Friday, September 30, 2011

New Poll: Surprising Results for Social Security, Another Poll: America in Trouble

Social Security Under Fire

"CNN asked if Social Security, a program that's been in existence for more than 75 years, was constitutional.  21 percent said no.  Tea Partiers were the likeliest to feel that way: 37 percent.  They were followed by Republicans at 32 percent.  Again, [Republican Presidential hopeful] Perry had previously criticized Social Security as unconstitutional, but has tempered his speech on the issue since landing the national spotlight.  The CNN results seem to suggest that while it's not a popular argument generally, it does reverberate with a conservative minority, and is perhaps a way to attract a substantial base in a GOP primary."

The poll seems to suggest that Gov. Rick Perry's ideas have some traction.  The old political trick of saying the same thing over and over works.  But can it win him a national election?

Crisis In Democracy

"Public attitudes toward politics and government today resemble a game of limbo: how low can you go?  Just when you think Americans’ confidence in their government has hit rock bottom, it sinks even further."

"These numbers [from a Gallup poll] point to a fundamental breach of trust that goes far beyond Americans’ habitual grousing about government.  The public is losing faith in their political system’s basic capacity to forge consensus and grapple effectively with national problems.  We’re experiencing a crisis in democracy that eclipses all the other big challenges we face."

This is very troubling -- even as the evidence without any poll mounts.  It's easy to blame Conservative Republicans for stirring up discontent.  And, they do create additional problems.  However, in many respects they simply are reflecting the same concerns many of us have -- that our government is not meeting the challenges it must, that America is falling behind, that our leaders are under the thumb of big business and not acting in our collective best interests.

The Republican Hard-To-Believe-It Zone


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Moving Medicare Costs, Joint (Secret) Committee Meetings, Committee Negotiations

President Wants To Shift Costs To Seniors?

"President Obama’s newest proposal for reducing the federal deficit would slice Medicare reimbursements to drug-makers, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, home health services and teaching hospitals."  "By and large, these recommendations make sense, and could help throw a spotlight on excesses in Medicare spending.  But I very much doubt that either Congress or the Super Committee charged with addressing the deficit will embrace the president’s proposals in these areas."

"The lobbies that represent drug-makers, our most prestigious academic medical centers, and three health care industries that have been taken over by for-profit companies (skilled nursing facilities, rehab centers, and home health service agencies) can write the checks that help swing elections."

Maggie Mahar of The Century Foundation has an extensive analysis of Medicare and the President’s Deficit Reduction Plan.  This is another longer piece that deserves your attention.  You may have to take it in smaller bites, but it's worthwhile.  If you set it aside, be sure to go back later.

Joint Committee Not Committed to Openness

"Throughout the day on Tuesday, a smattering of political reporters leaned up against walls in the basement of the Capitol Visitors Center.  Inside room HVC200, the 12-member supercommittee, tasked with reshaping the nation's tax code, social safety net and approach to war, was meeting in secret."  "Of the six significant meetings the Super Congress has held, only two have been public -- one to allow members to read prepared opening statements."

"After public pressure that the panel meet in public, its rules were written to say that the meetings 'shall be open to the public and the media unless the Joint Select Committee, in open session and a quorum being present, determines by majority vote that such hearing or meeting shall be held in closed session.'"

I check their Web site daily to see what is going on.  This secrecy is not surprising given the difficulty of their work.  Even the Founding Fathers met in secret and swore silence during deliberations.  However, this Committee has broken its own rules.  What would have been the harm in holding to their rules and voting to meet behind closed doors?  We find out anyway that they are meeting.  Beyond that, some think their work is irrelevant anyway.  Beyond even that, some hope for non-agreement believing that pre-paid public benefits will be better off under the no action scenario.

Joint Committee Negotiations

"Democrats on the new deficit Super Committee are determined to be better negotiators than their predecessors in earlier deficit discussions leading up to the debt limit fight.  According to aides with knowledge of the discussions, they're trying to keep the panel's early focus on revenues, to avoid falling into a familiar trap of agreeing to a bunch of spending cuts only to have Republicans freeze up when they try to change the conversation to taxes."

For Your Information

The Republican Fact-Free Zone


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Medicare Repeal Back on Table, Charitable Ron Paul, Premium "Support"

Paul Ryan: Enact Conservative Budget - Repeal Medicare

"In a speech at Stanford University's conservative Hoover Institution, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) offered a recitation of his controversial, alternative vision for the country's social safety net.  But despite the backlash Republicans have faced taken [sic] since they voted overwhelmingly in the spring to adopt his approach, Ryan says now's the time for conservatives and GOP candidates to renew their support for that vision, not to walk away from it."

Mr. Ryan still keeps trying to play the "Mediscare" card -- that Democrats only want to attack his proposals by scaring people.  Well, guess what?  His proposal to repeal Medicare IS VERY SCARY.

Ron Paul: Replace Pre-Paid Public Benefits With Charity

Ron Paul "summed up his view of charity in one deceptively simple sentence.  'We should take care of ourselves and our families, and for those who need special help, a generous society [is the answer],' he said.  This 'generous society' forms a pillar of Paul's libertarian vision of a nation with radically limited government."

