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Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 11-30-12

Obama Administration, Sen. Durbin Fight for Social Security in 'Fiscal Cliff' Debate
According to Politico, top officials who have been involved in the "fiscal cliff" talks for many months say the parameters of a deal — including the size of tax hikes and spending cuts it will most likely contain — are starting to take shape. Earlier this week, White House spokesman Jay Carney had said that Social Security is one program that should be addressed on a “separate track,” telling reporters that the country should address the drivers of the deficit, and that Social Security currently is not driving the deficit.

Sen. Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) has also urged his colleagues on Capitol Hill to keep Social Security out of the deficit reduction debates consuming the Capitol in the lame duck session. “Social Security does not add one penny to the deficit,” said Mr. Durbin on ABC’s “This Week.” Sen. Durbin also argued that Social Security is not in crisis, and should not be dragged into the debate on the so-called “fiscal cliff,” which concerns other issues entirely. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has long held those views as well.

In contrast, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has told Democrats that Social Security must be on the chopping block for him to vote on any deficit deal.  Graham has called for a further increase in the retirement age, as well as means tests to further restrict access to Social Security’s funds. Politico reported on Thursday that House Speaker John Boehner did not answer directly when asked to choose between going over the fiscal cliff or extending tax rates only for those making below $250,000. 

“I find the Speaker’s non-answer stunning,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “That is a question that I think Speaker Boehner should be able to answer.”

“Raising the age for Medicare eligibility from 65 to 67 remains one of the most frightening prospects as the deficit talks continue,” added Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

Alliance Closing in on Goal of 10,000 Letters to Congress!
Alliance members have already sent more than 7,800 messages to their U.S. Senators and Representatives, urging them to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and oppose any benefit cuts to these programs in deficit reduction legislation. Our goal is 10,000. If you have not sent a letter and would like to, please go to

AFL-CIO Reports on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid by State
On Tuesday, the AFL-CIO released state by state reports that illustrate how critical Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are to working families across the country.  As the “fiscal cliff” approaches, some lawmakers have supported cuts to these critical programs while calling for renewed tax breaks for the wealthiest 2%. To see the AFL-CIO’s map of how the federal budget debate could affect each state, go to

Chained CPI: Really a Social Security Cut
The editorial board of The Washington Post is supporting a change in the way the Social Security cost of living adjustment (COLA) is calculated.  The Post suggests moving to the “Chained CPI” (consumer price index) to calculate the inflation adjustments to Social Security payments, which averages 0.3 percentage points less than the current COLA standard.  While some support this as a way to slow the expenditures of Social Security, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has stood up to these claims by calling the change what it is: a massive cut to Social Security for current and future retirees.  Though benefits would continue to grow, they would fail to keep up with the current rate of inflation, leaving retirees to work with even less money than they already receive. “The Chained CPI is just a fancy way for Congress to balance the budget on the backs of those who can least afford it,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.  “If put into practice, retirees stand to lose thousands of dollars of future benefits that they worked their whole lives to earn.” For more on the Chained CPI, go to

CEOs Lobby to Cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in Fiscal Cliff Talks
A group called “Campaign to Fix the Debt” has been making noise this week about putting cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid first on the table during the fiscal cliff negotiations. Joining this coalition are 54 CEOs from some of America’s biggest companies, including Boeing, Goldman Sachs, and AT&T. Over a dozen of these CEOs average about $20 million each in personal retirement funds.  Also notable, they represent a number of companies that have stripped pensions for their employees.

These CEOs state that we only have a few options left—raising the retirement age, cutting Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid—in order to avoid complete financial crisis. Predictably, they are strongly against raising taxes for the rich or dismantling corporation tax breaks. Some members of the coalition, such as Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini, have even threatened they will have to lay off workers if no deal is reached. Ms. Easterling responded, “It is clear that the Campaign to Fix the Debt does not understand the difficulties that working and retired Americans face. These CEOs will have millions of dollars to retire on. If Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are cut, many retired Americans will lose all that enables them to remain in the middle class.”

Conservative Financier Pete Peterson also weighs in on Fiscal Cliff Negotiations
Pete Peterson, a well-known “deficit hawk” and billionaire, has gotten involved in the Washington fiscal cliff talks. Following the sale of his company, Peterson committed $1 billion to deficit reduction, and he has funded many deficit reduction think tanks and lobby groups. Although these groups preach bipartisanship, they all seem to espouse Peterson’s own philosophies of slashing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to reduce the deficit. Peterson hopes to be a major player in this round of negotiations. A National Journal article focusing on his role stated, “Singlehandedly, Peterson has also created a loose network of deficit-hawk organizations that seem independent but that all spout the Peterson-sanctioned messages of the need for “grand bargain” in the vein of the Simpson-Bowles plan.”

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