Senate Republicans did not help their relationship with seniors and working Americans this week when they voted to keep $4 billion per year in subsidies for oil companies while supporting a budget plan that would end Medicare as we know it. Even with polls showing a majority of Americans wanting to keep Medicare intact, Senate Republicans voted to keep the oil subsidies after they had previously embraced an agenda to turn Medicare into a voucher system. The nation’s five largest oil companies made nearly $1 trillion in profits in the past decade, and profits are soaring even more with gas prices hovering today around $4 a gallon.
"Raising the retirement age would inflict further hardship among a group of workers who are likely to face health and economic problems in their 60s." –Doug Hart, President, Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans
"Of all the lies and confusion that still surround the Affordable Care Act, perhaps the greatest is that it is bad for seniors." - Dave Meinell, President, Missouri Alliance for Retired Americans
"My father died when I was three. Because of Social Security (survivors) benefits, my Mom, my younger sister and I survived." – Diane Fleming, DC Alliance Member
"We fear that Congress will balance the budget on the backs of the 98 percent, which is working Montanans and retired Montanans. We simply cannot afford these devastating cuts to vital services such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid," –John Forkan, President, Montana Alliance for Retired Americans
"Along with national parks and Social Security, Medicare is one of the best ideas we Americans have ever devised." -Tim Cunningham, New Mexico Alliance Member
"Seniors have earned and deserve their Social Security checks, and they shouldn't have to go to Congress every 10 years and beg for the program to be renewed." –James Parent, Alliance for Retired Americans Regional Board Member
"Today's retirees paid Medicare and Social Security taxes in every paycheck we ever earned. Now that we are retired, these programs help us to be able to stay healthy and pay our bills. They are the promise we make to people who worked hard all their lives, and we need to keep that promise for today’s workers." –Tony Fransetta, President, Florida Alliance for Retired Americans
"Today's seniors want to lower the budget deficit. We do not want a large debt to be the legacy we leave to future generations, but we should not punish people who have paid Social Security taxes all their lives." –Jim Moore, President, North Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans
"Social Security should remain what it has been for 77 years – a solid, reliable way that generations of workers have been able to retire with dignity, economic security, and peace of mind." –Barbara J. Easterling, President, Alliance for Retired Americans
"The fight for Social Security and Medicare is part of a larger fight for justice and fairness"—Barbara J. Easterling, President, Alliance for Retired Americans
"The health insurance reform helps not just seniors, but also middle-class families and young Americans, who are just starting to see the benefits. Don’t let Republicans take all that away." –Don Rowen, President Emeritus, Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans
"Honoring the promise of Social Security and Medicare should not be a partisan issue. Honoring the contributions that we make throughout our working years so that we may feed and clothe ourselves, keep a roof over our heads and those of our family, there is no reason for that to be a hotly contested partisan issue." –Edward Coyle, Executive Director, Alliance for Retired Americans
"We need to make sure that people who need Social Security to make ends meet will have it, and not fall victim to ill-informed and unnecessary cuts to these vital programs."
–Barbara J. Easterling, President, Alliance for Retired Americans
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the GOP has been on defense with older voters since Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) budget plan passed the House on April 15 with the support of all but four Republicans. “Since then,” the article reads, “Republicans have faced scathing criticism in public settings from seniors on both sides of the aisle, who say they have deep concerns about turning Medicare into a program where the government subsidizes future retirees through vouchers and private insurance.”
Honoring the contributions of older Americans across the nation, President Obama proclaimed the Older Americans Month theme this year is “Connecting the Community.” The President acknowledges how social media and new technology allow seniors to remain actively engaged in their communities and connected to their far-away friends and families well into their later years. The proclamation also relates to seniors’ health care.
This week, the Alliance, in coordination with the Strengthen Social Security Campaign and other groups, held events in more than 50 cities to counter Rep. Paul Ryan’s Republican budget, which passed in the House two weeks ago. The budget included painful changes that would deeply affect seniors, such as privatization of Medicare - turning care over to insurance companies; reducing Medicaid benefits by $1.4 trillion; and raising the retirement age, forcing people to work much too late into their lives.
The Alliance is teaming with “Strengthen Social Security” and other groups with rallies, advertisements, and grassroots lobbying campaigns to defend Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security from the proposed cuts. Retirees across the country will be showing the effects of what diminishing retirement security legislation means to “real people” by dressing up in work clothes and demonstrating what it means to “Work ’Til We Die.”
On Wednesday, President Obama gave a speech outlining his plan for reducing the national deficit by $4 trillion before 2023. The President’s framework rejects plans that would “end Medicare as we know it” or transform Medicaid into a dramatically underfunded block grant.
On Tuesday, House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) released a proposal to cut more than $4 trillion in federal spending over the next decade through drastic changes to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Ryan’s plan privatizes Medicare, turning it over to health insurance companies. Seniors who currently rely on the federal government for Medicare benefits would be given coupons for a fixed dollar amount, and then forced to fend for themselves in the private health insurance market.
Discussing the future of Social Security, U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) told an NPR radio interviewer earlier this week, “We're going to have to come to grips with the fact that these programs cannot exist if we want America to be what we want America to be.”
Responding to Cantor’s comments on a telephone press conference call, Alliance Executive Director Edward F. Coyle said, “Eric Cantor and others are saying that Social Security is to blame for our budget deficit. That’s pure fiction, and a sleight of hand that makes no mention of tax cuts for the wealthy or big corporations like GE that pay no taxes. It’s time to stop the lies. It’s time to start telling current and future retirees the truth. Thank you, Eric Cantor. Thank you for making it crystal clear just what the Republican Party thinks of Social Security and the millions of Americans who count on it each month to make ends meet.”
Wednesday, March 23 was the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s signing of the Affordable Care Act – the nation’s historic health care reform law - and Alliance activists held events around the country this week to mark the occasion. Members also wrote their elected officials in support of the many new benefits that help retirees better afford to see a doctor and fill a prescription, sending over 10,600 messages this week to Congress and governors opposing any efforts to block or weaken key provisions of the law.
Governor Scott Walker (R) has signed into law the highly controversial bill to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public workers in Wisconsin. The signing comes after weeks of protests at the Wisconsin state capitol. Officials from Dane County have filed for an emergency injunction to prevent the law from taking effect, and Democrats have vowed to fight the law on the grounds that the vote took place unlawfully and violated the state’s constitution.