOAR Chapter are $12.00 peryear for retired members, $3.00 per year for surviving spouses and widowers. The dues are split between the Chapter (30%), a District Fund (30%) which is used to finance conventions, bus trips, etc., and SOAR International (40%) to fund the staffing and materials of the office.

Help Grow SOAR
Since 2009, SOAR has recruited more than 8,000 new members. Local union involvement and support has been crucial to this increase in members.

Here is a link to SOAR informational materials and enrollment information. Contact the International SOAR office at 866 208-4420 for information on how to start a SOAR Chapter.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

I'm Hooked on Social Security and Medicare--Thank you President Obama

Nutty Indiana Chamber President

The Kokomo Tribune has a comment by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Kevin Brinegar in which he states that Representatives and Senators that voted for the so called Right to Work bill were simply doing the "right thing to do for Indiana". Now that has got to be the nuttiest statement I've ever heard.

My guess is that since he thinks that way, he would be one that would be a freeloader that would expect other workers to pay for his bargained contract and pay for his defense if he were ever to be disciplined unjustly.

Nutty.......and just plain cheap.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert February 24, 2012 edition

New Rule Would Provide Home Health Workers with Minimum Wage
The Alliance’s friends at American Rights at Work remind us that even in 2012, millions of workers are without minimum wage protections.  More shocking is that 2.5 million of these unprotected workers are those who provide critical care to seniors and the disabled in their homes. “Without minimum wage and overtime protections, the home care workforce suffers from low-wages, high turnover, stress and exhaustion,” the organization’s blog states (http://bit.ly/z7XXVJ). Despite the industry's rapid growth, fueled in part by the rising number of Baby Boomers reaching retirement age, many workers also lack health insurance, allowances for travel time or paid time off.

In order to improve both these jobs and the quality of care provided, the Obama Administration has proposed a rule that would extend minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers, long considered exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The rule would overturn an exception first granted in 1974 that was aimed at allowing friends and family members to care for elderly relatives.

In addition to being exempt from FLSA protections, the majority of home care workers are without the legally-protected right to form unions.  This is due to either having no identifiable employer or else being misclassified by their employers as independent contractors. Without the right to unionize, many of the workers are left at the mercy of whatever employment laws may be on the books.  Currently, 21 states and the District of Columbia provide some minimum wage and overtime coverage for these workers, but many are left unprotected.  The proposed rule is essential to improving the lives of millions of home care workers as well as their patients.  “The Obama Administration rule would lead to a more skilled workforce, ensuring a higher quality of care for seniors and the disabled,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

Home health care companies are leading the fight against the Obama administration’s proposal, despite data showing that the industry was one of the few nationally to maintain profits during the worst of the recession. USA Today reports that one of the industry's leading companies, Home Instead Senior Care, spent at least $362,000 in 2011 fighting the proposal.

GOP Senators Want Seniors to Move to Private Insurance Faster
Senators Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Richard Burr (R-NC) last week unveiled a plan that will accelerate the transition for many seniors to private insurance plans. The proposed legislation will also increase the age of Medicare eligibility for seniors to 67 years old, and increase premiums for retirees in the upper- and middle-class. The transition to the private insurance plans would take place by 2016 instead of waiting a decade, as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) had proposed.

“This plan is too vague for seniors to hold any confidence in it," said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “Relying on competition isn’t a guarantee that premiums will remain low enough for seniors to receive the adequate care that they need.” For more on problems with the Coburn-Burr plan, go to http://huff.to/wWlHH6.

Florida Alliance Leads “Mack Attack” to Hold Rep. Connie Mack’s Feet to the Fire
Members of the Florida Alliance, along with their coalition partners, hosted a sign-waving and information-sharing event in front of Rep. Connie Mack’s (R) 14th Congressional District Cape Coral office this morning. Earlier, group representatives had met with Rep. Mack’s Congressional staff. Mack is running to take on Sen. Bill Nelson (D) statewide.  “Since 2009, the poverty rate in all three counties encompassed in the 14th CD has risen by 2% on average, yet Rep. Mack continues to vote against safety net programs that could benefit district working class and poor citizens,” said Florida Alliance President Tony Fransetta. The theme of the event was, Rep. Mack has not stood in our corner—it’s time we stood on his corner!

