Saturday, December 31, 2016

Solidarity Now More Than Ever

Billy’s Banter
Solidarity Now More Than Ever

I want to start by thanking all those who got involved in this year’s election. You have proven that we still can contribute and are willing to remain involved and be a valuable source of information and activism.

We must now unite and become even more vigilant in making sure that those in office not destroy the benefits we have worked so hard for over the years. I tend to believe what people say, until their actions cause me to believe otherwise and I fear some people will do just what they say.

Speaker Ryan’s plan to eliminate Medicare’s guaranteed health benefits in favor of a system of vouchers is outlined in his “A Better Way,” a document that promises cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Seniors would have to use government vouchers or coupons and buy insurance on the private market.” I do not believe this is in our best interest nor do I believe that the person chosen to lead the discussion on Social Security is going to support status quo or improvements, if I can believe what he has said in the past about this issue. 

The retired lobbyist President-elect Trump has named to lead his Social Security transition team is Michael Korbey, he has tried to eliminate or cut Social Security for decades. Back in 1996 he said of Social Security: “It's a failed system, broken and bankrupt” and that although cuts would hurt seniors, “the government needed to focus on other constituents.” 

During George W. Bush’s administration, Korbey was a senior advisor to the Social Security Administration and helped spearhead Bush’s effort to privatize Social Security. 

I hope I am losing sleep over nothing but I believe we will be better off if we get prepared for a fight and do not have it, than be un-prepared and play catch up on these very important issues. If we choose not to be involved, who will pick up the fight for us? We cannot stand divided we must unite on these important issues if we hope to retain our dignity in retirement. We need to maintain and improve existing benefits. Please let your Representatives know that you do not want vouchers or reduced SS for yourself or future retirees. Let us start now.

Bill Pienta, SOAR President

Friday, December 30, 2016

From the Director’s Desk -  Reflections

The election is now over and the people have spoken. For those of us who advocate on behalf of retirees and the working class, we know the weeks, months and years ahead will not be easy; but we will get through them together and we will come out stronger together, just as we have done in past.

Today, we rededicate ourselves to our role as activists and recommit ourselves to mobilizing our members and like-minded fellow Americans to protect and defend what was won in the halls of congress and in our collective bargaining agreements.   

We knew this was an election about change and a revolt against the political elite. It was a revolt against what those in power in both parties have done or accepted; global trade and tax deals for corporations; Wall Street bailouts; big-money politics and decades of promises not kept. After neglecting the working class for decades, that class, working folks, abandoned the Democratic Party that once represented them, said enough is enough and voted for what they thought was real change.

Time will tell if this election will truly make a difference. 

However, in the meantime, I am scared out of my wits of the agenda of the far right now in power in the House, Senate and the White House. What will happen to Social Security and Medicare? We all know these two critical programs that mean so much to retirees have been in their crosshairs for years. 

There is already talk of turning Medicare, one of our government’s most successful programs into a voucher program. There is talk once again about privatizing Social Security, which in its present form has kept so many retirees from living in poverty. Changes to these two very successful programs could very well destroy the quality of life of older Americans and place retirement for the next generation out of reach.  

We must be steadfast in our diligence and pay close attention to what is going on in Washington. We must be prepared to fight to protect what is ours! Social Security and Medicare are earned benefits not entitlements, as the Washington elite would like you to believe. 

The battle continues…..

Jim Centner, SOAR Director

The plain old fashioned lie

When you hear a congressperson say that he/she will never vote to cut Social Security benefits for our "seniors," what that really means is that this particular politician would indeed be willing to cut Social Security benefits for those who will some day be "seniors."

In other words, it's just a plain old fashioned lie. Don't be fooled.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

What is an idealist?

That's a man who notices that a rose smells better than a cabbage, so he thinks the rose will make better soup.

-From Spencerville by Nelson DeMille

Monday, December 12, 2016

51st Wedding Anniversary

 It was 51 years ago today that I married Elaine Adams. We got hitched at the City Methodist Church in Gary, Indiana on December 11th, 1965 with a dinner afterwards at the Hotel Gary.

When I think of how long I’ve known Elaine, I really do have to think about it. Let’s see…I met her in 7th grade. We were in the same home-room together. Home-rooms were the first period of the class day and were made up of students according to alphabetical last names.
I remember so well how pretty I thought she was. Although I had my eye on her, she wouldn’t give me the time of day. As a matter of fact, she teased me. She sat a few seats in front of me and I do remember our eyes meeting once and she just batted them at me. I couldn’t let anyone know I was interested in her because I was on the football team, and we weren’t really supposed to be very interested in girls. Most of the gals dated Freshman boys anyway.

