Archive for Medicare

Social Security and Medicare: "Distinctly good news"

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keep government out of medicare, social security

My favorite columnist at the Los Angeles Times, Michael Hiltzik (scroll), has written another excellent piece, this time covering the "no-bad-news day" for Social Security and the "distinctly good news" about Medicare. Sorry, GOP. I know I'm rubbing it in after my post about all those upbeat economic news reports that broke today, but hey, a blogger's gotta do what a blogger's gotta do.

Republicans *coughPAULRYANcough* are just dying to privatize us all into oblivion, which would mean cutting earned benefits for those who rely on them. Way to appeal to voters, GOP. It's a good thing we have Michael Hiltzik around to deliver a more even-handed (read: accurate) approach to informing us about the current state of both Social Security and Medicare.

Take it away, Michael:

"[T]he news is essentially that there is no news" in the reports, as Kathy Ruffing of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a leading expert on Social Security, said during a conference call Monday on the Social Security report.

The trustees still estimate that the Social Security trust fund will be exhausted in 2033 -- same as its estimate last year. The range of estimates -- for these things can never be exact -- places the date at some time between 2029 and 2041. Even then, the trustees say, there will still be enough money coming in to the program each year to pay 77% of currently scheduled benefits. And the trustees do, however, suggest that their best-case scenario for economic growth and other demographic and economic factors is brighter this year than it looked in 2013.

As of now, Social Security is in surplus (by $32 billion last year), and is expected to remain so on an annual basis at least through 2019.

Hiltzik goes on to say that the B Word (bankrupt) is more like the BS Word. His exact phrasing was, anyone who challenges the facts has "given up his or her right to be taken seriously as a policy expert." Are you listening, Wannabe President Ryan?

Now how about Medicare? Is there good news there, too? And if so, would it possibly have anything to do with the O Word (Obamacare)? Don't be silly! Oh wait:

As for Medicare, there's distinctly good news. The continuing drop in healthcare expenses has made Medicare healthier -- the estimated date of its trust fund's depletion has been moved out by four years, to 2030. If you're keeping track, that date has been moved off by a total of 13 years since enactment of the Affordable Care Act.

neener nanner tv

Hiltzik also includes a few warnings, so please link over to read the entire column.

He concludes by rightfully calling out Congress for taking a five-week break just when we need them to "pay attention." He's clearly as miffed at them as we are. One can almost hear him throwing his head back and screaming, "Enough!"

Or as I like to call it, the F G Word (Gaaa!).

Not a skit, our actual Congress, gaa! Maddow

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"We Can Kill You Now Or We Can Kill You Later," Rick Perry

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NationalGuardLogow263h202

Remember those old Fram auto filter TV ads -- "you can pay me now or you can pay me later?" Well, there's a bit of that philosophy in Gov. Rick Perry's latest goofball thinking.

Today Texas Republican Governor Rick "Oops" Perry is about to make another "Oops." He's going to commit an estimated $12 million a month to send the National Guard to his state's southern border. The question is why? What are they supposed to do? Will they take positions on the borderlines and mow down with their high powered rifles every man, woman and child who approaches the Texas border from Mexico?

The truth is that these immigrants are not sneaking over the border. They're crossing the border and immediately turning themselves in. They're actually seeking out border patrols and surrendering. They're announcing "Here I am. Please take me. Please!"

The unaccompanied kids are the big Republican talking point as they're protected more than the adults who cross into the US without proper documentation. This is thanks to a bill the Republican President, G.W. Bush signed into law in 2008. To be balanced and fair, most Democrats voted for this bill as well.

So should Texas, a state that's refused the Medicare expansion for its own poor yet legal residents, order body bags for the refugee children the National Guard is going to shoot? Of course not, because the Guard is not going to shoot anyone. What they are going to do is become a political charade. They will be armed baby sitters, child wranglers and guardians for the safety and welfare of the poor kids trying to escape death and torture in their own countries. They aren't coming here for holiday. They're flocking to America for safety and for their lives.

