Sunday, January 27, 2013

1967 Blizzard in Northern Indiana


I think it was a Thursday on January 26, 1967, when I was working at the Northern Indiana Public Service Company’s Gas Meter Shop in Hammond, Indiana. At about noon, or so, it began to snow. It snowed so hard that we all knew we would have to leave work without delay if we were ever to make it home.

After heading north towards Ridge Road, I knew I wouldn’t make it home that evening and so when I saw a fellow worker, he offered to allow me to stay at his home that night. His wife prepared a great dinner for us and the next morning, it didn’t appear that the roads would be cleared any time soon and not wanting to spend the entire weekend in Highland, Indiana, I decided to head for home on foot. We were living in an apartment on 35th and Polk Street in Gary, Indiana, across from the Indiana University Extension.

Ridge Road was completely void of any traffic (all the roads in Northern Indiana were closed being completely plugged with snow and stranded vehicles). Stranded cars were everywhere and facing every conceivable direction and the only signs of any life were in the few small diners along the way where motorists had spent the previous evening. For five miles of hiking, I don’t remember seeing one single person along the route. Mountains of snow were piled up on the road every half mile or so where snow plows had given up.

It wasn’t cold that day but after several hours of hiking, I finally made it home feeling so proud of myself and what a relief it was. 

Sure enough, Northern Indiana was pretty near at a stand still the next two days. That’s the biggest blizzard that I can remember. 77 people died during that storm according to the news.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 1-25-13

Obama Inaugural Address Includes Support for Protecting Social Security, Medicare
President Barack Obama kicked off his second term on Monday, and his ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol was filled with pomp and pageantry. The traditional celebrations came a day after he was sworn in on Sunday, on the constitutionally-required date, in a low-key ceremony at the White House. In his inaugural address, Obama insisted that programs such as Social Security and Medicare -- long targets of conservatives seeking to cut the size of government -- remain vital to the maintenance of America's safety net for seniors, the poor and the disabled. “We, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it,” Obama declared, adding that tough decisions on how to address the nation's chronic federal deficits and debt must avoid choosing between “caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.”

“There is a reason that the Alliance worked to re-elect President Obama,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “That speech would have been very different if Mitt Romney had been delivering it. He likely would have used Monday to talk about turning Medicare into a voucher program. ”


Debt Limit Vote in House Makes March 1 the Next Moment of Truth
On Wednesday, the House passed legislation to eliminate the nation’s statutory borrowing limit until May, avoiding an economic showdown with President Obama. Under the proposal, the Treasury Department would be permitted to ignore the $16.4 trillion cap on government borrowing in order to pay the nation’s bills through May 18. At that point, the debt limit would automatically reset at a higher level. The House measure passed 285 to 144, with 33 Republicans voting no. More than half of House Democrats voted against the legislation, arguing that a longer extension of the debt limit is necessary to bring certainty to the sluggish economy. However, Democrats delivered enough votes to push the measure across the finish line. For a full tally of the vote, go to http://tinyurl.com/abszl2h. A Senate vote is expected as soon as next week. The White House has said that President Obama would not stand in the way of the bill.

In an analysis released Wednesday, the Bipartisan Policy Center predicted that the date of potential default would now be postponed at least until the end of July. The House measure also requires senators to adopt their own budget blueprint by April 15 or have their paychecks withheld and placed in escrow until this session of Congress ends in 2015. However, congressional leaders are already looking toward the next budget crisis: deep automatic spending cuts that look increasingly likely to hit the Pentagon and other federal agencies on March 1.

Also on Wednesday, leaders in both parties predicted in The Washington Post that cuts, known as sequestration, will take effect at least briefly while policymakers try to restart talks over a far-reaching plan to lower the national debt. After the sequester comes the threat of a government shutdown on March 27. “Using the debt ceiling to force cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is right now off the table,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “However, Speaker Boehner wants to use March 1 as a deadline for taking the economy hostage unless cuts are made to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.” For more on this topic from The New York Times, go to http://tinyurl.com/alt3d5q. For an Alliance fact sheet on the budget showdown, go to http://tinyurl.com/a8cu68y.