It wasn’t until we were Juniors that we began dating. It was in August at the beginning of football season. After practice one day, she and a friend of mine who lived across the street from me and his girlfriend stopped in front of the house and honked their horn. I went out to see who it was and we ended up going to Lo-Jacks drive-in for a rum coke which were very popular in those days. 

The very next evening, they stopped by again honking their horn. We did the rum coke thing again and then parked in his drive way. I remember Elaine planted a kiss on me so hard it hurt my lip. Well, a few more similar evenings put me madly in love. I recall soon after telling her that I was going to marry her some day. We dated off and on our senior year, and after graduation in 1961, I went into the Navy and Elaine became a hair dresser. I was stationed in Pearl Harbor and came home two times for a month at a time.

I got out of the Navy in August 1965 and we set the wedding date for December 11. So, I think we’ve known each other since about 1956 which would make it about 60 years. Today will be very special for us both.

Elaine and I wish all of you a Happy Anniversary, whenever it may be, and have a joyful and safe Christmas and New Year's.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Boycott Nabisco Oreos made in Mexico

Boycott Nabisco Oreo Cookies

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Earned Social Security Benefits

President Obama Proposes Expanding Earned Social Security Benefits 

Congress Should Act to Help Seniors 

Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, released the following statement regarding President Obama’s proposal today to expand Social Security:

“The Alliance for Retired Americans welcomes President Obama's statement in favor of expanding earned Social Security benefits.

“At a high school in Elkhart, Indiana today the President said ‘'s time we finally made Social Security more generous and increased its benefits so today's retirees and future generations get the dignified retirement that they have earned.’

“The Alliance advocated the expansion of Social Security benefits for years and we are pleased that the President agrees with us. Forty percent of Americans over the age of 50 say that Social Security will be their primary source of retirement income, and the current level of benefits is not keeping pace. It’s time for Congress to pass one of the many bills that has already been introduced to make a more secure retirement for current and future retirees.”

Alliance for Retired Americans

Another woman of Steel

United State Of Women

Report From The Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM)

Can you imagine the United States without a thriving steel industry? For decades, American steel has played a vital role in the health of our nation’s economy and national security.

But American steel companies have hit hard times in the past decade because of the unfair “dumping” of Chinese steel into the U.S. market. China has an enormous overcapacity of steel products that are now being used to infiltrate countries around the world. China’s domestic use of its steel has dropped precipitously but the government-funded steel companies continue to produce massive amounts of steel to - among many reasons - keep its workforce in place. Chinese steel is sold in America at below market price making it nearly impossible for U.S. steelmakers to compete.

And United Steelworkers are suffering from what is passed off as “free trade.” In 2015, approximately 13,500 American steelworkers were laid off and many major steel mills were idled or permanently ceased operations. American steel companies have been fighting back with a constant series of trade cases filed with the U.S. Department of Commerce.

In today’s worsening situation, America’s steelmakers are attacking with gusto and decision makers in Washington, D.C. are taking notice. A large number of members of congress have joined the fight, drafting legislation to protect America’s steel industry, appealing to President Obama and raising awareness of the importance of American-made steel.

On May 17, 2016, the U.S. Department of Commerce recommended tariffs as high as 522 percent on Chinese cold-rolled steel that is used in automobiles and appliances. China had promised to reduce its steel production but you can add this to the list of broken Chinese promises. China exported a record 112 million tons of steel in 2015. U.S. Steel, ArcelorMittal and many other domestic steelmakers who filed this trade case in 2015, have several other cases being investigated by the International Trade Commission, including complaints on hot rolled steel and corrosion-resistant steel.

In 2004, China controlled 28.3 percent of the global steel market. Today, China supplies at least 50 percent of the world with its cheap, subsidized products.

U.S. Steel. with support from USW International President Leo W. Gerard, has asked the federal government to ban all Chinese steel products from entering the U.S.

At this critical stage, America needs to take the most drastic measures it can to preserve the U.S. Steel industry and the well-paying jobs of its workers.

Go to and click on “An Unprecedented Threat” to take action and let your voice be heard. You can also contact your members of congress at their local offices or call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for your representative by name and you will be connected to their office.

Jeff Bonior, AAM staff writer, Alliance for American Manufacturing

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Dodgin’ Donald’s Hiding Something in Those Unreleased Tax Returns

Dodgin’ Donald’s Hiding Something in Those Unreleased Tax Returns: Donald Trump scorns traditional presidential candidate standards. The Donald doesn’t do what’s expected. And he certainly doesn’t do what he tells other candidates they must do. If Donald doesn’t feel like debating, he stiffs his...