"If Paul were to get his way, he would abolish Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and in their place, he believes private, donor-funded charities would step in to voluntarily assume the responsibilities of America's three biggest social safety nets -- programs that cost the federal government $440 billion in 2008."

For Paul, "a generous society" is not the responsibility of government.  He couldn't be more wrong when the have-nots so far outnumber the haves that the only equitable means of distributing wealth is through government.  The wealthy have shown that they will not do it on their own.  It's either wishful thinking or a smoke screen to pretend otherwise.

Republican Version of Medicare

Sometimes a really interesting, and wonky, report comes along, and this is one of those.  "Some policymakers and analysts have proposed to convert Medicare to a 'premium support' system -- that is, replace its guarantee of health coverage with a flat payment that beneficiaries could use to help them purchase private insurance or, in some versions, traditional Medicare.  But proponents have crafted a widely diverse set of proposals that they call premium support."

"Premium support -- no matter what form it takes -- raises several very important and challenging issues that may seem manageable in theory but would be extremely hard to resolve satisfactorily in practice.  And failure to resolve these challenges satisfactorily would likely lead to a two-tier health care system: the affluent would receive the most up-to-date medical care (since they could buy comprehensive coverage by supplementing the premium support payment with their own funds), while those of modest means who could only afford the coverage that their premium support payment buys would increasingly find medical advances out of their reach."

This is a thoughtful study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:  "Converting Medicare to Premium Support Would Likely Lead to Two-Tier Health Care System."  It will take a while to go through, but it's worth your time as it clarifies many of the difficulties presented by a premium support approach.

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Health Care Costs

A very quiet political day for Medicare.  Take a break and think about how lucky we are to have Medicare.

Reduce the Cost of Health Care

"There is a consensus building in Washington, D.C. -- which has been joined by many leading Democrats (including the President) -- that Medicare outlays must be cut if our national deficit is to be reined in.  At the same time, we hear relatively little about cutting the costs of health care.  One may ask, 'What is the difference?  You cut one; you curb the other.' Not so fast."  Amitai Etzioni makes the case that reducing health care costs in general also will reduce the costs of Medicare.

For Your Information


Monday, September 26, 2011

Poll Says No Cuts, Before Medicare, Survey: Few Trust Joint Committee

Polls Continue to Support Medicare

From the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare: Yet another poll has come out in favor of Medicare and Social Security.  "New national polling conducted by a Democratic/GOP research partnership shows Republicans, Democrats and Independents outside official Washington share unprecedented unity in their views on deficit reduction.  By huge margins, Americans across all ages do not support cutting Social Security and Medicare to reduce the deficit.  Even in this polarized political climate, no other single issue garners such broad unanimity across all party lines."

Among the poll highlights:
     >>  "Opposition to cutting Social Security & Medicare is strong across party lines with 82% of Democrats, 73% of Independents and 58% of Republicans against cuts to reduce the deficit"
     >>  "A wide margin of all Americans, 94% of Democrats, 82% of Independents and 64% of Republicans, would prefer to raise taxes on the wealthy than cut Social Security and Medicare"

More from NCPSSM.

Ever since the Ryan budget plan to repeal Medicare was introduced, polls have been consistent and agree in their overall findings.  Medicare and Social Security are our most cherished pre-paid public benefits, and Americans of all political views strongly support them.  Thus, one wonders how the Conservative Republicans, their leaders, and their Presidential candidates can continue to ignore the American people.  Do they do so at their own political peril?  So far, the most ideologically Conservative don't seem concerned.

Ron Paul and the Good Old Days

"Listening to Ron Paul talk about the good old days before Medicare, you would think seniors were well cared for by churches, charities and kind doctors like him.  Sure, he just finished commenting that people with health insurance should suffer the consequences.  But, to soften what could have been seen as a cold-hearted statement, he said that people got care in the good old days -- from churches.  His memory is as bad as his judgment -- and a doctor without good judgment is dangerous."

Interesting commentary from Bob Crittenden, M.D. who is currently the Executive Director of the Herndon Alliance, a national coalition of over 200 organizations focused on communications and coordination with a goal of achieving affordable quality care for all people in America.

Near the conclusion of his piece, he says, "America shines when we work to solve problems together.  As Paul Begala recently wrote, the founding fathers talked about E Pluribus Unum -- from many one -- not Canis Canem Edit -- dog eat dog."

Survey Says ...

"Americans have little faith the bipartisan congressional 'super committee' will reduce the federal deficit, according to a survey released Friday.  Sixty-two percent of respondents said they either trust the super committee 'just a little' or 'not at all' to make the right recommendations to cut the deficit, according to the poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KHN is an editorially-independent program of the foundation)."  MORE from Kaiser Health Network.

It's easy to understand that Americans have little faith in the Joint Committee.  They've been given an impossible task -- find agreement among the disagreeable who cannot even agree to disagree in an effort to make progress.  Some don't want progress; they want regress -- a return to "better times" (ask Ron Paul) which were, in fact, better for almost no one.