Conference Call with Alliance Activists Sets the Stage for Next 6-8 Weeks of Action
Alliance leaders hosted a conference call about the budget showdown with nearly 1,000 activists on Thursday. Alliance members discussed plans to use January 30 as a Day of Action, partnering with the AFL-CIO and other progressive organizations to demand that seniors’ programs not be cut and that corporations pay their fair share. Also, Presidents’ Day week will be used by activists to deliver petitions and lobby Members of Congress with a similar message.

“Callers voiced their opinions on several poll questions concerning their use of social media during the budget showdown; lifting the cap on earnings subject to the Social Security payroll tax; and demanding that drug companies provide discounts for low-income Medicare beneficiaries, saving the federal government $130 billion,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

GOP Becoming Less Unified in Opposition to Health Law
There is a growing split among Republicans over whether to continue resisting the Affordable Care Act. A critical feature of the health care reform law is creating an online health insurance marketplace that will allow citizens to shop for coverage and find out if they qualify for government subsidies or Medicaid, the state-federal health program for the poor. According to Kaiser Health News, Mississippi, Utah, Idaho, and Nevada are four Republican states - out of 17 overall, plus the District of Columbia - that applied to the federal government in December to establish a state insurance marketplace, or exchange. States that don’t set up a state insurance marketplace will have one created by the federal government. Two months ago, Republican opposition was nearly uniform across the country. But cracks are appearing and they will widen, predicts Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota.

On January 14, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R), one of the health law’s most vocal opponents, backed the law’s optional Medicaid expansion in her state. Brewer became the fourth Republican governor and 23rd overall to embrace extending Medicaid to cover residents earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($32,000 for a family of four). As many as 17 million people would become eligible for Medicaid if all states participate. More at http://tinyurl.com/aqfhsxb.

Affordable Senior Health Insurance 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 February 28, 2013! 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.

For a printable version of this document, go to http://tinyurl.com/bczosb3.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Too much talk about Weapons

There has been way too much talk about weapons and not enough talk about strengthening Social Security and Medicare.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Help for Hurricane Sandy Victims

The House of Representatives just voted on a bill approving $51 billion in aid for hurricane Sandy victims. All of the "NO" votes (except one) were from Republicans. The vote was 241 yes, 180 no. Shameful. My question is how did my Representative, Jackie Walorski vote.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Republicans Say they are Willing to Shut Down the Government in March
White House officials are eyeing a return to elements of a “grand bargain” they tried to reach late last year with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in order to defuse a fresh threat to the U.S. economy in just two months, according to The Washington Post and sources familiar with the discussions. The Post article is at http://tinyurl.com/ahtfrb6.

President Obama and Boehner came close last month to a major deal aimed at stabilizing the federal debt. But the speaker abandoned the talks, saying that the White House offer was too heavy on taxes and too light on spending cuts. Instead, Democrats and Republicans reached a far more modest agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff. Republicans say they have a stronger hand in the new negotiations because of the federal government’s pressing need to increase its $16.4 trillion borrowing limit. The government hit the debt ceiling this week, and the Treasury Department warns it will be unable to pay its bills in about two months unless it can borrow more. Congressional Republicans say they will not vote to raise the debt ceiling unless there is a deal to make steep spending cuts. Republicans also say they are willing to shut down the federal government in March, when a resolution funding it expires. If Republicans do resist an increase in the debt ceiling, Obama Administration officials plan to attack them for risking an economic calamity in an effort to slice Medicare. One possible way to curb the debt is to adopt a less-generous measure of inflation in calculating Social Security payments, the “Chained CPI.”

According to the Social Security Actuary, moving to a chained CPI would mean an immediate benefit cut. “An average earner retiring in 2011 at age 65 would lose over $6,000 over 15 years if the chained CPI were adopted,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “The losses would be greater for those living longer.” The Alliance is planning a broad lobbying effort between now and the end of February. More on the chained CPI is at http://tinyurl.com/b49dhhc.

