Uncluttering Seven Decades of Life
The Day Before Thanksgiving 2012

Not on the Backs of Elders

category_bug_politics.gif For the nearly 10 years I've been writing this blog and paying close attention to the ways of Washington as they relate to elders, someone there has been trying to privatize, reduce, cut or kill Social Security.

Mainstream media generally goes along with what they like to call “entitlement reform” behaving as though they actually know the meaning of the word entitlement. Even the president sometimes uses that word which in no way applies to Social Security and it puts me in such a snit.

The majority of reporters and pundits still believe Social Security is the cause of the deficit and I keep wondering how it is that they can be so uninformed – or is stupid the word I'm looking for?

Through all these years of attacks on elders and the misinformation, however, old people have had on their side Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders and it could be that his day – our day – has finally arrived.

First, listen to him last week on the floor of the Senate (I have edited it to the most pertinent part):

Sanders has been making similar speeches in Congress for many years but suddenly now, with the decisive win for Democrats in the recent election, other powerful people in Congress have been emboldened to stand with him. Listen:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:

"I've made it very clear. I've told anyone that will listen, including everyone in the White House, including the president, that I am not going to be part of having Social Security as part of these talks relating to this deficit.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Huffington Post):

"Our commitment as Democrats is that we believe Social Security and Medicare are pillars of economic and health security for America's seniors. They should not have cuts made to them in order to give tax cuts to the rich. Any adjustments we would make in them would be to make them stronger, as we did in the Affordable Care Act."

Democratic Representative of Illinois, Jan Schakowsky:

"Over my dead body will we cut benefits to Social Security and Medicare.”

Democratic Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa:

"If you wanna fix Social Security, there it is. Make those making millions of dollars a year pay the same thing and the same rate as those making 40 or 50 or 60 thousand dollars a year. This is not magic. It can be done."

At a Sanders-led “Don't Cut Social Security” rally last week, Harkin also explained why Republican efforts to change the method by which Social Security cost-of-living increases are calculated from the usual inflation index to chained CPI (which would affect current as well as future beneficiaries) must be fought back:

"Think about it this way. You're standing on the deck of a boat and you're in very deep water and they want you to swim, but they're going to put a log chain around your ankle. That's chained CPI."

Democratic Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota who is the outgoing chair of the Senate Budget Committee: (Washington Post)

“We’ve got to separate out Social Security — the savings derived from there should be purely for the purpose of extending solvency of Social Security itself. Social Security has not contributed to the deficit problem.”

Democratic Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota agrees with his compatriots, but believes that there are mighty forces in Congress intent on cutting Social Security in any debt-reduction package.

“[Avoiding that will]” take a big lift from all of us.”

We cannot be certain President Obama is not one of those forces. He repeatedly invokes the Simpson/Bowles commission as a basis for the agreement he seeks so the nation avoids the (so-called) fiscal cliff. But those commission recommendations include increasing the retirement age, increasing premiums for Social Security along with reducing benefits.

Last week, on Wednesday, the president again invoked “entitlements” in relation to the deficit saying that he wants to cut

"'...a big deal, a comprehensive deal' with Republicans to reduce the federal budget deficit that will tackle 'entitlements.'”

So Obama may need some strong persuading.

At his debate with Paul Ryan, Vice President Joe Biden stated unequivocably about Social Security, “We will not privatize it.” Obama has not made an equally strong statement and anyway, Biden did not preclude other kinds of cuts in his declaration.

So, as we did back in 2005, when President George W. Bush tried to privatize Social Security, we elders are going to need to mobilize to help Sanders and his growing crew of Congressional Democrats to insist on what is the right thing to with Social Security in the debt reduction negotiations.

Right now, Congress is getting ready to leave for the Thanksgiving holiday but when they return, I'll have tools and links and suggestion on how get ourselves together to support the Democratic coalition against cutting Social Security.

Meanwhile, what you can do today is sign Senator Sanders' new petition demanding no cuts to Social Security, a petition that will be delivered to both houses of Congress and the president.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ralph Lymburner: Waste Management


Why do I feel safer when Congress is on holiday?

