[EDITORIAL NOTE: Ha! This started out to be a short, little warning about what's ahead for Social Security and Medicare and it somehow turned into a rambling political discourse. Sorry about that. The whole thing just got away from me and I ran out of time to fix it or even to clean it up a bit.]
It cannot have escaped your notice that the midterm election resulted in a Republican majority in the Senate.
This gives the entire Congress of the United States to the party that for the past several decades has been trying their damnedest to kill Social Security and Medicare or, failing that, cripple the programs by privatizing them.
In the nearly two weeks since the Republican win, I've been keeping my eye out to see what the political experts and knowledgeable reporters who regularly cover these beats expect from the Republican majority after it is sworn in in January.
The man who will become the new Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, spent the entire campaign avoiding any mention of Social Security and Medicare. Here is what the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM), an organization that has been fighting for these two programs for more than 30 years, had to say about that:
”However, House Speaker John Boehner has no problem laying out the GOP plan. There are no real surprises here, it’s basically the GOP/Ryan Budget version 4 (or 5, we’ve lost count) which has only avoided full passage because of the formerly Democrat-controlled Senate.
“As usual, lowering corporate tax rates while cutting Social Security and Medicare are items #1 and #2 of the GOP 5 point plan. Lower taxes for businesses, Couponcare for seniors and raising the retirement age for Social Security are now back on the table with the Republican-led Congress.”
In a story published Wednesday, Jonathan Weisman, Congressional reporter for The New York Times concurs:
”Congressional Republicans intend to present a plan to overhaul Medicare,” Weisman wrote, “calling for voucherlike 'premium supports' to steer people 65 and over into buying commercial health insurance, and to transform Medicaid, which would be cut and turned into block grants to state governments.
“They also intend to set up a new commission to study options on Social Security, while relying on what one House Republican aide called 'the solid foundation' of the Ryan budget plan.”
This will, of course, be proposed by Republicans – as it always is – in the name of budget and deficit control. But, whatever they try to tell us about the dire state of the budget this time, it just ain't so as Weismen notes:
”The deficit has fallen from $1.4 trillion in 2009 — or nearly 10 percent of the economy then — to $483 billion, or 2.8 percent of the economy, in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. Measured against the economy, the deficit is now below the average over the last 40 years..."
Which won't stop the Republicans from trying to cut as much from social services programs as possible to avoid reductions to the Pentagon budget.
Meanwhile, there is a movement to expand Social Security by providing earnings credits toward future Social Security benefits to people out of the workforce while caring for a family member.
As Social Security Works reports, The Social Security Caregiver Credit Act, sponsored by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), would institute [such] a credit.
In a recent survey by Lake Research Partners, reports Social Security Works,
“'More than two thirds of every demographic, political, and geographic group supported this proposal. 71% of women and 63% of men favor it, Pollster Celinda Lake said...”
Take a look at demographic chart from Lake Research. No meaningful number of likely voters (LV) opposes this legislation:
That's impressive. It's rare for such a large number of Americans to agree on one thing.
For years, Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is one of the few elected politicians who has been fighting the forces that would demolish Social Security and Medicare along with Medicaid, food stamps and every other social program you can name.
Now he has taken a first step toward running for president in 2016, as Robert Costa reported in the Washington Post a couple of days ago:
”Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has spent months fishing for a strategist to guide his potential 2016 presidential campaign. On Monday, he hooked a big one: Tad Devine, one of the Democratic Party’s leading consultants and a former high-level campaign aide to Al Gore, John Kerry, and Michael Dukakis.
“'If he runs, I’m going to help him,' Devine said in an interview. 'He is not only a longtime client but a friend. I believe he could deliver an enormously powerful message that the country is waiting to hear right now and do it in a way that succeeds.'”
With unlimited campaign wealth available to any candidate who will to cave to corporate interests (thanks to Citizens United), the country desperately needs a politician of such integrity as Senator Sanders.
It's easy to sit back and say he doesn't have a chance so why bother and, obviously, that attitude from too many voters becomes self-fulfilling prophecy. However, at bare minimum, a presidential run by Sanders guarantees that a great deal more than corporate platitudes must be attended through the campaign.
Hardly anyone stands up for elder interests in Congress. We need Senator Sanders to fight for Social Security and Medicare over the the Republican onslaught over the next two years and we might need him for president too.
This is a recent interview with Sanders from Bill Moyers. Here's my question: Why don't all politicians speak about the real lives of real people as Senator Sanders does?
(By the way, regarding the Richmond, California municipal election Chevron tried to buy that is discussed at the top of this video: the people - hurray! - defeated Chevron on 4 November.)
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Wendl Kornfeld: My Sweet Bird of Youth