The Republican Chutzpa Zone


Friday, September 23, 2011

No Cuts - Stop Cuts, Social Security's Promise, Medicare Still in Danger

No Cuts

"The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare has launched the largest grassroots mobilization and media campaign in its long history of defending programs vital to millions of Americans."  "Already, the 'No Cuts' campaign has generated 20 thousand calls to Congress from Americans who oppose cutting the nation’s most successful programs to reduce the deficit."

We support NCPSSM and encourage you to do so, too.  Take just a few minutes to watch their video, and then please speak up.  It continues to be the right time to contact your Senators and Congressman, and you should do so today.  Congress really can't hear from you too often.

Stop Cuts

In addition, "AARP,  which lobbies on behalf of seniors, has launched a television campaign designed to persuade members of the congressional 'super committee' charged with finding $1.5 trillion worth of deficit reduction to leave Social Security and Medicare alone."  AARP says, "'Our members and average Americans, like those featured in this ad, have worked hard over their lifetimes and depend on the Medicare and Social Security benefits they have earned for their health and retirement security.  Seniors, who have average incomes of under $20,000, want their elected leaders to cut waste and tax loopholes, not their hard-earned benefits.'"

Clearly, it's important to get the word out.  Remember, it's still up to YOU to "tell Washington."  Make that call or send that email or mail that letter now.  Please do your part.

Contact the Joint Committee

You also can contact the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction:  "Pass along your suggestions to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.  What can we do to reduce our nation's deficit?  We won't be able to respond directly to every recommendation, but we will incorporate your guidance in our work."

This is the Joint Committee's Web site.  This DEFINITELY is a place where you want to be heard.  Take just a few more minutes.  THEY are giving YOU the opportunity to say what's on your mind.  Go for it.  Don't miss this chance to tell them directly.

Keeping Social Security's Promise

Sen. Bernie Sanders is taking the preservation and protection of Social Security seriously.  "The Keeping Our Social Security Promises Act, S.1558, introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), strengthens Social Security for future generations without cutting benefits.  The bill 'goes big' for the nation's most important pension, life and disability insurance plan."  "The Sanders bill (S.1558) closes Social Security's 75-year funding gap by applying Social Security payroll tax contributions to covered earnings of $250,000 or more. Currently, only wages up to $106,800 are taxed."

Private Dangers for Medicare

"If you think Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to privatize Medicare is dead, think again.  Last week, the insurance industry and its allies began what I predict will be a massive campaign to sell the public and policymakers on the idea of moving forward with the Ryan plan -- albeit with a few tweaks and new a new sales pitch to make it seem more consumer-friendly."  "While Ryan would move all Medicare beneficiaries into a privatized system in one fell swoop, the HLC's [Healthcare Leadership Council] plan would do it more gradually.  It would, in the words of the press release, 'create a new 'Medicare Exchange' in which private plans would compete on the basis of cost, quality and value.'"

Sounds great!  Talk about the turn of a phrase.  If they keep this up, in all of the consumer confusion and with our heads spinning, we'll be responding like Mr. Tully in "Ghost Busters:"  "1. You know, Mr. Tully, you are a most fortunate individual.   2. I know.   1. You have been a participant in the biggest interdimensional cross rip since the Tunguska blast of 1909.   2. Sounds great.   3. We'd like to get a sample of your brain tissue.   2. Okay."

The Republican Realty-Free Zone


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cutting Medicare, Privatizing Social Security, The Union & the Joint Committee

The President's Cuts

From Kaiser Health News:  How Obama Plans To Cut Health Programs By $320 Billion.  "In his plan to trim the federal deficit, President Barack Obama Monday proposed $320 billion in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, largely by changing how the federal government pays health providers, slashing payments to drug companies, and dramatically changing the way it splits the costs of Medicaid with the states, according to a fact sheet the White House released."

"The biggest cut to Medicare requires pharmaceutical companies to lower their rates.  The proposal would save Medicare an estimated $135 billion over 10 years starting in 2013.  The change would allow the federal government to receive the same brand name and generic rebates for low-income Medicare patients as are provided to Medicaid beneficiaries. "

Much of the response to this proposal is mixed or cautious.  So is mine.  We need to do our best to protect the aged and disabled.  While this would make reasonable cuts, the impact of those savings on beneficiaries is uncertain.  Clearly, if sensible changes which save money ever are pursued in a rational manner, these are the kinds of changes to be considered.  Unfortunately, today's atmosphere is too inflammatory.  However, as usual, Kaiser Health News presents a well-balanced and thoughtful article.  Recommended reading.

Pushing Privatization

"Since jumping in the race, GOP presidential front runner Gov. Rick Perry’s (TX) radical views on Social Security have garnered the most attention.  And for good reason, as Perry lands far to the right of even his most right-wing opponents."  "But Perry’s extremism is taking focus away from the fact that most of the top contenders also embrace a radical idea: Social Security privatization.  As the AP reports, most of the top Republicans running are reviving President George W. Bush’s unpopular plan to create private investment accounts for young workers."

