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:
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