Arizona Alliance Gets out its Message at the GOP Debate
Arizona Alliance retirees joined with hundreds of protestors outside the GOP debate in Mesa on Wednesday. The retirees were there to send a clear message to all four presidential hopefuls: Arizona seniors do not support privatizing Medicare, raising the retirement age, or other damaging changes to Social Security.

Myth Busters on the Alliance Web Site – and in-Person in Illinois
A Social Security myth-busters fact sheet is now available at http://bit.ly/xaTH9c. The two-pager explains what to say when people make claims such as, “Social Security is going broke!” Another myth-busting fact sheet, Myths and Facts about the Affordable Care Act, had been posted previously at http://bit.ly/x1U472. The continuing Alliance effort to stop lies from being spread about seniors’ programs also includes educational forums. In Peoria, Illinois on Wednesday, the Illinois Alliance hosted a workshop to debunk myths and provide useful information about current legislation affecting federal and state retirement security programs.

Affordable Senior Health Insurance Available to Supplement Medicare
Affordable insurance supplemental to Medicare is available through the Retiree Health Plan endorsed by the Alliance for union retirees.  The Open Enrollment period is currently in effect through April 30, 2012!  During this period, these Medicare-eligible retirees and their spouses are guaranteed acceptance with no waiting periods, regardless of preexisting health conditions.  If you have questions or would like to enroll in the program, please call 1-866-298-9117.  You can also visit www.araretireehealth.com to get more information.

Regional Meetings Start Next Week in Las Vegas
The Alliance’s 2012 Regional Meetings begin on the following dates: February 29 in Las Vegas; March 5 in Milwaukee; April 30 in Orlando; and May 14 in Philadelphia. Workshops will include: 2012 Elections: Do Not Be Out-Foxed; 2012 Elections: Facts are Stubborn Things!; and Online Organizing: Best Practices. For more information, or to register on-line, please click on http://bit.ly/yiqB8n. Questions? Call Event Coordinator Joni Jones at 202/637-5377, or e-mail jjones@retiredamericans.org.

Download a printable version of this document http://bit.ly/wVqPUl.

Kate Smith Introduces God Bless America

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Have You Noticed?

By Jim Centner

Many state legislatures have spent the last year making it harder for minorities and other groups that support Democrats to vote, obstructing health care reform, weakening environmental regulations and attacking public and private sector unions. You may be surprised to find out that all of these efforts are being backed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative organization financed by millions of corporate dollars.

ALEC has been around since1973. It gets a great deal of its funding from Exxon Mobil, the Olin and Scaife families and foundations tied to the infamous Koch Industries, that has been linked to the upheaval in Wisconsin over public sector bargaining rights. ALEC board members consist of representatives from some of our country’s largest corporations.

ALEC has written model legislation on a host of subjects dear to corporate and conservative interests, and supporting lawmakers have introduced these bills in dozens of states.  A recent study of the group’s impact in Virginia showed that more than 50 of its bills were introduced there, many practically word for word. The study, by the liberal group ProgressVA, found that ALEC had been involved in writing bills that would:

  • Prohibit penalizing residents for failing to obtain health insurance, undermining the individual mandate in the reform law. The bill, which ALEC says has been introduced in 38 states, was signed into law and became the basis for Virginia’s legal challenge to health care reform.

  • Require voters to show a form of identification. Versions of this bill passed both chambers this month.

  • Encourage school districts to contract with private virtual-education companies. (One such company was the corporate co-chair of ALEC’s education committee.) The bill was signed into law.

  • Call for a federal constitutional amendment to permit the repeal of any federal law on a two-thirds vote of state legislatures. The bill failed.

  • Legalize use of deadly force in defending one’s home. Bills to this effect, which recently passed both houses, have been backed by the National Rifle Association, a longtime member of ALEC.

