Maryland/DC Alliance member David Waugh of Bethesda, Maryland had lunch with Vice President Joe Biden today. Waugh was selected to attend the lunch at an Arlington, Virginia diner, because he and his wife are part of the 98% of Americans whose taxes will go up if Congress doesn’t act to extend the middle class tax cuts. Waugh has stated that allowing middle tax class cuts to expire would mean increased difficulties in meeting monthly living expenses such as rent, utilities, car expenses, health care needs, and food. Six other people who would be seriously affected by higher taxes for the middle class also attended the luncheon. Vice President Biden said that it would take “15 minutes” for a bill to get done if House Speaker John Boehner agreed to let taxes on the wealthy go up.
Waugh added, “If my taxes were higher, it would be harder to help my son, who faces high medical bills.”
Fiscal Cliff Talks Continue as Republicans Put a Plan on the Table
House GOP leaders endorsed a debt-reduction plan on Monday that would raise tax collections by $800 billion over the next decade, but they refused to budge on higher tax rates for the wealthy. Boehner outlined the proposal in a Monday letter to President Obama in which he said the GOP will not support any plan that increases tax rates.
Boehner is using the plan of Erskine Bowles, a co-chair of President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, as the basis for the Republican plan. The plan would gradually increase the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67, and implement a less generous formula for calculating cost of living adjustments in Social Security – the “Chained CPI.”
The GOP’s offer does not offer details on how to raise $800 billion in revenue, other than to call for closing loopholes and lowering marginal rates. The letter was signed by Boehner, and the rest of the GOP’s leadership team, including former vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan. Boehner (R-Ohio) also proposed an unspecified formula for means testing Medicare benefits.
President Obama's proposal, introduced in late November, raises taxes on the wealthiest 2%, fixes the Medicare “doc fix” for physician payments, provides stimulus and mortgage refinance funding, and extends unemployment insurance. It calls for $1.6 trillion in new tax revenue, $50 billion in stimulus funds and effectively ends Congressional control over the debt ceiling.
A new Quinnipiac poll shows that 65% favor raising taxes on families earning $250,000 or more.
Alliance members have now sent more than 9,300 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.
Alliance members have also joined other groups in calling Congress in large numbers, and many have reported back with a message about how those calls are going. “We are particularly heartened to see messages like we received from one senior, who said that he had a 35-person phone tree that he contacted when he got our request to call the Capitol,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “Thank you to all of our activists who have contacted Congress. Alliance members always come through when we need them most.”
Alliance joins AFGE, Other Groups in Protesting to Protect Social Security
Activists picketed outside a hundred Social Security offices around the country on Wednesday, telling lawmakers to keep Social Security out of the “fiscal cliff” negotiations on Capitol Hill. Organized by AFGE - the American Federation of Government Employees - the coordinated protests in 22 states also included members from the Alliance for Retired Americans, the AFL-CIO, and the American Federation of Teachers, among others.
The demonstrations were designed to send a message to politicians that making changes to the Social Security program is not the answer to the fiscal cliff problem. If a deal on the debt is not reached by year’s end, automatic spending cuts and furloughs for some federal workers could ensue. According to AFGE officials, SSA could be forced to slash its budget by more than 5 percent, leading to a hiring freeze and a net loss of more than 3,000 administration employees. A “grand bargain” – a deal that includes Social Security cuts – could have a similar impact.
Alliance Secretary-Treasurer Ruben Burks explained, “Social Security Administration cuts would not just be bad for SSA employees. They would lead to backlogs in claims and inferior customer service for seniors, the disabled, the poor, and families that have lost a parent or spouse – all of whom rely on Social Security.”
AFSCME Retiree Director Steve Regenstreif to Retire; Ann Widger to be New Director
After 40 years with AFSCME, Retiree Director Steve Regenstreif has decided to retire. Since becoming Director of the AFSCME Retirees, the union’s retiree membership has grown from 13,000 dues paying members in six retiree chapters to 250,000 retirees in over 260 state and local groups. Prior to working with the AFSCME Retirees, Steve was based in New York and played a leading role in the permanent affiliation of the 220,000 – member Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA), which brought the AFSCME membership to the one million mark.
Alliance Executive Director Edward F. Coyle said, “On behalf of the Alliance, I want to congratulate Steve on his upcoming retirement and thank him for all he has done for us. For years, ha has been a strong leader in uniting and mobilizing seniors. There has been no greater supporter of the Alliance at the local, state, or federal level. Every cycle, Steve has generously supported our political efforts and acted as an unyielding defender of public sector employees and retirees for all they have achieved and earned.”
As of January 1st, Ann Widger will become the Director of the AFSCME Retirees. Coyle continued, “We look forward to working with Ann, who is also a major supporter of the Alliance and a great friend to seniors.” Karen Gilgoff will continue her service as Assistant Director of the Department.
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