Rick Perry gunImage: addictinginfo.org

Point a gun at a kid who's made the harrowing, dangerous thousand-plus mile journey to America, threatening them that they'll be shot if they cross our border or be shot and killed after a thousand mile journey returning back home and there's no choice. They'll take the executioner's bullet right here and right now. That sure will make an interesting political election poster for Gov. Perry -- piles of dead kids on his border. Maybe he'll even stand in a big game hunter's pose with one leg up, resting it on a pile of dead children. Don't put anything past Tricky Rick.

The Texas boob governor has no plan other than trying to drum up publicity with this stunt. And for what? He's got zero chance at the GOP presidential nomination. And he's not running for re-election.

The answer, to the surprise of few, is ignorance. The governor's ignorance. He simply lacks a comprehensive and humanitarian plan. And instead of helping out the people of his state by accepting Medicare help for constituents, he's robbing them of tight money the Texans really need for more important matters.

Texas leads the nation in uninsured citizens. Medicare would take millions of uninsured and cover them, allowing hospitals to receive much needed funds to stay open. That $12 million per month could greatly raise the living conditions in the state. Perry is robbing his state's coffers of tight cash they need for so many other pressing issues -- for the unemployed, the uninsured, infrastructure, public safety, education, etc.

So Texas is about to burn $12 million a month while Gov. Nero Perry fiddles. Perry has a dream. It's just a dream. It's to move from soon-to-be ex-governor of Texas to larger pastures -- the White House. Well there's about as much chance of that happening as Michelle Bachmann winning a Nobel Prize in science. But while he wastes his state's money on a political fantasy, the good people of the Lone Star State starve and can't afford medical care which could save lives. Instead, in Rick's fantasy world, he's ordering the armed National Guard to his borders to keep kids out.

What's next for this moron? Bear traps, sarin gas and land mines?

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Sen. Grassley's Staff Gets Nabbed In His Own Investigation

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The SEC lawsuit alleges that the House staffer, Brian Sutter, spoke with a lobbyist -- identified by the Journal as Mark Hayes - - who happens to be a former aide to Grassley -- on the day of the leak.

Oopsy. Looks like Grassley not only found his leaker, the dude worked for him. Now Grassley may have to recuse himself from the hearings because he himself might be called as a witness, or even more concerning, as a part of the insider trading conspiracy scandal itself.

 

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Don't let Paul Ryan near your money

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Paul Ryan ugh this guy

He's ba-a-ack. Yes, Paul Ryan and his "budget" (quotes required, because it's not a budget, it's a redundantly cruel joke) have returned to make the 99% miserable as it caters to the top 1%.

In his Los Angeles Times column, the brilliant Michael Hiltzik takes Paul Ryan and his Very Serious Plan apart. He rips into Privatize Ryan's latest attempt to screw the middle class and the poor by cutting government programs, killing Medicare and Social Security, and thumbing his nose at everyone who knew better than to vote for him and his "severely conservative" running mate.

Read our lips, Paul: Austerity doesn't work.

Via AusterityNut.com

What's the definition of insanity again? Oh yeah:

insanity doing same thing over different results

Hiltzik also manages to get a word or two in about GW Bush's squandering of the Clinton surpluses on tax breaks for the wealthy and how he spent borrowed funds on wars without bothering to raise income taxes.

Take it away, Michael:

There should be a rule--or even a law--that politicians who propose "fixes" to Social Security should at least show they know something about the program. By that standard, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., would flunk. [...]

But the trust fund is still growing, because Social Security's income streams--the payroll tax, interest on its bonds, and revenues from income taxation of benefits--still are sufficient to cover current benefits, and then some. [...]

As I've written before, when you hear people like Paul Ryan talk as though the country can't afford to pay back the money by redeeming the bonds in the trust fund, what you're hearing is the sound of the wealthy preparing to stiff the working class. [...]

[I]f Ryan has his way, yes, the money will be stolen. It's up to you and me to make sure that doesn't happen. So, to put all these pieces together, there's no "dubious government accounting" involved here--the dubious accounting is all Ryan's. [...]