We've mentioned this problem in the past, and the above includes a summary of each candidate's position.  Unfortunately, because every one of them is an extremist, we have fewer realistic choices.

AFL-CIO Speaks Up

The AFL-CIO has outlined its positions on Congressional Super Committee Issues.  "Working people are clamoring for leaders in Washington to focus first and hard on creating good jobs.  Speaker Boehner was channeling George Orwell when he claimed the Congressional Super Committee is a jobs committee.  The way to create jobs is not through fiscal austerity and cuts to core middle class programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid."

"Let's be clear: if the Super Committee were to follow Speaker Boehner's advice, it would deepen our jobs crisis and sink our economy into a black hole.  This is the same failed economic philosophy that drove our economy off a cliff in the first place, and is now once again bringing the global economy to a standstill."

A brief, but impassioned, summary of their concerns and positions.  Get reading!

For Your Serious Attention

The Republican Denial Zone


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

More Reactions To President, Cuts for Medicare, Uncertain Progressives

Support for the President

From the Medicare Rights Center:  "The president's dedication to a balanced approach to deficit reduction, which includes significant revenue increases through mechanisms such as ending tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and corporations, helps protect programs like Medicare and Medicaid.  While proposals that will increase costs for future Medicare beneficiaries in 2017 and beyond must be further analyzed, proposals that attack the root cause of growing costs in Medicare and Medicaid -- growing costs in the health care sector overall -- are the right approach to strengthening these programs’ finances."

Opposition to the President

"Democrats are hitting back at Republicans who say President Obama's plan to increase taxes on millionaires and billionaires amounts to 'class warfare, arguing that the GOP is the party that has been protecting the interests of a particular class -- the wealthiest Americans."   "Republicans quickly responded to the plan by calling it 'class warfare' -- a term used by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)."

"Obama has responded to the Republicans' 'class warfare' comments by saying, 'Either we have to ask the wealthy to pay their fair share, or we have to ask seniors to pay more for medicare [sic], or gut education.  This is not class warfare. It's math.'"

Smart Cuts for Medicare

"In his plan to trim the federal deficit, President Barack Obama Monday proposed $320 billion in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, largely by changing how the federal government pays health providers, slashing payments to drug companies, and dramatically changing the way it splits the costs of Medicaid with the states, according to a fact sheet the White House released."

"The biggest cut to Medicare requires pharmaceutical companies to lower their rates.  The proposal would save Medicare an estimated $135 billion over 10 years starting in 2013.  The change would allow the federal government to receive the same brand name and generic rebates for low-income Medicare patients as are provided to Medicaid beneficiaries. "

This is an approach that could work.  If only compromise or good sense could prevail.

Progressives in Quandary

"Hours after Obama delivered a fiery speech demanding that the wealthiest Americans 'pay their fair share' in taxes as part of his $4 trillion deficit-reduction plan, launched a new television ad on Monday hammering in the president's message and ripping Republicans for caring more about the rich than the middle class."

"But while progressives may be basking in Obama's latest return to a populist tone, many are still apprehensive about another piece of his vision for deficit reduction: potential cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits.  In his same speech, the president advocated making 'structural reforms' to entitlement programs."

I'm sure the Conservative Republicans are very happy that Progressives and Liberals are having problems making a commitment to President Obama.

The Republican Reality-Free Zone

The Republican Let's-Stick-Together Zone


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Reactions As the President Weighs In, Medigap May Be Cut


President Obama sent his Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction -- Living Within Our Means and Investing in the Future -- to the Joint Committee and sounded more like a leader than a conciliator.  He has made a significant statement about dealing with America's financial problems, and here are a few of the reactions:

From the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare:  "The White House has given us a desperately needed reality check offering a deficit plan providing the common-sense balance most Americans know is necessary.  President Obama has flatly rejected conservatives’ calls to cut Social Security since this program did not create our deficit crisis.  In fact, Social Security has a surplus of $2.6 trillion in its trust fund and can pay full benefits for at least 25 more years.  Added to that good news is that the President will not recommend raising Medicare’s eligibility age -- safeguarding healthcare access for millions of future retirees."

From Strengthen Social Security -- a coalition of over 300 national and state organizations:  "We thank the President for leaving alone Social Security, a program that, by law, cannot add to the deficit and so has no place in deficit discussions.  We also thank the president for recognizing that raising Medicare’s age of eligibility from 65 to 67 simply shifts costs to the nation’s seniors who have not caused the deficit."

From AARP:  "We appreciate that the President has heard the voices of the millions of AARP members and other older Americans who have been urging elected officials in Washington not to include cuts to Social Security in any deficit reduction deal. Social Security is separately funded by workers who have paid into the program over a lifetime of hard work."   "AARP reiterates its strong opposition to any proposals that would raise costs or cut the hard earned Medicare benefits that millions of seniors depend upon every day for their health and retirement security."

From the Center for American Progress:  "The plan released today by President Barack Obama offers a balanced plan that stands in stark contrast to the extreme vision embodied in the budget resolution passed this spring by Republicans in the House of Representatives."

