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Senator Elizabeth Warren's Important Values Speech

On Monday, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts gave an important speech on the floor of U.S. Senate about our retirement crisis. It's only about five-and-a-half minutes and if you haven't watched it, please do:

As you know, to end the 16-day government shutdown a few weeks ago, Congress extended current spending levels through 15 January 2014 and the debt cushion through 7 February. The country must have a new budget before that first date or face the shutdown predicament again in mid-January.

It continues to be widely reported that Republicans, some Democrats and President Barack Obama, in negotiating a new budget, are willing to cutting Social Security benefits by adopting chained CPI to calculate cost-of-living increases.

Fortunately, Senator Warren is not alone in working to fend off chained CPI. There is a growing push in Congress for the reverse - to expand Social Security via legislation and raising the salary cap which is currently at $113,700. The names of the most vocal other senators who support and encourage these moves are:

Mark Begich (D-Alaska)
Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)
Tom Harkin (D-Iowa)
Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont)

Earlier this week, a petition signed by more than 700,000 Americans was delivered to the office of Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) who is co-chair with Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington) of the Budget Conference Committee that is tasked with creating a 2014 budget before that January deadline.

“No grand bargain in exchange for cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits,” was the point of the petition organized by Senator Sanders who is also a member of that same Budget Conference Committee. But as Reuters recently reported, Sanders

”...complained about the secret negotiations and vowed to stop efforts to cut the Social Security pension program and Medicare and Medicaid healthcare benefits...

"'I'm not a great fan of background negotiations,' Sanders told Reuters Insider Television. 'I will do my best to make sure that we don't cut these very important programs, which are life and death to millions of Americans.'"

Given the long-held intention of Republicans to cut Social Security any way they can manage, Sanders' pessimism is understandable, but Sanders' commitment is genuine and deep. In addition, Senator Warren's speech helps keep the issue in front of the public and Congress.

One of the smartest, most reliable progressive thinkers around, Richard RJ Eskow, a senior fellow at Campaign for America's Future, made note that the importance of Warren's speech is that she addresses something hardly anyone in Washington does anymore - values.

Eskow is worth quoting in that regard at some length:

”Sen. Warren's speech was important for a number of reasons. One that wasn't the most important, at least for the moment, was the speculation about a Presidential run.

“The next Presidential election year ends with a '6.' Last we looked, the current year ends with a '3.'

“Before a party picks a candidate it should decide what it stands for. It should tell voters what it thinks is worth fighting for. That's been an open question for the Democratic Party for two decades now. Leaders like Elizabeth Warren are articulating beliefs and goals that Democrats should be proud to embrace.

“For too long, Democratic leaders have left the beleaguered middle-class without a champion. Leaders like Elizabeth Warren are showing them what a champion looks like - and the battles a champion chooses to fight.

“Elizabeth Warren is speaking for those generations whose prospects are being lost to lost educational opportunity, stagnant wages - and, yes, a very real retirement crisis.

“Speeches like these help point the way to a renewed set of American values. If that keeps happening, the math - electoral, as well as economic - is bound to follow.”

We – you and I - need to support and encourage senators and representatives who hold such values. This video from the AFL-CIO explains how that works:

At The Elder Storytelling Place today6, Janet Thompson: Life Lessons Learned


Somewhat to my surprise, I really liked the AFL-CIO video. The sentiment is true: we are "stronger together."

And Eskow rings true as well: our system has evolved a values deficit; it is time to insist that generosity and inclusion must trump fear and resentment in public policy.

Some of us have lived long enough to know better.

We do need a champion--- one who will lead us away from greed and "I'm getting mine, you get yours if you can".

Unions have their place and did keep middle America in the game but they too got greedy and self-serving.

We need to bring back people-power but the powers that be may be too strong this time around.

I thought Obama was going to make the charge. What caused him to pull back? Did we let him down in some way or was he put in his place by the real powers?

Has anyone been watching the series "Scandal"

Thanks so very much for posting "What gives you meaning?" from AFL-CIO. For me, the best spirit for this time of year is reflecting on what we do and can share.

I tend to think that they'll not be able to get chained CPI through the senate, this time. It's if and/or when the democrats lose the Senate when we'd be vulnerable. Maybe by that time, economic conditions might improve such that there may be less pressure on the budget.

Why are there only 3 (now 4) comments to this post, yet many, many comments on posts about hair?

Elizabeth Warren is a wonder! In this day and age we need more advocates in the legislature willing to voice their concerns about the values of this country and I applaud her work and that of Bernie Sanders to help give a voice to those of us who have retired or are about to.

I am amazed that more of you have no comments to make...

Few comments -- maybe because people feel powerless and cynical about politics?

Perhaps you're right, Yvonne. It's not an election year either.

I truly value Elizabeth Warren for HER values and clear thinking as yet seemingly untainted by interest groups. Part of me doesn't want to watch as those with political agendas try to discredit her.

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