ALEC’s influence in the Virginia statehouse is inescapable, the study showed. The House of Delegates speaker, William Howell, has been on the board since 2003 and was national chairman in 2009. He has sponsored or pushed many of the group’s bills, including several benefiting specific companies that support ALEC financially, like one that would reduce a single company’s asbestos liability. At least 115 other state legislators have ties to the group, including paying membership dues, attending meetings and sponsoring bills. The state has spent more than $230,000 sending lawmakers to ALEC conferences since 2001.

Similar efforts have gone on in many other states. The group has been particularly active in weakening environmental regulations and fighting the Environmental Protection Agency. There is nothing illegal or unethical about ALEC’s work, except that it further demonstrates the pervasive influence of corporate money and right-wing groups on the state legislative process.

I thought you should know!

Jim Centner is the Director of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR)

Background information for this article was taken from an article published in the New Your Times, February 12, 2012

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Something is Missing

by Connie Entrekin

I hope all of you have been watching the roller-coaster event commonly referred to as the Republican Presidential primary. Every week a new front runner, but slowly the field is starting to work its way to its eventual conclusion and a candidate will emerge. One thing I must say, it’s been entertaining as each candidate fights for the nomination of their party. 

One thing I noticed is the lack of meaningful conversation about what our presidential candidates have planned for Social Security and Medicare. Even in Florida, a state with a large retiree population, details about the candidates' Social Security and Medicare proposals were largely missing as the candidates travel across the state to garner support. Even in the primary debates the silence has been deafening. Why?

I believe plans to privatize or cut Social Security and Medicare under the guise of deficit reduction represent a larger political disconnect between politicians and the average American voter than any other single issue facing candidates in this presidential campaign. These candidates know it and that is why they are avoiding it.

In poll after poll it’s clear voters of all ages and political persuasions don't support cutting benefits to middle-class Americans who depend on Social Security and Medicare (now or in the future) to repair our ailing economy. Yet, cutting middle-class benefits remains at the heart of every deficit discussion.

Over the years, some politicians have promised Americans they'll “preserve” and “strengthen” these vital programs ― while actually proposing benefit cuts, Social Security private accounts or vouchers for seniors in Medicare. Recently, candidates like Mitt Romney promised Florida seniors he'd “never go after Medicare.”  However, Mr. Romney supports proposals like House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's plan, which turns Medicare into a voucher program, destroying traditional Medicare as we know it and sending the bill to seniors.

Americans deserve economic security in their retirement years. They know Social Security and Medicare are vital parts of that security. We expect more than the double-speak offered by political candidates who say “reform” when they mean “cut” and “preserve” when they mean “privatize.”

Connie Entrekin is the President of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees

Monday, February 20, 2012

Beware of The Republican Plans

By Bill Gibbons

Beware of the deception by the Republican leadership to cover up their plans to destroy Medicare and Social Security as we know it and divide the Country along generational lines.

We have observed the Republicans’ attack on workers and their unions and the gradual decline of the middle class. When the obvious decline of the middle class is mentioned, as compared to transfer of wealth to those at the economic top, we are accused of engaging in class warfare.

But now we have the policy makers of the Republican Party and Presidential candidates suggesting or proposing plans to dismantle Medicare and creating generational division. For example, Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) who has prepared a plan to privatize Medicare as part of the GOP budget to be introduced in March provides that; seniors over age 55, when they become Medicare eligible, can get a voucher to cover medical care up to a maximum or keep the current system. Those under 55 will not be eligible for Medicare as we know it.

What’s wrong with this approach is that it would undermine and underfund the current system. Eventually destroying Medicare as we know it. In addition, it is estimated to cost seniors an additional $6,000 per year. Plus it will divide those who are not age 55 from those over 55, thus denying them the benefit that we now have. I don’t know about you but I am not in favor of taking Medicare away from those under 55 when they would otherwise become eligible for Medicare.

These same Republicans would like to privatize all or part of Social Security and make other drastic changes to the Social Security system.

In my opinion this would be nothing less than another effort to destroy great social programs that have and are working and create further division among the American people.  

The 2012 election is going to be the most important in our lifetime. We must be engaged, informed and involved to protect that which we have earned and the future for our children and grandchildren.

Bill Gibbons is the PACE Representative for the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Could Richard John "Rick" Santorum Become our next Saint?