Long Term Care Program Ended by “Fiscal Cliff” Deal
The resolution to the “Fiscal Cliff” reached earlier this month in Washington repealed the CLASS Act, or the “Community Living Assistance Services and Supports” Act. A component of the 2010 health reform law that was championed by the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), the program aimed to help middle class families afford long-term care. However, the federal effort has faced great challenges since becoming law. The insurance industry strongly targeted it for repeal, and the Obama administration was forced to suspend implementation because of long-term funding problems. Despite the repeal, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) was able to insert into the fiscal agreement a provision to create a commission to recommend improvements in long-term services. “Long-term care causes great anxiety for millions of Americans families. We must help people afford the care they need,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

Social Security Checks: You are asked to Switch to Direct Deposit by March 1
Millions of Americans still receiving paper checks for Social Security and other federal benefits have less than two months to switch to electronic payments. In an effort to cut spending, federal officials began retiring paper checks in favor of direct deposits and prepaid “Direct Express” debit cards in May 2011. Since then, the Treasury Department has required all new recipients of payments from federal benefits programs -- including Social Security, Supplemental Security Income disability, Veterans Affairs and government pension plans -- to sign up for electronic payments. It set a March 1, 2013, deadline for all other recipients to do the same.

According to CNN, approximately 93% of payments are now being made electronically. However, about 5 million checks are still mailed each month -- representing an additional $4.6 million in monthly costs, since each mailed check costs 92 cents more than a direct deposit transfer, Treasury officials said on Tuesday. The agency said if it didn't push for the switch to electronic transfers, it would cost taxpayers another $1 billion over the next 10 years. Anyone who fails to make the change will still receive paper checks, but will be the target of more aggressive communication efforts, such as additional mailings, said Walt Henderson, a Treasury official. He warned that after March 1, Social Security beneficiaries receiving paper checks are not in compliance.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to Leave the Administration
Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis is resigning, opening up one more slot in President Obama’s second-term administration. A former member of Congress, Secretary Solis was the first Hispanic woman to head a Cabinet-level agency. “I would like to offer my gratitude to Secretary Solis. Because of her, we have workplace safety and government support of its workers in place, allowing us to achieve healthier, more economically stable retirements down the line,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

Texas and New Mexico Alliance News: A Convention and Medicaid Expansion!
The Texas Alliance held its annual convention in Austin on Saturday. Attendees voted on bylaws changes and discussed activist actions for early 2013. Tommy Christakis of UFCW and Leah Witherspoon of Working America were elected as new Vice-Presidents/Executive Board members.

Next door in New Mexico, on Tuesday, Governor Susana Martinez (R) gave a speech announcing the acceptance of Affordable Care Act funds for Medicaid expansion, after months of pressure from retirees and other health care justice advocates. For more on this, go to http://tinyurl.com/aufyjy7.

Florida Alliance Holds Fiscal Cliff Events in Palm Beach Gardens, Wellington
On Tuesday this week, Florida Alliance members participated in a round-table discussion on “The Fiscal Cliff: Myths, Truths and Options” in Wellington. Dr. Richard Hattwick, an economist, and Wendi Lipsich, District Director of Rep. Ted Deutch’s (D) office, spoke at the event.

Members of the Florida Alliance Executive Board met with Sen. Marco Rubio’s staff on Friday. The meeting was followed by a press event outside the Senator’s Palm Beach Gardens office. Sen. Rubio was one of only eight U.S. Senators to vote against the fiscal cliff deal earlier this month.

For a printable version of this document, go to http://tinyurl.com/bc5p3p2

Monday, January 07, 2013

The Hoax of Entitlement Reform

Posted: 01/06/2013 7:25 pm on the Huffington Post

It has become accepted economic wisdom, uttered with deadpan certainty by policy pundits and budget scolds on both sides of the aisle, that the only way to get control over America's looming deficits is to "reform entitlements."

But the accepted wisdom is wrong.

Start with the statistics Republicans trot out at the slightest provocation -- federal budget data showing a huge spike in direct payments to individuals since the start of 2009, shooting up by almost $600 billion, a 32 percent increase.

And Census data showing 49 percent of Americans living in homes where at least one person is collecting a federal benefit -- food stamps, unemployment insurance, worker's compensation, or subsidized housing -- up from 44 percent in 2008.

But these expenditures aren't driving the federal budget deficit in future years. They're temporary. The reason for the spike is Americans got clobbered in 2008 with the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. They and their families have needed whatever helping hands they could get.
If anything, America's safety nets have been too small and shot through with holes. That's why the number and percentage of Americans in poverty has increased dramatically, including 22 percent of our children.