From Rep. John Boehner:  "'Class warfare isn't leadership,'"  The only quote attributed to him that I could find.

Don't Cut Medigap

"State insurance commissioners are preparing some stern words of advice for members of Congress trying to reduce the federal deficit: don’t touch Medicare supplemental insurance.  Next week, the bipartisan National Association of Insurance Commissioners is expected to send a letter to Congress opposing changes that would require beneficiaries to pay a higher share of the cost of their supplemental Medigap insurance."

As noted here before, cutting federal costs simply pushes costs on to the States and beneficiaries.  In addition, some changes could eliminate standardization and increase consumer confusion.

For Your Information

The Republican Reality-Free Zone

Even before the President's speech, the Conservative Republicans were repudiating "class warfare" and fighting to keep tax breaks for the wealthiest and increase taxes on the middle class.  Who, really, is waging class warfare?  Who is winning?


Monday, September 19, 2011

Myths About Medicare & Social Security, Social Security & Poverty & Perry, Apathetic Older GOP Voters, "Go Big"

Lies My Politician Told Me About Medicare

"It's the season of political misinterpretations and outright lies.  Websites like Politifact try to sort things out.  But people still seem willing to believe the most negative things about two of our most durable social programs -- Social Security and Medicare.  Are they really in terrible trouble and will disappear soon?"

Linda Bergthold clears up six myths:

>>  Myth #1 - Social Security is in grave financial condition and must be reformed now!
>>  Myth #2 - Medicare is in grave financial condition and must be reformed now.
>>  Myth #3 - We can't change either Social Security or Medicare because they are sacred and inviolable contracts with the American people.
>>  Myth #4 - We will have to pay higher taxes to fix Medicare and Social Security.
>>  Myth #5 - Medicare is a Socialist program and must be privatized.
>>  Myth #6 - President Obama "stole" $500 billion from Medicare to pay for health reform.

Easy and clear reading.  Simply reading this should be mandatory for every Republican Presidential candidate.  They would be better informed immediately -- and with little effort on their part.  Too bad it is out of compliance with their strict Conservative ideology -- as is Medicare's success.  The locked-in, Conservative Republicans simply do not believe in pre-paid public benefits.  And that's why Medicare and Social Security are the targets of destruction.

Social Security and Poverty

"Gov. Rick Perry, the GOP presidential candidate who calls Social Security a 'monstrous lie' and a 'Ponzi scheme' has implied that future retirees can’t rely upon receiving benefits from the system.  Not only is Perry shooting wildly from the hip on these statements -- a strategy cynically designed to attract angry, younger independent voters -- he’s spewing some layered falsehoods that need to be addressed."

"Social Security can not only be preserved for future generations, its coming fiscal shortfalls can be fixed relatively simply.  What Perry also neglects to mention is that it’s one of the most successful anti-poverty programs in U.S. history.  The before-and-after Social Security picture is dramatic.  Before Social Security, almost half of elderly Americans had income below the poverty line."  MORE:  Social Security Reduces Proportion of Elderly Who Are Poor From Nearly One In Two To Less Than One In Eight

Truly perhaps, the most successful of American programs.  Would anyone advocate that poverty is good?  How could poverty be good for people and society or for business and the economy?  The success in drastically reducing poverty cannot be attributed to those fat pensions that workers get when they retire.  Or to the skills of workers and their financial advisors in navigating the investment markets.  Does business want to pick up the retirement income slack?  Maybe the Social Security system is just like corporate welfare; it's just a transfer of funds from the public sector to the private, except that the American people benefit as it passes through them before it goes into the pockets of businesses and the economy.  What's the beef?

Older Arizonans Unconcerned About Perry's Comments

"Texas Gov. Rick Perry says America is ready for some blunt talk on Social Security.  Mitt Romney, Perry’s top rival for the Republican presidential nomination, says talk is good, just not so blunt.  But the seniors both are trying to reach don’t seem particularly interested -- or worried -- about what either has to say.  In Sun Lakes, a sprawling retirement community near Phoenix where Romney addressed an older crowd of more than 600 this week, residents care about Social Security and depend on it."

"But none of more than a dozen interviewed thought they were at any risk of losing their benefits, or were particularly focused on a debate that has dominated the presidential race for the past two weeks."

Clearly, the attack on Social Security also is an attack on working Americans of all ages, as well as retirees and the disabled.  Someone, please help me understand how he thinks he could be elected President.  If people think, "Oh, he won't do that," and then elect him, they will be in for a shock.  Best bet:  don't vote for any Medicare radical who would repeal Medicare.

Republicans Don't Mind

"Texas Governor Rick Perry's characterization of Social Security as a 'Ponzi scheme' doesn't appear to be a problem for most Republicans, according to a new Gallup poll.  The survey, released on Friday, finds that the harsh words repeatedly used by Perry to define his stance on the program are largely non-issue for members of his party."

Apparently, Republicans don't really care what Rick Perry says.  They either will . . . or won't . . . vote for him regardless of what he says.  Their minds already are made up.  As Smokey said, "I don't care what they think about me.  I don't care what they say."