Richard Santorum who is wanting to be the next president of the United States seems to be at the same time wanting to be what? The next Roman Catholic Cardinal? Pope?
This guy is just way too much.
I get a kick out people who question a fellow Christian's Christianity.
Such an ego this guy has.
I'll tell you another thing....this guy blinks way too much when he tries to explain his snafus.
Watch for those blinks.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert February 17, 2012 edition

Coyle Concerned About Proposed Means-Testing for Medicare
President Obama released his FY 2013 budget on Monday. While his administration does not propose changes to Social Security, there are several Medicare proposals which could cause beneficiaries to pay increased out-of-pocket expenses over time. One proposal would increase the number and share of beneficiaries who pay a higher, income-related premium. According to a new report by the Kaiser Family Foundation (http://bit.ly/zd7msE), means-testing could lead higher-income, healthier seniors to drop out of Medicare Part B and self-insure, leaving behind a smaller, less healthy group of seniors who would pay higher premiums. Additionally, Kaiser noted that over time, the income thresholds involved could be frozen, resulting in higher premiums for those who, by today's standards, may not be considered higher-income seniors.

“Means-testing opens the door to changing the unique, historical structure of Medicare as a broad, social-insurance program for retirees.  An alternative way to lower Medicare costs would be to end the 2003 corporate loophole that prohibits Medicare from negotiating volume discounts from pharmaceutical companies,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “President Obama has been a leader in protecting the well-being of America's seniors.  He has stood strong for Social Security, and his Affordable Care Act is helping millions of seniors better afford to see a doctor and fill a prescription.  In the coming weeks we will be discussing our concerns on this specific issue with Administration and congressional officials,” Mr. Coyle added.

One positive about the budget: In May of last year, the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO) - a coalition that includes the Alliance - had written to Michael Astrue, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, to express concerns about a decision to suspend the production and mailing of Social Security earnings benefit statements. The President’s budget calls for the full reinstatement of mailing the Social Security statement to workers at least 25-years-old in FY 2013.

Payroll Tax Cut Bill Affects Medicare Reimbursements, Unemployment Benefits
On Friday, the U.S. House and Senate passed H.R. 3630, the Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011, heading off a 27% cut in reimbursements for physicians who treat Medicare patients. The respective House and Senate votes were 293-132 and 60-36. Without action, the reimbursement decrease would have taken effect on March 1. The bill would also continue a 2-percentage-point cut in the 6.2% Social Security payroll tax, which is deducted from workers’ paychecks, through 2012. For a family earning $50,000 a year, the cut saves $1,000 annually. “It is unfortunate that the legislation could not be passed without Republican demands that will hurt both the unemployed and federal employees,” said Mr. Coyle. For more, go to http://wapo.st/xuN8c7.

Romney Flip-Flops on Social Security and Medicare
Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney vowed at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) late last Friday to cut Social Security and Medicare (http://bit.ly/yc8B5x). With that statement, he was saying the exact opposite of what he’d promised in Florida just two weeks earlier, when he claimed, “We will never go after Medicare or Social Security, we will protect those programs” (http://bit.ly/AqWxuf). Romney specified that he would raise the retirement age for Social Security at the CPAC event.

Pivoting to discuss the auto industry on Wednesday this week in Michigan, Romney said, “I’ve taken on union bosses before and I’m happy to take them on again. I sure won’t give in to UAW.”

“Mr. Romney opposed the 2009 automobile industry bailout,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “Fortunately, he wasn't in a position to make that decision, or thousands of workers would have lost their jobs while retirees lost their retiree health care benefits and pensions.”

Health Care Reform Helps Deliver Preventive Care to 86 Million Americans
Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), announced on Wednesday that the Affordable Care Act provided approximately 54 million Americans with at least one new free preventive service in 2011 through their private health insurance plans. She also announced that an estimated 32.5 million people with Medicare received at least one free preventive benefit in 2011, including the new Annual Wellness Visit, since the health reform law was enacted. Together, this means an estimated 86 million Americans were helped by health reform’s prevention coverage improvements. The HHS report on expanded preventive benefits in Medicare and other ways that the Affordable Care Act strengthens Medicare is available at http://www.cms.gov/newsroom.

