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Senior Citizen Politics

Group Fighting to Save Senior Citizen Benefits in Social Security, Medicare Finds An Angel - Maybe

GOP appointee to Super Committee, Rep. Fred Upton, says senior benefits should not be cut for those in program

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, Republican from MichiganAug. 20, 2011 – The group that organized earlier this year to protect the Social Security and Medicare benefits of senior citizens –the Strengthen Social Security Campaign – thinks they have found a possible critical ally in a Republican appointee to the new super committee charged with making a big dent in the deficit. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) says that current Medicare and Social Security beneficiaries should not face any reductions in benefits, according to the SSSC.

At a public forum in Kalamazoo, Michigan last Tuesday, Rep. Upton opposed any reductions in benefits from the powerful 12 member Joint Select Committee on Budget Deficit Reduction, also known as the “Super Committee,” to which he has been appointed, the SSSC says.

The Super Committee is charged with proposing $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction by Nov. 23, 2011. During debt-ceiling negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner in July, President Obama proposed changing the formula used to calculate the annual COLA to the so-called chained CPI, which would cut the benefits of those receiving Social Security today.

Rep. Fred Upton's positions, according to SSSC website.

  Tax increases are “just not going to be part of the equation.”

 ● Interested in closing corporate tax loopholes. "I'm not afraid of looking at tax loopholes. I don't think anybody was happy to see that GE didn't pay any taxes."

 ● Against cutting Medicare for current beneficiaries, but open to cutting it for future beneficiaries. "I wanna make sure that folks who are on Medicare today, that their benefits are not reduced, that their access is not reduced...I have one vote out of 12, and I know that Medicare gonna be part of the discussion."

 ● Open to raising the cap on income taxed for Social Security. "Lifting the cap or raising it...will probably be part of the [Super Committee's] discussion."

 ● Resistant to raising the retirement age. "I know many hard laborers, maybe farmers, maybe working in factories...[for whom] the body wears out, and you can't simply continue raising the age knowing that people's physical strength probably isn't there. I would be very resistant to raising the age above 67, but we'll see where discussions go."

Upton said the following at the forum: “It’s critical…that the people that are benefitting today from Medicare and Social Security that they not see benefit reductions. It’s awfully hard to tell someone… who might be 82, that they’ve gotta go back to work, because their benefits are gonna be chopped. That’s not gonna happen. We’re not gonna allow that to happen.” [Link to the entire recording of Upton’s statements at the forum is here, in which he also declared his opposition to raising the Social Security retirement age beyond 67]

“We applaud Rep. Upton for his strong, common sense statement. We hope his public statement will encourage other Super Committee members and President Obama to similarly pledge to leave current beneficiaries alone,” said Nancy Altman, Co-Chair of the Strengthen Social Security Campaign.

“This summer President Obama proposed cutting Social Security for current beneficiaries. The Campaign opposes all cuts to Social Security, whose benefits are modest but vital.”

 

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During the President’s negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner in July, President Obama proposed a technical change known as the “chained CPI” that would cut the benefits of those receiving Social Security today.

After ten years average retiree benefits would be cut by about $600 a year, and after 20 years they would be cut by about $1,000 a year. [link to analysis here] President Obama is planning to make a major speech in September that reportedly will include elements from this summer’s failed “grand bargain,” including this chained-CPI and an increase in Medicare’s eligibility age to 67.

“Social Security is a public trust. Slipping the proposed ‘chained-CPI’ into the Super Committee’s negotiations violates that trust. If enacted, this provision would erode the purchasing power of current and future beneficiaries as they age,” explained Eric Kingson, Co-Director of Social Security Works.

“That’s not a ‘grand-bargain.’ That’s ‘grand larceny!’ Social Security does not contribute a penny to the deficit. Plain and simple, it should not even be considered by the Super Committee. Current beneficiaries should be reassured that they will not be injured by those elected to represent them. Hopefully Rep. Upton’s support can help get Social Security off the table.”

The Strengthen Social Security Campaign maintains a webpage that provides information about all 12 members of the Super Committee. It highlights the votes the committee members have taken on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and tax issues in 2011, and statements they have made about the issues.

It also includes information showing the number of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries in states and congressional districts represented by Super Committee members. The webpage and the Campaign’s main website will be updated regularly as new developments occur with the Super Committee.

The Strengthen Social Security Campaign is comprised of more than 320 national and state organizations representing more than 50 million Americans from many of the nation’s leading aging, labor, disability, women’s, children, consumer, civil rights and equality organizations.

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