What about Social Security and Medicare (along with Medicare's poor step-child, Medicaid)?
Social Security won't contribute to future budget deficits. By law, it can only spend money from the Social Security trust fund.

That fund has been in surplus for the better part of two decades, as boomers contributed to it during their working lives. As boomers begin to retire, those current surpluses are disappearing.
But this only means the trust fund will be collecting from the rest of the federal government the IOUs on the surpluses it lent to the rest of the government.

This still leaves a problem for the trust fund about two decades from now.

Yet the way to deal with this isn't to raise the eligibility age for receiving Social Security benefits, as many entitlement reformers are urging. That would put an unfair burden on most laboring people, whose bodies begin wearing out about the same age they did decades ago even though they live longer.

And it's not to reduce cost-of-living adjustments for inflation, as even the White House seemed ready to propose in recent months. Benefits are already meager for most recipients. The median income of Americans over 65 is less than $20,000 a year. Nearly 70 percent of them depend on Social Security for more than half of this. The average Social Security benefit is less than $15,000 a year.

Besides, Social Security's current inflation adjustment actually understates the true impact of inflation on elderly recipients -- who spend far more than anyone else on health care, the costs of which have been rising faster than overall inflation.

That leaves two possibilities that "entitlement reformers" rarely if ever suggest, but are the only fair alternatives: raising the ceiling on income subject to Social Security taxes (in 2013 that ceiling is $113,700), and means-testing benefits so wealthy retirees receive less. Both should be considered.
What's left to reform? Medicare and Medicaid costs are projected to soar. But here again, look closely and you'll see neither is really the problem.

The underlying problem is the soaring costs of health care -- as evidenced by soaring premiums, co-payments, and deductibles that all of us are bearing -- combined with the aging of the boomer generation.

The solution isn't to reduce Medicare benefits. It's for the nation to contain overall healthcare costs and get more for its healthcare dollars.

We're already spending nearly 18 percent of our entire economy on health care, compared to an average of 9.6 percent in all other rich countries.

Yet we're no healthier than their citizens are. In fact, our life expectancy at birth (78.2 years) is shorter than theirs (averaging 79.5 years), and our infant mortality (6.5 deaths per 1000 live births) is higher (theirs is 4.4).

Why? Doctors and hospitals in the U.S. have every incentive to spend on unnecessary tests, drugs, and procedures.

For example, almost 95 percent of cases of lower back pain are best relieved by physical therapy. But American doctors and hospitals routinely do expensive MRI's, and then refer patients to orthopedic surgeons who often do even more costly surgery. There's not much money in physical therapy.
Another example: American doctors typically hospitalize people whose diabetes, asthma, or heart conditions act up. Twenty percent of these people are hospitalized again within a month. In other rich nations nurses make home visits to ensure that people with such problems are taking their medications. Nurses don't make home visits to Americans with acute conditions because hospitals aren't paid for such visits.

An estimated 30 percent of all healthcare spending in the United States is pure waste, according to the Institute of Medicine.

We keep patient records on computers that can't share data, requiring that they be continuously rewritten on pieces of paper and then reentered on different computers, resulting in costly errors.
And our balkanized healthcare system spends huge sums collecting money from different pieces of itself: Doctors collect from hospitals and insurers, hospitals collect from insurers, insurers collect from companies or from policy holders.

A major occupational category at most hospitals is "billing clerk." A third of nursing hours are devoted to documenting what's happened so insurers have proof.

Cutting or limiting Medicare and Medicaid costs, as entitlement reformers want to do, won't reform any of this. It would just result in less care.

In fact, we'd do better to open Medicare to everyone. Medicare's administrative costs are in the range of 3 percent.

That's well below the 5 to 10 percent costs borne by large companies that self-insure. It's even further below the administrative costs of companies in the small-group market (amounting to 25 to 27 percent of premiums). And it's way, way lower than the administrative costs of individual insurance (40 percent). It's even far below the 11 percent costs of private plans under Medicare Advantage, the current private-insurance option under Medicare.

Healthcare costs would be further contained if Medicare and Medicaid could use their huge bargaining leverage over healthcare providers to shift away from a "fee-for-the-most-costly-service" system to a system focused on achieving healthy outcomes.

Medicare isn't the problem. It may be the solution.