Joint Committee - "Go Big"

"The new mantra in Washington is 'Go Big!'  It started with Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles -- the co-chairs of President Obama's fiscal commission -- and is now on the lips of scores of members of Congress in both parties.  Joining about two dozen other senators Thursday, Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) urged the new deficit Super Committee 'We're with you!  Be brave!  Be bold!  Go Big!'"

For Your Information

The Republican Reality-Free Zone: Vomit Edition


Friday, September 16, 2011

60+ "Disconcerted", Perry Still Attacking Social Security, No Medicare Cuts from Health Reform, President Supports Social Security

Older Advocates Against Social Security

Even though individual Republican voters themselves strongly support Social Security and Medicare (see yesterday's TMDR), the notoriously Conservative 60 Plus Association made this statement just before the Republican Presidential candidate debate:  "Seniors have been political pawns for one party now for 50 years.  It’s a given that every election cycle Democrats scare seniors into the voting booth by demonizing Republicans, and falsely claiming Republicans want to destroy the Social Security system.  So to hear Republicans squabbling over Social Security is pretty disconcerting.  Seniors deserve better."

This is the group who supports the Ryan budget plan:  Only One Plan Reforms Medicare and Protects Seniors.

Almost unbelievable.  Frankly, it's the rhetoric of Republicans and Conservatives that scare me.  It's actually reassuring to know that the 60 Plus Association still is banging the Republican drum -- even though Republican "squabbling" is "disconcerting" to them.  They obviously are a one trick pony with little credibility, and this shows it.  How is this disconcerting to them?  Does 60+ think Social Security is worse than unconstitutional?  Do they think it should be privatized and thrown to market forces immediately?  Are they sending their Social Security checks and Medicare benefits back to Washington?  It's disconcerting, all right.  The Conservative Republican view is disconcerting to anyone who believes that our premier pre-paid public benefit is essential to the true values of America.

Does It Ever End?

"Texas Governor Rick Perry defended harsh words he's used to define his stance on Social Security in an interview with Time published online on Thursday.  'I don’t get particularly concerned that I need to back off from my factual statement that Social Security, as it is structured today, is broken,' he said.  'If you want to call it a Ponzi scheme, if you want to say it’s a criminal enterprise, if you just want to say it’s broken -- they all get to the same point.'"

Hardly the same point at all.  One illegal and designed to take money away from innocent victims; the other returning guaranteed pre-paid public benefits to those who paid for them.  Not the same at all.

Medicare Advantage Premiums Drop

"One of the most persistent GOP attacks on the new health care law is that its Medicare savings, including cuts to Medicare advantage overpayments, would cripple the program.  Not true.  'On average, Medicare Advantage premiums will go down next year and seniors will enjoy more free benefits and cheaper prescription drugs,' says HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a statement.  That's based on new data from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which finds that premiums will decline significantly for the second straight year and enrollment will climb."

President Obama Preserves Social Security

"President Barack Obama will shield Social Security from cuts in his new deficit-reduction plan, the White House said Thursday, pulling back on a key concession from his failed 'grand bargain' negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner.  'The president’s recommendation for deficit reduction will not include any changes to Social Security because, as the president has consistently said, he does not believe that Social Security is a driver of our near and medium term deficits,' White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said in a statement. 'He believes that both parties need to work together on a parallel track to strengthen Social Security for future generations rather than taking a piecemeal approach as part of a deficit reduction plan."


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Not Medicare's Fault, Medicare Popular With Republican Voters, Joint Committee Testimony Begins, More From the Debate

Danger for Medicare

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare notes that "Social Security & Medicare Did Not Cause Our Deficit Crisis."  "It's clear, after listening to statements made by many members of the Deficit Super Committee today, that cutting Medicare, Medicaid and even Social Security, to cut the deficit remains their primary goal."

"Repeated statements that these programs are the primary drivers of our current debt, contrary to the facts, do a disservice to the process and impede finding real solutions to the real problems.  Conflating current debt and future obligations is a political strategy designed to target these programs to pay the price for years of failed fiscal policies and tax cuts for the wealthy."

As we've noted here at TMDR, Medicare and Social Security are the targets of destruction.  We all need to do everything we can to keep them safe and secure, so they keep us safe and secure.

Republican Voters Support Medicare

"A PPP poll out on Wednesday illustrates a clear contradiction within the GOP electorate: overwhelming majorities of voters who deride President Obama as a socialist, but who also love actual real social welfare programs -- Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid -- and don’t want to see them cut.  For a candidate like Rick Perry, that cognitive dissonance could present real problems.  He’s rocketed to the front of the pack on the strength of his appeal to the Tea Party, where the Obama-as-socialist rhetoric runs red hot.  He’s also pretty much declared war on Social Security."

"71 percent of Republicans in the poll agree that President Obama is a socialist.  But 75 percent of them don’t think that the government should end Social Security.  78 percent think that ending Medicare would be a bad idea.  And 61 percent say the same about Medicaid (health care for the poor)."

