Friday, March 22, 2013

All TRUE Liberals Need to Support Sanders' et al Amendment!

The time has now arrived for all REAL Liberals to come to the aid of their country, in the form of the PEOPLE, not the Neoliberal jerkoffs who want us all reduced to serfs for Big Business or the Military-Industrial state. To this end, let me help put the  Sanders-Harkin-Hirono Amendment  on readers' radar. This amendment would prevent the government from cutting Social Security benefits, a despicable idea which both sides in the “Grand Bargain” negotiations seem to drool over.  Meanwhile, the Stabenow Amendment would ban the privatization of the Medicare system through the Ryan/Republican “voucher” scheme.

Both of these amendments we need desperately! They would protect everyone’s financial and physical health during the dicey, health-issue fraught senior years, while also protecting disabled veterans and other disabled Americans. For all of our sakes, tell your Senators to support them. And don't do it by email which we already know they never read (according to recent lobbyist interviewed by Rachel Maddow) - but do it via phone or even better, an old fashioned hard copy letter sent by snail mail. Yeah, I know it sounds so turn of the century, but reps always pay more attention to them because it takes more effort to write your thoughts out on paper, put the paper in an envelope and mail it, then to merely email!

As I've noted before, the "chained CPI" is being offered as part of a "deficit reduction" deal, even though Social Security is forbidden from contributing to the deficit. Even if you accepted this unreasonable act, it remains morally reprehensible to reduce spending on the backs of the elderly, women, the poor, veterans, disabled Americans, and already malnourished children. It's even more unethical to do it when other options available could save much more money, And it's even worse when we see who isn't "sharing in the sacrifice" -- a list that includes hedge fund managers, Wall Street gamblers, billionaires, drug companies, defense contractors, and tax-dodging corporations.

Independent estimates say that the "chained CPI" will slash Social Security benefits by $122 billion over the next ten years. Wise- ass Neolib Dems are trying to fudge this by asserting they will parse the Chained CPI so that the "poorest seniors" aren't terribly affected. That's nice to know but of little value or use to middle -income seniors who still face rocketing costs usually via health issues. Besides, nearly every financial advisor and publication in the land advises seniors to have at least $260,000 each for medical care expenses to pay for what Medicare does not. Hence, the Chained CPI by eroding benefits will make it harder and harder for those middling seniors to cover costs. WTF you expect them to do, take out loans! Are you frickin' nuts?

(Here’s blogger Dean Baker’s latest take on the subject, courtesy of the Roosevelt Institute. Also here’s a write-up from Lawrence Mishel, head of the Economic Policy Institute).

Read each carefully! The chained-CPI sales pitch often comes with an offer to increase benefits to “protect” the poorest of the elderly, as if it were moral to finance antipoverty programs by taking benefits away from struggling seniors. But, as Mishel points out, this contradicts the argument that the chained CPI is a “more accurate” way to measure inflation. If that were true we wouldn’t need to protect anyone.

Senator Elizabeth Warren summed it up pretty well, as she is wont to do: “‘Chained CPI’ is just a fancy way to say ‘cut benefits for seniors, the permanently disabled, and orphans. Our Social Security system is critical to protecting middle-class families, and we cannot allow it to be dismantled inch by inch.”

Contrast Sen. Warren’s moral and rhetorical clarity with the White House’s decision to label the chained-CPI cut the superlative CPI” measure – as if all those old people are drowning in unnecessary cash!  As for the voucher idea, Dean Baker notes that it would force seniors to spend most of their income on medical care.

Instead of hacking savings out of the backs and bones of seniors there are THREE much saner and more humane avenues, including:

1. Refuse to compromise (again!) on the original $250,000 income level that Obama insisted he wouldn't deviate from!

Obama's original tax plan, the one he said over and over that he wouldn't budge from during his campaign, the one he and his party ran on, the one that voters endorsed -- called for letting the Bush tax cuts expire for income above $250,000. That would bring in an estimated $366 billion in added revenue over the next ten years. Now, say reports, he and the Republicans will agree on a figure that's "somewhere in the middle." That loss in tax revenue (say for a $400,000 threshold) automatically would mean more spending cuts and on social insurance programs. That can't be tolerated!

2. Reduce the budget for overseas U.S. Military bases by 50%.- saving $500 billion

The United States maintains 702 military 'installations' in 63 foreign countries (it has 4,471 bases altogether), according to the Defense Department's annual budget statement. These figures don't include bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. We're talking about our military presence in nations like Germany, South Korea, and Japan. ALL of these represent redundant costs since the wars that incepted the bases are now more than a half century over! While the total cost of these bases is kept secret, the best analysis I've seen estimates their ten-year cost at approximately $1 trillion.

3. Allow Medicare to Negotiate with Drug companies like the VA does! ($220 billion saved)

Current law specifically forbids the government from using its negotiating power to obtain lower rates for Medicare prescriptions like the VA -- even though much of the research behind the drugs involved was performed at government expense! If we allow the government to negotiate with drug companies, that will save an estimated $220 billion. That's 1.8 times as much money as the "chained CPI" -- and it comes from the drug companies, not vulnerable Americans. If this isn't on the table instead, one must ask why the Dems seek to go after the vulnerable as opposed to Big PhrmA - which has money to burn (our money) in showing endless ads every evening!

ALL of these are doable but require our elected DEM representatives to fight for the PEOPLE as opposed to appeasing the Neoliberal Establishment!

This brings us to the above cited amendments, which will make your senior years “larger” – and safer. Both will probably come up for a vote this week. (In fact, Sanders was on the floor taking about the chained-CPI amendment today.) They need your support. As Robert Reich  says, the “pre-concessions” on Medicare and Social Security we’ve seen from the President and Leader Pelosi are “tantamount to accepting the most insidious and dishonest of all Republican claims: That for too long most Americans have been living beyond their means.”

Make no mistake here that these cuts would be a political blunder bordering on catastrophe  for Democrats, a policy failure for the government, and a personal disaster for millions of Americans. In the first case, the  Dems would disclose themselves once and for all as a political whore party never to be trusted again as a party of the People, or for the little guys. Arguably, it would send the Ds back into political oblivion while again decreasing the number of registered voters.

If you agree, phone or write your Senators and tell them to vote “yes” on the Stabenow and Sanders-Harkin-Hirono amendment!

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