"Entitlement reform" sounds like a noble endeavor. But it has little or nothing to do with reducing future budget deficits.

Taming future deficits requires three steps having nothing to do with entitlements: Limiting the growth of overall healthcare costs, cutting our bloated military, and ending corporate welfare (tax breaks and subsidies targeted to particular firms and industries).

Obsessing about "entitlement reform" only serves to distract us from these more important endeavors.

ROBERT B. REICH, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock" and "The Work of Nations." His latest is an e-book, "Beyond Outrage," now available in paperback. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

The Rat Race


A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village.  An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.

"Not very long," answered the Mexican. "But then, why didn't you stay out longer and catch more?" asked the American.

The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.
The American asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

"I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife.  In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs...I have a full life."

The American interrupted, "I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you!  You should start by fishing longer every day.  You can then sell the extra fish you catch.  With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat. With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant.  You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City!  From there you can direct your huge enterprise."

"How long would that take?" asked the Mexican. "Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years," replied the American. "And after that?" "Afterwards?  That's when it gets really interesting," answered the American, laughing.  "When your business gets really big, you can start selling stocks and make millions!"

"Millions?  Really?  And after that?" "After that you'll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta, and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 1-4-13

Fiscal Cliff Deal is Reached, Seniors Dodge Budget Cuts - For Now
The U.S. House of Representative voted 257-167 on Tuesday night to let income taxes on the wealthy rise sharply for the first time in two decades, fulfilling President Obama’s promise to raise taxes on the rich and avoiding the worst effects of the “fiscal cliff.” The agreement, brokered by Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), had passed in the Senate early Tuesday, 89 to 8, in a highly unusual New Year’s morning vote.

“While the deal ending this latest round of high-stakes fiscal drama made some progress toward tax fairness, retirees and workers need to remain vigilant against long-standing threats to seniors’ health care and economic security,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. He continued, “We remain deeply troubled by a recurring policy proposal, coldly named the ‘chained-CPI,’ which would base future Social Security Cost-of-Living-Adjustments off a lower, badly-flawed measure of inflation, one that significantly under-estimates seniors’ day-to-day financial needs.” To read Mr. Coyle’s full statement, go to www.bit.ly/S56iOj. For an article in The Boston Globe on other upcoming threats to seniors, go to http://tinyurl.com/az8m5c8.

Democrats in the House voted 172-16 in favor of the bill, while Republicans voted 151-85 against it. House Speaker John Boehner weathered a revolt against the legislation, which played out during two meetings in the Capitol basement in which his fellow GOP lawmakers complained vociferously about having to accept the measure without spending cuts. GOP leadership was split when the vote finally took place. Boehner (Ohio) and 2012 vice presidential nominee and Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.) voted yes, while House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) voted no.

Last Friday, Boehner had lashed out at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid just a few steps from the Oval Office. According to Politico, Reid had upset Boehner by accusing him publicly of running a “dictatorship” in the House and caring more about holding onto his gavel than striking a deal. Politico had termed the harsh exchange “just one episode in nearly two months of high-stakes negotiations laced with distrust, miscommunication, false starts and yelling matches as Washington struggled to ward off $500 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts.”

The 16 Democrats who voted “no” included both liberals and moderates. More liberal Reps. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), Peter DeFazio (Ore.), Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), Jim McDermott (Wash.), Brad Miller (N.C.), Jim Moran (Va.), Bobby Scott (Va.), and Pete Visclosky (Ind.) voted “no.” But they were joined by moderate-to-conservative Reps. John Barrow (Ga.), Jim Cooper (Tenn.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Collin Peterson (Minn.), Kurt Schrader (Ore.) and Adam Smith (Wash.). For a full tally of the fiscal cliff vote in the House, go to http://tinyurl.com/adfnwdp. For a tally of the vote in the Senate, go to http://tinyurl.com/b6kq5cj.


What’s in the Fiscal Cliff Deal
The fiscal cliff deal raises $620 billion in revenue, according to Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation, by restoring the 39.6 percent tax rate for high-income households, as in the 1990s. The top rate would return to 39.6 percent for singles with incomes above $400,000 and married couples with incomes above $450,000. It also extends Emergency Unemployment Insurance benefits for 2 million people. To see what else the deal entails, go to http://tinyurl.com/b88av87. “While we would have liked for taxes to have risen on those making more than $250,000, the deal does keep taxes from rising for the middle class,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

The rate of workers’ payroll taxes, which fund Social Security, has been 4.2% for the past two years. As of January 1, it's back to 6.2%, on the first $113,700 in wages.