In my opinion, these respondents -- as with many Americans -- are angry about the conduct of public officials, their lack of true moral standards, their cowardice of ideology, their pandering to big business, etc. (as well as the condition of the economy).  Smartly, their anger stops when they recognize the clear success of America's pre-paid public benefits.  They have seen the help and justice delivered by Medicare and Social Security.

Committee Testimony

"Political debates over deficits and debt are always marked by obfuscation and technicality. The numbers are huge and frightening, the terms obscure and technical, and the simple, fundamental point of the argument gets buried underneath this avalanche of panic and esoterica.  But for a brief moment Tuesday, under questioning from Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), Congress' top economic analyst made it perfectly clear to everybody who was listening.  'I think really the fundamental question for you is not how we got here, but where you want the country to go, what role do you and your colleagues want the government to play in the economy and the society?'"

There's actually a scary answer coming from the Conservative Republicans.

Debate Leftover

"Just after the candidates sparred over whether Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, the focus shifted to another topic of great interest to seniors -- the Medicare prescription drug benefit embraced by former President George W. Bush and enacted during his tenure.  They all agreed to maintain it, but that to pay for the program, government waste must end."

How strange is it that Conservative Republicans SUPPORT Medicare Part D but not Medicare itself?  What is different about the Drug Benefit -- which is incredibly costly?  Why would Republicans support it?  Is it political contributions from the drug companies?  Someone enlighten me, please.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Joint Committee, Perry and Social Insecurity

Joint Committee Web Site

As promised, here it is:  the Web site of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction is located at:  The site has information about how to contact the Committee, their calendar, their members, etc.  I strongly recommend that you contact each member with your concerns.

You also can find contact information and learn more about the Joint Committee members at Contacting the Congress.   Remember: you can view hearings on C-SPAN.  Are you a wonk?  or a concerned advocate?  Did you watch the hearing yesterday?

Perry Vs. Social Security

Medicare and Social Security are closely connected in terms of eligibility, structure, and support of the general welfare of America.  They also are bred from the same philosophy that the government has an important role in providing pre-paid public benefits to its citizens.  Thus, TMDR has been giving considerable coverage to Rick Perry's questionable views on Social Security.

"At last night’s CNN/Tea Party Republican presidential candidate’s debate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) repeatedly refused to answer whether he still believes that Social Security is unconstitutional, but Perry wasn’t always so shy.  Just last December, Perry addressed a group of conservative lobbyists and state lawmakers at the American Legislative Exchange Council’s National Policy Summit, and he openly and proudly declared his belief that most of the 20th Century violates the Constitution."

How can Mr. Perry continue to hope to be President?  While some might consider his views seditious, he at least is honest and direct about his belief.  If he were President, it would take a strong Congress as well as active Citizens to prevent the demise of our pre-paid public benefits.

But, there's quite a bit of hope that Americans won't stand for losing Social Security.  72 Percent Disagree With Perry That Social Security Is A ‘Monstrous Lie’.  "A new CNN poll shows that 72 percent of Americans think Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s (R) characterization of Social Security as a 'monstrous lie' is 'not accurate.'  That view is even held by 69 percent of Republicans, 67 percent of conservatives, and 59 percent of Tea Party supporters."

It's up to all of us to write the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to tell them our views.  Maybe we also should be writing to the Republican candidates for President to tell them they should be protecting and preserving Medicare and Social Security, not undermining or repealing them.

For Your Information

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Joint Committee, Reducing Medicare Costs, Social Security Debate

Joint Committee Hears From Beneficiaries

"Advocates are making sure that lawmakers on the deficit-cutting supercommittee hear directly from patients on Medicare and the doctors who care for them as they prepare to shave $1.5 trillion off the federal deficit.  The Medicare Rights Center wrote to supercommittee members ahead of its first substantive meeting Tuesday urging them to 'seek out, and listen carefully to, the voices of people with Medicare -- not just to those of economists, policymakers and health care experts -- as you deliberate over proposals that would alter Medicare.'"

This is a much-needed action; of necessity, Committee members should have an understanding of -- and empathy for -- the people who need and rely on Medicare and how it helps them.  The Medicare Rights Center is one of the finest of America's advocacy organizations for the aged and disabled.  They have grown in prominence and capacity over the years and deserve our support.  They understand the impact of public policy on individuals -- this is not an academic exercise for them, because every day they counsel and help people to understand Medicare.  They know and understand how changes in the law and regulations affect the beneficiaries of America's pre-paid public health care benefit.


    >  From Senator Murray:  Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction

When their Web site is created, I will pass the URL on to you.

Reducing Medicare Costs By Reducing Health Care Costs

"The American Academy of Actuaries Medicare Steering Committee is urging the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to develop proposals to slow health care spending growth to improve the long-term solvency and sustainability of the Medicare program.  'Health care spending growth is threatening the sustainability of not only the Medicare program and the overall health system, but also the nation’s fiscal health,' said Cori Uccello, the senior health fellow for the American Academy of Actuaries. 'Our message to the members of the committee is that achieving long-term sustainability for Medicare will require slowing the growth in overall health spending, not simply shifting costs from one payer to another.'"