To see Rep. Donna Edwards’ (D-MD) one-minute Affordable Care Act speech on the House floor on Tuesday, beside the Alliance's Valentine’s Day poster, click on http://bit.ly/A7xOaQ.

New Database Provides Economic Security Data for Elders and Families
Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) has unveiled its new Economic Security Database, which provides local information on how much families and older adults need to make ends meet. Specifically, The Basic Economic Security Tables™ (BEST) Index and the Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index (Elder Index) measure the incomes workers and retired adults need to achieve economic security. Both measures are comprehensive definitions of economic security, presented at the state, county and city levels. WOW invites you to use the database in your work and share with your networks. To access the database, go to www.BasicEconomicSecurity.org

WOW currently works with 17 state partners on the Elder Economic Security Initiative, including the Iowa & North Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans. On Tuesday, the North Carolina Alliance and WOW hosted an event to release the new North Carolina Elder Economic Security Initiative™ Program in Wake Forest. “Dozens of seniors attended, and television and print media gave the event enormous media coverage,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “If you are interested in how you can use the data in your state or have any questions, please contact Maggie Flowers at mflowers@wowonline.org or 202.464.1596.”

Download a printable version of this document http://bit.ly/yYvqHA.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Income of Willard Romney

Mitt Romney Earns More by 6:00 a.m. Than Many Seniors Do in a Year

by Barbara J. Easterling

In 2010 Mitt Romney made $21.7 million, while that same year the average senior citizen received $14,000 in Social Security benefits.

Put another way, Mitt Romney made more by 6:00 a.m. on January 1 than many retirees did the entire year.  His daily income was over four times greater than many seniors’ annual income.

Why does this matter?  Shouldn’t his finances be none of our business?  To me, it matters because of how sharply it contrasts with his plans to increase the Social Security retirement age, lower benefits for some seniors, and let Wall Street gamble away – and profit from – a privatized Social Security system.  It reflects a cold indifference to those less fortunate.

Seniors – along with younger generations who worry if they will ever be able to retire – need to keep a close eye on politicians this year.  For example, Romney’s stance on Social Security does not match his telling a group of seniors on the eve of the Florida primary, "We will never go after Medicare or Social Security."

Social Security is not just another pension fund for the Bain Capitals of the world to raid.  Social Security is how each day – while Mitt Romney earns another $59,360 – millions of retirees are able to pay their bills and put food on the table.

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.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert February 10, 2012 edition

White House Twitter Event Answers Seniors’ Policy Questions
On Monday, the White House’s Jon Carson, Director of the Office of Public Engagement, held a “Tweet-up” and conference call for seniors with Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary for Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Alliance for Retired Americans members seized the opportunity to get their health care, Medicare, and Social Security policy questions answered using Twitter and social networking. Approximately 90 questions were emailed to the Alliance or sent in via social networks such as Facebook and Twitter in advance of the event, and the participating Administration officials answered several of them. White House staff considered the event one of the most successful Tweet-up events they have hosted, based on the number of questions received, activity in the days leading up to the event, and the level of enthusiasm. “Even many Alliance state chapters who do not yet have a strong presence on Twitter were able to do a great deal to foster participation, especially by encouraging lots of email questions,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance.

Obama Administration, Alliance Members in Several States Take on Voter ID Laws
Officials at the U.S Department of Justice, including Attorney General Eric Holder, and other members of the Obama Administration are fighting voter suppression efforts in states all across the country.  The various forms of legislation would hurt seniors’ access to the ballot box in many ways, including: requiring an ID to vote; limiting voters’ rights to be directed to the correct precinct; limiting the time to vote by mail; creating more hurdles for boards of elections to send ballot applications; and blocking the ability for these boards to cover the postage to return a ballot. “The Voter Identification bills and voter suppression efforts vary in different states, but they are all ‘a solution in search of a problem’ - since evidence of widespread voter fraud is non-existent,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. Alliance chapters in states such as Florida, Iowa, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin have taken strong action to block these efforts, including: lobby visits to state legislators; testifying before the state legislature; speaking on talk radio; rallies; placing letters to the editor; online activism; press conferences; and circulating petitions to repeal recently passed voter suppression laws.