Dear Ronni:

We've all heard by now that President Obama hosted the press, business leaders and Republican Party leaders in separate venues last week to discuss the looming "fiscal cliff" crisis set to explode at year's end. As seniors and loyal readers of Time Goes By, it is important that we be as informed as possible on what is at stake for our future welfare, and where it makes sense, take action on issues that may negatively effect us.
There is much concern among many elected Democrats, Senior advocates and just plain citizens that as part of debt reduction talks to avoid the "fiscal cliff", President Obama is actually considering adopting the “chained consumer price index,” (CCPI) as the prime measure of inflation upon which increases in Social Security payments would be tied(1). This is based on the evidence that President Obama made no effort on the campaign trail to talk about protecting Social Security (or Medicare for that matter), and now that he has been re-elected, has given no strong assurances that he will fight against benefit cuts to Social Security in upcoming deficit negotiations.
It has to be pointed out ad nauseum that Social Security does not and has not added one thin dime to our country's deficit. But because of efforts by the Republican Party in particular to stigmatize all so called "entitlement" programs as somehow un-American and socialistic (with the end goal of eliminating all such government programs by sacrificing them on the altar of Laissez Faire Capitalism), the Obama administration has been bullied and pressured into using the Social Security Trust Fund as a poker chip in the deficit reduction poker game now ongoing.
Many Senior organizations, most notably the AARP, have recently voiced their opposition to President Obama about bowing to Republican Party pressure to use the CCPI as the future measure for Social Security cost-of-living calculations. However, there is real concern that President Obama is not getting the message. It has not gone unnoticed that President Obama offered up the CCPI as part of the failed "Grand Bargain" talks last summer with House Speaker Boehner. At that time President Obama was in a much weaker negotiating position. However, because of his stunning election victory, he is now in a stronger position to resist any overtures to reduce Social Security benefits through CCPI implementation. But this may not happen unless he fully understands how devastating such a "minor" change will be to all Social Security recipients.
Adopting the CCPI should be vigorously resisted. Let President Obama and your Congressional delegation know how you feel about this. Let your family members, friends and neighbors know what is at stake. Only through our unrelenting pressure can we be assured that our benefits will remain intact.

Stupid is the right word. You could even qualify it by calling them purposely stupid.

The word ‘entitlement’ has become the bombshell. It has taken on a negative connotation. Even though most people will collect more from Social Security than they paid into it, it could still be fully funded with minor revisions. Medicare (and Medicaid) is the problem. And lumping Social Security and Medicare together is an even bigger problem because it damages the former without improving the latter.

“Don’t Cut Social Security” is good. Lumping it in with Medicare is not.

God help us! It's as if saying it enough times makes it right. And republicans have said it enough, and now so have reporters, that everyone thinks we must reduce/dismantle Social Security and Medicare to balance the budget. Entitlement is the WRONG word. Couldn't you go on The Rachel Madow Show and have her pick this up and explain it? Really!

The only thing beside lobbyists that the President and Congress listen to is theloud angry voice of the people. When the people unite and protest it does reach the ears of foggy bottom.

It does no good to rant and rave among ourselves. Everyone reading this excellent post by Ronni should start writing, calling and e-mailing their representatives now. Don't put it off or forget to do so. And do it often. Your future depends on it.

Well, it shouldn't surprise anyone that the mainstream media pretty much reports what it's told. It just hypes up the emotional content in order to boost ratings.

Anyway I guess that's off topic. I agree with you and Bernie. But it would help if they ended that 2% temporary reduction in the payroll tax; and maybe increased the income limit for the payroll tax as well -- or did away with it entirely. The payroll tax has got to be the most regressive tax in history.

Excellent and timely post. Darlene is right; we must all start writing, calling, emailing.....now.


I despise the way they use that word "entitlement" Darn it. We earned it

I plan to copy this Post to have as a flyer for selective distribution to any who indicate interest. Will start with my hair salon where misinformation often runs rampant.

My Senators and Representatives are all Dems. and can be counted on to support Soc. Sec. My new Rep.'s office gave a definite "No!" when asked if she believed Soc. Sec. was an entitlement.

Thanks for this concise compilation. We have lots more work and issues ahead to make our Pres. and Congresspersons aware of what we expect -- especially when we get to healthcare. But, one thing at a time.

It would seem like the right thing to do to replace the money Congress "borrowed" from Social Security to balance the budget in years past, before cutting any benefits.

Congress seems to have conveniently forgotten that.

I, too, resent the use of the term "entitlement" to describe the retirement security insurance I have earned--and am still contributing to at age 76 because I still work P/T. The well-to-do Republicans who want to "reform" the primary source of income most middle and working class retirees depend on don't seem to think there's anything amiss with the huge "entitlements" they accept as their due. That would include, among many other perks, the Bush tax cuts and the offshore havens where they stash their millions to avoid paying income taxes. Former presidential candidate Romney is a stellar example of "The Entitled".

I don't believe that "most people" will receive more than they paid in. In my family there have been some that lived to very old ages, but an equal number that were dead by 60 or 70 even though they paid into social security their entire working lives. I've tried to find the statistics for this and have been unsuccessful so far. I can't imagine that my family is unique in this. The word "entitlement" is used to vilify social security. If they ever managed to take away SS, they'll go after pensions that people paid into next. They will call them entitlements too. What they don't get is that they can't just toss us all into the street. Millionaires just don't seem to get that most people don't have a way to save enough money for a comfortable retirement. They just don't have it to save.

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