The Lesser Of Two Evils

The election season is upon us. Therefore, a look at the two leading presidential candidates is in order. On one side, we have a candidate that refuses to release the transcripts of speeches given to bankers and has, in the past, supported bad trade agreements. The other leading candidate has said American worker’s wages are too high and condemns companies that move jobs out of the country; while choosing to have his company make suits and ties that could be made in America, made in China and third world countries.

I believe we, as a country, are getting what we asked for. With continued low voter turnout and allowing unlimited financial contributions, we have put ourselves in a spot where, after years of us saying by voter apathy, that we do not care who gets elected. We have left that decision up to a select group of wealthy individuals.

Do not believe the rhetoric about self-financed campaigns or millions of small contributions. In order to win the presidential election, both sides will spend a BILLION DOLLARS each! One candidate has so far LOANED his campaign most of its money. He will be expecting those loans paid back. The other has had a fundraiser that required a $350K contribution per couple.  Both will need money and those who make big contributions will be expecting a return on their investment.

Until term limits, public financed elections and increased voter participation become a reality, we need to look at the party platform of the two parties and determine which platform has our best interests at heart. Do we think the economy works best from top down or bottom up? Are we better off acting as individuals or as a group?  Should we help out each other when help is needed or let everyone fend for themselves?

Not real tough questions and pretty easy answers. So vote for the lesser of two evils on Election Day. 

Bill Pienta, SOAR President

Monday, May 30, 2016

Primary Season

The presidential primary season is winding down for both parties. Once the anointed candidates leave their perspective conventions, the battle for the White House begins.

With the advent of the 24-hour news cycle and social media, we will be barraged with so much information and misinformation, that it will make our heads spin. Somehow we will have to sift through all of this rhetoric and make the decision on who we believe is the best candidate to move our nation forward. Which candidate will look out for our best interests and enhance the quality of life for average Americans.

Every election we hear that “this election is the most important election of our lifetime.” Unfortunately, I believe this statement is true each and every time we vote for the President of the United States. We live in difficult times. Unrest in the Middle East, ISIS, along with an unstable economy in most of the world, makes for a very volatile situation. Stagnant wages and unfettered trade has decimated the manufacturing sector of our country and has created a downward spiral for the working class. 

The future of Social Security and Medicare, two successful programs that have kept millions of retirees from poverty, are in danger of being cut or privatized. All of these issues and more must be addressed by the next occupant of the Oval Office.

That is why who we elect this November is so critically important. Listen to the debates carefully and make an informed decision. We are faced with an awesome responsibility, one that many across the globe never experienced. Don’t take your role in this election lightly.

Every vote counts! The future of our children and grandchildren depends on us doing the right thing. Let’s not screw it up!

Jim Centner, SOAR Director

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Hillary Clinton Supports Letting People Over 50 Buy into Medicare

At a recent campaign stop in Virginia, Hillary Clinton announced a proposal that would let people over the age of 50 buy into Medicare.

Secretary Clinton’s proposal would benefit older adults and employers, who pay the majority of health insurance costs for workers in the 50 age category. Given that many areas of the United States are severely limited in the number of health insurance plans available to them, this would provide another option. An added benefit: since Medicare is more efficient at keeping healthcare costs down, including adults under 65, would help slow the growth of overall healthcare expenditures.

The new proposal will build on what the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has achieved so far, making up for the lack of a public option from the ACA.

“While the Affordable Care Act has helped many Americans obtain health insurance coverage for the first time, rising costs are still a major concern,” said Robert Roach, Jr., President of the Alliance. “We need a president with realistic and specific solutions.”

Source: Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert, May 20, 2016 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Medicare Should Include Dental Benefits

Oral Health America: Medicare Should Include Dental Benefits

On Thursday, Oral Health America (OHA) released a state-by-state report of the oral health of the country's 65 and older population and the success or failure of states to address those needs. The 2016 State of Decay is the 3rd in a series of reports from OHA surveying the state of oral health for older Americans. The report shows that 59 percent of lower income older adults have no dental insurance and that older adults with dental insurance are 2.5 times more likely to visit the dentist on a regular basis. Sadly, 58 percent of lower income older adults have no plan in place to pay for dental care once retired.

The Alliance and OHA both advocate for financially viable Medicare Dental Benefits.

“Fifty-two percent of all older adults are either unsure or don’t know Medicare does not include dental coverage,” said Joseph Peters, Jr., Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “We need to increase awareness so that we can expand Medicare to address this.”

Source: Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert, May 20 2016 issue

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Workers Make, Executives Take

Workers Make, Executives Take: Chief executive officers at S&P 500 companies made on average a whopping 335 times more than ordinary rank-and-file workers in 2015, according to a new AFL-CIO report. The AFL-CIO, the largest federation of labor unions in the United States, found that while working people continued to see stagnating wages...