On the Web: Presidents’ Day Lobby Week Toolkit, Link to New Rhode Island Site
The Alliance’s Presidents’ Day Lobby Week Toolkit contains talking points, fact sheets, and all the background you might need to protect Social Security and Medicare at lobby visits during the Presidents’ Day Recess Week, February 20-24. The toolkit is available on the Alliance web site at http://www.retiredamericans.org/issues/Retiree_Resources.  Also, the new Rhode Island Alliance for Retired Americans web site, www.ri-ara.org, is now up and running. There are links to many organizations of interest to Rhode Island seniors, as well as HealthLink Wellness, Alliance News, RI AFL-CIO News, Upcoming Events, and RI ARA Dental, Eye and Hearing Discount pages.

Doctors – and Seniors - Can’t Afford Medicare Payment Cuts
Policymakers in Washington are still polarized over the payroll tax cut debate, and this deadlock has trickled down into a heated debate over proposed Medicare cuts. If an agreement is not reached by the end of February, doctors will receive a 27% reduction in Medicare payments. There is not much time left to act. According to Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), several doctors have already begun to tell many Medicare recipients that they can no longer accept Medicare, leaving many seniors with fewer options for treatment and services.  House Republicans want to avoid cuts in payments to doctors by reducing certain Medicare payments to hospitals, while House Democrats want to offset Medicare costs for doctors using funding from the declining wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The payroll tax legislation would also continue jobless benefits for many of the nation’s unemployed.

Social Security Presents Obama with Opportunity to Win Over Hispanic Voters
According to Politico (http://politi.co/ykr2MP), it’s likely that “Team Obama” will spend a lot of its Spanish advertising budget on a generic Social Security message to older Latinos, a group that is disproportionately dependent on Social Security for retirement income.  Three-quarters of Hispanic Social Security recipients derive at least half their income from their monthly check, 10 points higher than the general population. Only 20 percent of Latino retirees have pensions, half the national average. And, Politico adds, the national poverty rate for Hispanics ages 65 and older is 19 percent — “compared with 8 percent of the white elderly.”

Medicare Expected to be a Major Issue in Congressional Races
In various congressional seat races across the country, the issue of Medicare has also become a key election issue. Many Democratic candidates are looking to oust current Republicans who support various cuts to the program, especially those who support House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan to privatize it. According to The New York Times (http://nyti.ms/y6rqcu), Medicare is expected to be a hot-button issue for the next decade. “There is a great deal of misinformation out there about Medicare, and it is important that Alliance members help educate their neighbors on the facts,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

Nevada Alliance Celebrates Valentine’s Day with Vets
The reigning Miss University of Nevada, Ashton Sunsiri, and Miss Reno/Sparks, Madeline Burak, are joining members of the Nevada Alliance for Retired Americans (NARA) this morning to distribute valentines at Reno's Ioannis A. Lougaris Veterans Medical Center. “The purpose of the event is to show the compassion, appreciation and respect the more than 17,000 members of NARA have for our veterans on the day our society expresses love," stated NARA coordinator Gail Dietrich. "We thank them for serving our country. We want them to know just how much we value their sacrifices and cherish them as individuals,” Dietrich added.

Regional Meetings to Begin Later This Month in Las Vegas
The Alliance’s Regional Meetings will take place beginning on February 29 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Matthew Rothschild, Editor of The Progressive magazine, will speak at the Midwest Regional Meeting’s March 6 lunch in Milwaukee.  He will comment on the political landscape in the Midwest and across the nation. For more information on the regional meeting for your part of the country, please go to http://bit.ly/yiqB8n.

