After giving you a couple of posts filled with discouraging news about the future of Medicare and Social Security, today I intended there to be something more amusing about old age, something we might have a bit of fun with.
But that will have to wait because there is a frightening op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday by Gary Loveman who is chairman, president and CEO of Caesar's Entertainment.
In this case, he was writing in his other capacity as chairman of the Business Roundtable's health and retirement committee and his op-ed was the organization's public announcement of a new, full court press on Congress to adopt the following changes:
• Use chained CPI to calculate the Social Security COLA
• Partially (or completely) privatize Medicare
• Raise Social Security eligibility age to 70
• Raise Medicare eligibility age to 67
Loveman concludes in the op-ed:
”Although economic recovery has been stalled, renewed expansion is possible if conditions are set in a comprehensive budget agreement that includes entitlement reform and long-term changes to reduce deficits. In this way will we ensure the viability of the health and retirement safety net for future generations of Americans.”
Let me translate that for you: If we slash benefits workers have paid for all their lives, more money will flow to me and my fellow CEOs.
Loveman followed up the WSJ initiative by telling Politico in a phone interview:
”I am encouraged by how relatively easy these remedies really are. These don't affect current beneficiaries much, if at all...and they have a tremendously sanguine effect on the government's fiscal health.”
I wonder how he knows these are “easy” changes? Is there already an agreement with Congress? I presume so. As Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research noted this week:
"The bottom line is that President Obama and many leading Democrats are prepared to give seniors a larger hit to their income than they gave to the over $250,000 crowd. And the whole reason it is necessary is that the Wall Street types who wrecked the economy say so. Is everybody happy?"
And did you notice how Loveman, as with so many other one percenters, assumes current Social Security recipients will readily sell out their children and grandchildren to keep their own benefits. As tired as we – elders – are with fighting off these vultures, we are going to need to do it again.
For a thorough analysis of Loveman's op-ed, I urge you to read Richard Eskow's followup to it at Campaign for America's Future blog. Eskow never fails to have facts, figures and history we need to arm ourselves against the corporate behemoth lies, evasions and misrepresentations.
Loveman's “ideas” are nothing new – just Simpson/Bowles and Paul Ryan redux which the nation has repeatedly rejected. So now the CEOs of the Business Roundtable are trying again.
It does not need to be said how much clout they have. President Barack Obama has met with the Business Roundtable four times during his first term in office. (I can't find a count on their Congressional meetings.) An Associated Press story about the organization's announcement this week explains the relationship:
”The group has been an ally of Obama in the past, endorsing his proposal to raise taxes on high earners during negotiations over the so-called 'fiscal cliff' in December.
“Obama has embraced some parts of the business group's plan for Social Security and Medicare, but he opposes any plan to privatize Medicare, and has backed away from his earlier support for raising the eligibility age.”
Yes. Well. Ironically, it was Republican intransigence during the fiscal cliff talks in December that saved us from Obama's attempted giveaway of switching the COLA calculation to chained-CPI and I have no sense – as I do, for example, with Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders – that I can trust the president not to support the Business Roundtable's grotesque agenda.
Here is another tea leaf indication of how far along the path toward success the Business Roundtable proposal may already be in Washington:
Thursday morning, as I was writing this post, an email arrived from a publicist offering me an interview with a financial expert who would talk about how to plan for retirement with Loveman's cuts in place. I told her we had a hell of lot of fight in us before we get to that but I'm still wondering what she and/or others know that isn't public yet.
The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) is taking a strong stand against the CEOs of the Business Roundtable:
”The Business Roundtable’s so-called 'practical' approach also shows that 'shared sacrifice' really just means middle-class families should sacrifice so corporations and wealthy CEO’s can share the gains of a trillion dollar tax giveaway.
“If these captains of industry are truly concerned about the future of Social Security then why not why not lift the payroll cap and subject all income such as deferred compensation to FICA?
“Or how about limiting just two of those massive tax breaks for the wealthy & corporations, which saves much more than raising the retirement age?
• “Limit some itemized deductions for high earners ($114 billion)
• “Eliminate Corporate meals and entertainment write offs ($84 billion)
“These two common sense changes save $198 billion over just 5 years while raising the retirement age to 70 saves $120 billion over the next decade.”
Let us not forget that Social Security contributes nothing - zero, nada, zilch - to deficits and debts and the only reason cuts to elders' earned income are being forced is that Wall Street and corporate CEOs want it that way.
Start sharpening your computer quills, my friends. We have a lot of letter-writing work in our futures.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Ex What?