It makes sense to consider Medicare's costs in the context of all health care spending.  However, the Academy's statement sounds too one-sided for my taste.  All the various components of health care spending from actual care and services to the sources of funds need to be considered together -- a tremendously complex matter.  All health care costs are interrelated.  For example, Medicaid is a huge driver of health care costs, and it also impacts on the costs of other, related human and social services.

Social Security Debate Continues

"Mitt Romney refused to let Rick Perry off the Social Security hook, challenging him at the start of the GOP debate Monday night to repudiate the position in his book that the old-age insurance program is a 'Ponzi scheme' that should be run by the states.  'Do you still believe that Social Security should be ended as a federal program?' Romney asked.  'We should have a conversation,' Perry replied.  'We're having that right now,' Romney said.  'You're running for president.'"

"Maybe all the attacks on Rick Perry’s Social Security rhetoric are starting to have an effect after all.  In the opening round of Monday night’s CNN/Tea Party Express debate in Florida, Perry offered up a promise to senior citizens: the program will not change for you.  'The people who are on social security today need to understand something,' Perry said.  'Slam-dunk guaranteed, that program is going to be there in place for those people.'"

For Your Information


Monday, September 12, 2011

Keep Medicare Age, HIGHLIGHT - Income "Security" in Retirement: Romney vs. Perry

Medicare Eligibility Age

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare says that raising Medicare's eligibility age would be a costly benefit cut for seniors.  "Proposals to raise the age of eligibility for Medicare would shift costs to Medicare beneficiaries, employers, and the states.  . . .  Raising the Medicare eligibility age would save the federal government money, but it would increase the cost of health care for everyone else.  Certainly, seniors affected by this proposal would pay more for their health care coverage. Employers and anyone else who purchase private sector health insurance would end up paying more for their coverage."

Of course, we agree.  The voice of reason supported by verifiable facts.

Romney on Social Security

PRIVATIZATION:   "After the debate, Romney campaign adviser Stuart Stevens told reporters that Perry’s desire to 'abolish Social Security' was a 'disqualifying position.'  But in 2007, when Romney was also campaigning for the Republican nomination for president, he supported his own radical change, repeatedly advocating for the privatization of Social Security, a plan pushed by Republicans and former President George W. Bush that failed in 2005."

HIS OWN INCOME SECURITY:  Romney's net worth | $ 250 million (Celebrity NetworthEnough to get by nicely.

COMMENT:  Privatizing Social Security is essentially the same as abolishing it.  Right now Social Security invests in US securities (which once were the safest investment anywhere -- until the Conservative Republicans began to ruin our debt rating).  Privatizing means taking risks that those investments will decline dramatically -- as we have seen with the recent stock market plunge.  Investing in America makes sense from both safety and patriotic points of view.

Perry on Social Security

STILL A PONZI SCHEME:  "Whatever path Rick Perry had to a general election victory got narrower with each word the Texas governor spoke Wednesday night about Social Security.  Perry declined the opportunity to back down from his book's claim that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme at the GOP primary debate Wednesday night, going so far as to criticize his former adviser and current agitator Karl Rove for calling his language provocative."

ON THE DEFENSIVE:  "Mitt Romney's charge that Texas Gov. Rick Perry's views on Social Security are not only out of the conservative mainstream but make him virtually unelectable was the defining headline to emerge from Thursday night's presidential debate.  But it also revealed that Perry's campaign operation may not yet be completely up to speed, despite the fact that he is now the frontrunner."

"Perry seemed blindsided by Romney's charge, arguing simply that the current economic situation justified blunt statements he has made in the past -- namely, that Social Security is a 'Ponzi Scheme' and a 'monstrous lie.'  Yet Perry left a more persuasive defense on the shelf: Romney has used similarly inflammatory language when discussing Social Security in the past."

HIS OWN INCOME SECURITY:  Perry's net worth | $2.8 million (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)  Enough to get by without much of a struggle.

COMMENT: Much of what Mr. Perry says seems to belong in "The Republican Truth-Free Zone."  In fact, one might question his grasp of facts, history, and so forth.  Yet, the question is:  Is he saying these things to win in upcoming primaries?  How can voters be so ignorant?  (Our education system in some states -- for sure.)  Then, how could he win?  How could he lead?  I do understand the anger so many people feel -- and anger IS irrational; it's an emotion.  And, people do need some kind of outlet for their frustration.  However, doesn't it make much more sense to look for solutions, to make a serious attempt to improve and build up rather than weaken and tear down?

Paul Ryan's World

Paul Ryan Protester Handcuffed, Pushed To Ground By Wisconsin Police -- "Three individuals were arrested and charged with trespassing on Tuesday for protesting a speech by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).  Video footage taken by an attendee at the event shows that one of them, Tom Nielsen, received particularly harsh treatment -- he was pushed to the ground and handcuffed.  Nielsen received an additional charge of resisting arrest.  Nielsen is a 71-year-old retired plumber from Kenosha, which falls within Ryan's district."

The Republican Reality-Free Zone