                      Download a printable version of this document http://bit.ly/yLVb1E.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert February 3, 2012

White House, Alliance for Retired Americans to Host Twitter Q&A on Senior Issues
Do you want to know more about the Affordable Care Act and dispel the myths about it? Want to ask administration officials about strengthening Social Security and Medicare for you, your kids and grandkids? Have other questions for the White House? Now’s your chance to ask and participate! The White House Office of Public Engagement is hosting a Twitter Q&A and conference call with the Alliance for Retired Americans this Monday, February 6th from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time to answer your questions about aging, retirement and politics. The call is a follow-up to President Obama’s recent State of the Union address. Answering your questions during the Q&A

* Jon Carson (@JonCarson44), the director of the Office of Public Engagement
Kathy Greenlee (@hhsgov), Assistant Secretary for Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 

Send your question to us before the Q&A by tweeting it to @activeretirees; posting it to our Facebook page www.facebook.com/retiredamericans; or by emailing it to us here: aracommunications@retiredamericans.org. Follow along with the Q&A through the hashtag #SOTU or #seniorshealth, and keep sending us your questions. 

Romney Wins Florida Republican Primary After a Few Fibs
Mitt Romney scored a decisive victory in Florida's presidential primary on Tuesday, steadying a campaign that was jarred by a loss in South Carolina ten days earlier. Prior to Romney's victory, Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance, commented on remarks Romney had made on Monday. “Last night at a Florida senior center, presidential candidate Mitt Romney once again couldn’t stop himself from telling an audience what they wanted to hear – even if it wasn’t true,” said Mr. Coyle. 

“Romney told retirees, ‘We will never go after Medicare or Social Security,’ even though he supports the Ryan budget to give seniors small vouchers to buy coverage from private insurance companies; wants to raise the Social Security retirement age; and wants to let Wall Street gamble away and profit from privatized Social Security accounts. For a notoriously inconsistent politician, Mitt Romney has a long, clear record of wanting to privatize Social Security and Medicare,” Coyle continued. 

Florida Alliance President Tony Fransetta did three press events in 25 hours in advance of the Tuesday primary: one about Romney wanting to privatize Medicare; one about Romney’s role in Damon Corporation’s multi-million dollar scheme to defraud Medicare (http://politi.co/wdIXT3); and one about voter suppression. A Boston Globe article noted that Florida seniors generally heard little from the candidates themselves on Medicare and Social Security (http://bo.st/yLhwG6). 

Health Care Reform Law Saves 3.6 Million Americans $2.1 Billion
Nearly 3.6 million people with Medicare saved $2.1 billion on their prescription drug costs in 2011 due to the Affordable Care Act, according to data issued on Thursday by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In addition, the savings for people with Medicare will increase over time. According to the HHS report (http://1.usa.gov/yFFyex), the average person with Medicare will save nearly $4,200 by 2021 because of the new law. The Affordable Care Act provides a 50 percent discount on brand-name prescription drugs and this year, a 14% discount on generics. In 2011, the 3.6 million Americans who hit the doughnut hole saved an average of $604 on the cost of their prescription drugs. “The data proves that the Affordable Care Act helps seniors,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “It decreases prescription drug costs, provides free preventive care, and slows the growth of Medicare premiums for physicians’ services.” 

According to USA Today (http://usat.ly/wdjNyF), statistics also show that premiums for Medicare Advantage private insurance plans have dropped an average of 7%, and enrollment has grown by 10%, thanks to the 2010 health care overhaul. “This trend counters opposing predictions of dire consequences to enacting health reform, which included a drop in enrollment and a rise in premiums,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. 

Indiana “Right to Work for Less” Bill Passes State Senate, is Signed into Law
Despite the best efforts of Indiana workers, their friends, and Alliance retirees, a “right-to-work for less” bill became state law in Indiana on Wednesday. The state Senate voted 28-22 to pass the anti- union bill as thousands of protesters packed Statehouse hallways, shouting their disapproval. Thousands more were outside waiting to get in. Governor Mitch Daniels (R) signed the bill shortly thereafter, making Indiana the 23rd state in the nation with such a law. Indiana Alliance retirees had done several press events driving home the fact that Right to Work (RTW) means “Real Trouble and Worries” for everyone in Indiana, because it puts in jeopardy pensions, health care, and other benefits of union retirees and their legal dependents established through collective bargaining. 

