Monday, 10 September 2012
Democratic Convention: Social Security and Medicare
Did you watch the Democratic Convention last week? I did. There were some damned good speakers leading up to the main event but most viewers didn't get to see them, even on MSNBC and CNN which favored uninformed pundit chatter over letting us see the speeches. You had to be watching CSPAN for full coverage.
Pretty much everyone was terrific - Duval Patrick, Rahm Emanuel, Tammy Duckworth, Sandra Fluke, Julian Castro among them.
Representative John Lewis of Georgia, one of the original 1960s Freedom Riders and an unimpeachable icon of the civil rights movement, is the only one who spoke up against voter ID laws. He correctly compared them to the poll taxes and literacy laws that were outlawed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 thanks to his courage and other people like him.
It was an important and beautiful and touching speech lost to almost all TV viewers but you can watch it here, right now. And you should. You should hear this great, good man tell us that our “vote is precious. It is almost sacred.”
Did you happen to see former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm? Wow! She wiped the floor with Mitt Romney on the auto industry issue - a speech for which the phrase "barn burner" was invented. She is fantastic. Take a look, it's only six minutes.
MEDICARE AND SOCIAL SECURITY
There were other terrific speakers including, of course, former President Bill Clinton on Wednesday evening. But what I was waiting eagerly to see and hear were the candidates for the executive branch – Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama.
What I most wanted to hear them talk about were Medicare and Social Security that the Republicans want to kill. Romney and Paul Ryan have made no bones about it – right out there in the open they've said they would give us coupons for Medicare and privatize Social Security.
Here are the short portions on those two topics from Joe Biden's speech and Barack Obama's:
Biden's was a good set-up for the president but what is not in that particular clip is the president's approving reference to the onerous Simpson-Bowles (cat food) commission. He did that later during a recitation of his goals for a second term:
“Now, I'm still eager," he said, "to reach an agreement based on the principles of my bipartisan debt commission."
With that in mind, let's repeat here in print where we can see exactly what the president said in the clip above about the two programs that affect mostly elders:
”...I will never turn Medicare into a voucher. No American should ever have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies. They should retire with the care and dignity they have earned.
“Yes, we will reform and strengthen Medicare for the long haul, but we’ll do it by reducing the cost of health care – not by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more.
“And we will keep the promise of Social Security by taking the responsible steps to strengthen it – not by turning it over to Wall Street.”
Two important statements to keep in mind are no Medicare voucher and no Social Security privatization. The whole thing sounds encouraging but digby over at Hullabaloo notes that “there is a lot of wriggle room
”...in there and quite a few straw men, but if you read it literally, he specifically promised not to slash those programs in exchange for tax cuts. What he didn't do was promise not to cut those programs in exchange for tax hikes - which is what the Democrats are seeking.”
Ryan Grim at Huffington Post lays out the background and reasons to be suspicious of Obama's and Biden's apparent reassurances about Medicare and Social Security:
”The White House, contrary to media carping, did, in fact [in the past], desperately pursue a 'grand bargain' that would dramatically trim the deficit, the sort of deal Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles were pursuing,” writes Grim.
“In so doing, the Obama administration was willing to raise the Medicare retirement age and agree to a host of other cuts to social programs that would have caused real pain, in exchange for a disproportionately small amount of tax hikes.”
And, when you pay close attention to the statements made in Charlotte, there is no reason to believe anything is different. At the end of his Huffpost story, Grim quoted Adam Green, head of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee:
”Mitt Romney must not become president," said Green. "But it's unacceptable for a Democratic president to pull the wool over supporters' eyes by talking blandly about a 'bipartisan commission' that actually proposed extreme cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits - and lowering corporate tax rates.”
Exactly. It is unthinkable, in terms of Social Security and Medicare, to elect Romney/Ryan. But we – elders and anyone younger we can recruit – must push back with all our might against the Obama/Biden propensity to gut these two programs.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Lunch in Paris, Dinner in Rome