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NO to Commission that will Cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

There is a stealth move under way in Washington, D.C., to recover the billions spent on bailing out the banks and Wall Street by cutting benefits under the Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs. A special commission would address the federal deficit by considering cuts to entitlements programs and would fast track recommendations by an up or down vote in Congress -- with little debate and no opportunity for amendments. This is a reverse Robin Hood -- stealing from the poor and middle-class to give to the rich in a way that will have a disproportionately negative impact on women.

Action Needed:

Tell your senators: Do not balance the federal deficit caused by bailing out big banks and Wall Street on the backs of the elderly and poor women who depend on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to survive! Oppose the creation of a debt-reduction, entitlements-cutting commission with fast-tracked recommendations -- make these important decisions in public.

If your senators are part of the group of eleven (see below) -- call their office now! These eleven U.S. Senate members of the Democratic Caucus have threatened to hold the debt ceiling bill hostage unless there is an entitlements or debt-reduction commission. This commission's recommendations would have to be acted upon with no opportunity for amendments, only limited debate, and only one single take-it-or-leave-it vote on the entire package. Naming a commission is an act of political cowardice, as it operates to steamroll benefit cuts in our most important social programs while shielding elected officials from direct responsibility for such unpopular solutions.

The senators include:

Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) (202) 224-3841
Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) (202) 224-3244
Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) (202) 224-6154
Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) (202) 224-2043
Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) (202) 224-5623
Mark Udall (D-Colo.) (202) 224-5941
Mark Begich (D-Alaska) (202) 224-3004
Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) (202) 224-5852
Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) (202) 224-5274
Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) (202) 224-4041
Mark Warner (D-Va.) (202)-224-2023

Take action NOW!

Background:

Fearmongering the National Debt: All the breathless talk about the national debt is seriously misleading. The truth is that the interest on the national debt is a big number (approximately $700 billion), but it is a small percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). After five years, the national debt is going to be a lower percentage of GDP than many other industrialized nations have had in the past. Furthermore, the national debt will remain a lower percentage of GDP than the U.S. had after World War II. There is not a critical problem with the U.S. national debt.

Social Programs to be Cut to Pay off Debt: Unfortunately, the ill-conceived solution to this over-hyped problem is to cut benefits under Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which will hurt the most vulnerable in society -- the elderly and the poor (mostly women). The proposed solution will not solve the real problems that plague our economy. It is the lasting effects of George W. Bush's tax cuts for the rich, the spiraling for-profit health care costs, big bank and Wall Street bail-outs, and wars that are the cause of debt increases -- not the fact that the U.S. has entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. Furthermore, the deficit should not be balanced on the backs of those that could least afford the consequences. Deficits should be balanced by asking those who have the most to pay more in taxes, since they benefited the most from government bailouts.

Social Security Checks Vital: Without a Social Security check, most seniors would be poor, and senior women would suffer the most. Social Security makes up 55 percent of older women's income, compared to just 39 percent for senior men.
For many elderly unmarried women, it is their only source of retirement income! Senior men's average annual income in 2002 was $29,385; senior women's average annual income was about half that at $16,124 in 2002.

Social Security "Crisis" a Myth: Talk of a crisis in the Social Security program is false. By the most cautious projections, there is enough money in the Social Security Trust Fund, secured by U.S. bonds, to continue paying full benefits for the next 30 years. If the U.S. economy keeps growing at the same rate as it has until fairly recently, Social Security will be able to pay full benefits -- with a few adjustments to the system -- forever. Even with slower economic growth, a small adjustment in the payroll tax rate, plus lifting the cap (currently at $106,800) on the taxable wage base, would fund Social Security into the next century.

More Retirement Insecurity: Women make up the majority of the 45 million Medicare beneficiaries. Millions of women rely on Medicare as their sole health care plan. Medicare expenditures represented 3.2 percent of GDP in 2008, but costs are projected to increase to about 7.3 percent of GDP by 2035 and to 11.4 percent of GDP by the end of the 75-year period. Obviously, adjustments to financing the Medicare program are needed. But if the deficit hawks have their way on this stealth commission, not only will senior women see their benefits cut, but the huge baby boom generation will be facing retirement years with greater economic insecurity. Coming at a time when millions of homeowners have seen their equity disappear, cutting retirement benefits seems an especially cruel solution.

Follow the Money!: The fear-mongering over the national debt has been promoted mostly by billionaire Peter G. Peterson who made his fortune doing takeover deals on Wall Street and who is now specializing in inaccurate and misleading information about our national financial "crisis." Peterson has funded a national campaign around this issue and has managed to marshal supporters in the Obama administration, some Democratic leaders in Congress, and the elites among think tanks, media and conservative politicians (who have never liked Social Security and Medicare anyway). But their idea about how to deal with government debt is fundamentally wrong. Decision-makers need to bite the bullet, make adjustments in Social Security and Medicare financing and raise taxes on the wealthy -- not steal from the poor and middle class!

More Information:

"Looting Social Security" by William Greider, The Nation

"Breaking Down the Deficit" by Michael Linden, American Progress

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