Alliance Charters Its 31st State: Virginia
On Tuesday in Richmond, 43 delegates and 8 guests convened to found the Virginia Alliance for Retired Americans. Attendees at the founding convention heard from the following speakers and guests: Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA); NFL Players Association - Former Player Services Senior Director Nolan Harrison III; Ms. Greenlee; Former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine (D); Virginia AFL-CIO President Doris Crouse Mays; Virginia Democratic Party Chairman Brian Moran; Virginia Delegate Luke Torian; and leaders from the national Alliance, including Ms. Easterling. 

The founding convention elected as officers: Melvin Carter, President; Roger Wood, Secretary; and Ron Thompson, Treasurer. Mr. Carter said, “We are extremely excited to get to work on issues important to seniors and working families in Virginia.” For photos from Virginia, go to http://bit.ly/yk0bfu (album) or http://bit.ly/zQL5uu (slideshow). 

Southern Regional Meeting to Begin on April 30
The Alliance’s Southern Regional meeting will take place beginning on April 30 in Orlando, Florida. For more information, please go to http://bit.ly/yiqB8n.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Sign the Buffett Rule Petition

Make the Buffett Rule a Reality

In these tough economic times, there's no reason hard-working middle class families should be paying a higher tax rate than someone making over a million dollars a year.

Sign the petition to help Senator Sheldon Whitehouse pass the “Paying a Fair Share Act” and make the “Buffett Rule” a reality. This legislation will finally close the loopholes in our tax code that allow the super-rich to pay less than 30% in taxes --and cost our country billions.

By standing together, we can make sure that all Americans are paying a fair share -- not just the middle class.


Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Indiana Republicans Pass Freeloaders Bill

Wednesday Feb. 1, 2012
Media Contact: Jeff Harris, Indiana State AFL-CIO, 317.632.9147

Guyott says RTW law worst in a generation; laments negative impacts on working families

INDIANAPOLIS – Following today’s passage of the so-called “right to work” law, Indiana State AFL-CIO President Nancy Guyott issued the following statement:

“On behalf of all working men and women across Indiana, we are extremely disappointed that the Indiana General Assembly has passed the “right to work for less” bill today. They have set our state upon a path that will lead to lower wages for all working Hoosiers, less safety at work, and less dignity and security in old age or ill health. Indiana’s elected officials have given the wrong answer to the most important question of this generation.

I am reminded of the saying "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," and it seems especially fitting today. Hoosiers have been here before. From 1957 to 1965, Indiana experimented with this exact same law and after its utter failure to produce on any of its promises of economic salvation Hoosiers rose up, changed elected officials and repealed it. 

It appears we are headed there again.

Sadly, the passage of this bill not only means that workers’ rights and ability to collectively bargain will be significantly weakened, it means that strong arm tactics, misinformation and big money have won at the Indiana Statehouse. Citizens who stood against this legislation were barred from entering the Statehouse, were denied the chance to testify before the committees considering it and were refused meetings with their own legislators. Independent, fact-based assessments of the economic impact on this legislation were dismissed in favor of stories, promises and unsubstantiated claims by out-of-state special interest groups. And Indiana’s legislative traditions were dishonored as those in power rammed through this bill at reckless speed to avoid further public scrutiny and to please their corporate paymasters.

However their victory will be as short lived, as this legislation is shortsighted. As working men and women did in the 1950s and 60s, this generation of Hoosiers will now rise up, join forces and repeal this anti-worker agenda again.

In 2006 Governor Daniels predicted a “civil war” if this legislation was brought forth – yet, on his way out of office, he launched this divisive attack anyway. But he was wrong; this is not a battle of brother against brother. It is a battle of Hoosier neighbors against corporate special interests from fields afar. And while it is not a war of our choosing, over the days ahead, citizen by citizen, block by block, community by community, legislative seat by legislative seat we will wage this “war” to take back our government from the special interests and restore the hard-earned rights of all Hoosier workers.”

The Indiana State AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations) is a federation of 800 local unions across the state belonging to 50 International Unions. In total, the Indiana State AFL-CIO represents more than 300,000 working Hoosiers.

For more information on please visit www.inaflcio.org or call 1-800-433-8423.