Doc Fix is in Place – for 2013
The budget package that Congress passed Tuesday to avert widespread tax increases and spending cuts blocked a 26.5 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors, with hospitals and other health-care providers paying for a large proportion of it. According to National Journal, there is broad political agreement that the current payment formula, known as the sustainable growth rate (SGR), was a policy blunder. That formula has resulted in escalating pay cuts for doctors, so Congress has voted at nearly every juncture to override the SGR and pay the difference. But the big price tag associated with a permanent repeal of the formula has meant that those reversals have all been short-term. “We need to put a ‘doc fix’ in place permanently to avoid constant upheaval and to keep seniors confident that they will continue to be able to see their doctors,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.


New Congress Sworn In
The 113th Congress was sworn in on Thursday. There are 12 newly elected senators — eight Democrats, three Republicans and one independent, former Maine Gov. Angus King, who will caucus with the Democrats. There will be 20 women in the 100-member chamber, the highest number yet. Eighty-two freshmen join the House — 47 Democrats and 35 Republicans. Women will total 81 in the 435-member body — 62 Democrats and 19 Republicans.


John Boehner Re-Elected House Speaker after a Tough Week
Also on Thursday, Rep. Boehner was elected to a second term as House Speaker. Boehner received 220 votes, with a handful of GOP lawmakers voting for other candidates. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader and former speaker, took second place, receiving the support of 192 members of her caucus.

On Wednesday, Republicans from Hurricane Sandy-ravaged states, including New Jersey and New York, were furious with Boehner for not scheduling a vote to fund relief for those most affected by the October storm. Rep. Peter King, R-NY, said of his own party, “The conduct of the Republican leadership was disgraceful; it was indefensible; and it was immoral.”

For a printable version of this document, go to http://tinyurl.com/bgqauwm.


Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Retirees and workers need to remain vigilant

Dear Alliance Member,

Late last night Congress passed a last-minute deal to avoid the “fiscal cliff.”  Because of Alliance activists and others who made their voices heard at the grassroots level, there were no cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  Thanks for everything you did to make this possible.

While we can celebrate, our work is not done.  Over the next two months, we can expect more misguided attempts by some in Congress to balance our budget on the backs of the programs we depend on.   However, with the strong voice of seniors like you, we can protect retirement security for all Americans and make sure we are not part of the last generation to retire.  Thanks for all you do.

For our take about what’s in the deal, check out this statement from Executive Director Ed Coyle.

“While the deal ending this latest round of high-stakes fiscal drama made some progress toward tax fairness, retirees and workers need to remain vigilant against long-standing threats to seniors’ health care and economic security.

“Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid – landmark national efforts to help retirees pay their bills and stay healthy – continue to be unfairly targeted as a way of keeping the wealthiest Americans and big corporations from paying their fair share of taxes.

“Despite what was heard daily in Washington and in the media, Social Security has not added one penny to the deficit.  We remain deeply troubled by a recurring policy proposal, coldly named the ‘chained-CPI,’ which would base future Social Security Cost-of-Living-Adjustments off a lower, badly-flawed measure of inflation, one that significantly under-estimates seniors’ day-to-day financial needs.

“As long as too many in Washington want those with the least to sacrifice the most, we must continue to educate and mobilize retirees and Americans of all ages.  In the 2012 elections, in public opinion surveys, and in recent grassroots actions, it has been crystal clear that Americans are opposed to cuts in these vital lifelines for millions of seniors. When will Washington truly listen?

“We are pleased that the New Year’s legislation spared seniors from worrying that their physicians would no longer treat Medicare patients because of cuts in reimbursement rates.  No older American should have to worry that their health care is being held hostage to Washington gamesmanship.

”This week’s agreement is a brief pause in the long-running threats to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, programs that help millions of Americans every day.  But until there is a long-term and equitable resolution to these fiscal debates, retirees and workers everywhere will need to remain educated and mobilized."