The most important factor is the one that people like Ryan want you to forget: The money in the Social Security trust fund came directly or indirectly from the payroll taxes paid by millions of American workers--100% of it. It was paid by workers in the trust that the government would pay it back. Paul Ryan is hinting, pretty strongly, that he doesn't want to pay it back. 

So why would you trust him? 

Exactly. Why would anyone trust this guy? Especially after the abysmal response to his previous Kill Medicare/Social Security proposals.

paul ryan really really bad screen grab

Please read Hiltzik's entire piece here.

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Oops! Constituent to Rep. Paul Ryan: #Obamacare helps. Ryan: "Repeal it" is "urban legend."

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medicare poster paul ryan, eric cantor, boehner

Remember this? Hey America, guess what! Paul Ryan still wants to kill Medicare! Which was a sequel to VIDEO: Paul Ryan defends GOP "Kill Medicare" plan in new ad. Which was a sequel to VIDEO: Paul Ryan heckled at Iowa State Fair about killing Medicare, war on middle class and Poll-itics: Older and attentive Americans do not approve of GOP Kill Medicare Plan and La Cucaracha: Ryan "Kill Medicare" coupon found in newpaper! ...among others.

And, as Think Progress notes, Ryan has also been "one of the primary architects of the GOP’s ongoing crusade to repeal and replace Obamacare. But even his own Republican constituents have a thing or two to say about that:

Transcript courtesy of Think Progress:

MICHAEL MARTINCIC, 64: What Obama did was get this law passed. Whether it’s good, bad, or not, it got passed. It’s actually helping some people grow, helped this other guy [with] medication. The Republicans….By myself…I could actually…get some kind of subsidy, which would help me…

RYAN: With the ACA, one thing I want to say is we didn’t have 51 votes to repeal it altogether 51 times. I think that’s sort of like this urban legend that we said, ‘let’s repeal it.’ It’s like we did a repeal vote on the whole law. There are many pieces of this law that we’ve gone after—several of them that were made into law, so please know—I think even Democrats would acknowledge that there are a lot of problems with this law. And so we passed a lot of things changing this law—several of which were made into law—but I really do believe there’s a better way to do it than with this health care law.

My argument is that I think there are better ways at dealing with these extremely important and legitimate problems, like people with preexisting conditions—this is why I’m a big fan of risk pools. We had the [??] system in Wisconsin—it worked well, and then it had the federal government attached to it, so it was even more affordable for people with preexisting conditions. That was one of our proposals. So I do think that there are better ways of fixing this problem—affordable coverage for everybody, including people with preexisting conditions that’s a lot better than [this law]. It’s going to hurt our hospitals, it’s going to hurt Medicare, it’s going to make people buy things they don’t want to buy.

Wait what? "It's going to hurt Medicare"? Seriously, Paul Ryan? That came out of your mouth? You, the king of the Kill Medicare bills?

When ThinkProgress asked him whether he thinks Ryan sees the people like himself, who could benefit from Obamacare, Martincic shook his head. “He misses it.

Ryan's not just missing "it," he's missing a few things, like a few cans from his revered six pack.

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A Letter From Elizabeth Warren

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Elizabeth Warren

This came in to me today -- and I'm sure it was sent to many, but I think it's important for all to read. Social Security effects us all, whether its contributing, or receiving. We must protect it.

US Senate letterheadNovember 20, 2013

David --

I spent most of my career studying the economic pressures on families – people who worked hard, played by the rules, but still found themselves hanging on by their fingernails to a place in the middle class.

A generation ago, middle class families could put away enough money during their working years to make it through their later years with dignity. But since that time, the retirement landscape has shifted dramatically against our families.

A third of working families on the verge of retirement have no savings of any kind. Another third have total savings less than their annual income. Just as people need to rely more than ever on pensions, employers have replaced guaranteed retirement income with 401(k) plans that leave retirees at the mercy of the market. And 44 million workers don't even have access to that sort of plan.

Add all of this up, and we're left with a retirement crisis – a crisis that is as real and as frightening as any policy problem facing the United States today.

Social Security is incredibly effective, it is incredibly popular, and the calls for strengthening it are growing louder every day. Will you join our national pledge to protect Social Security?

Today, there is a $6.6 trillion gap between what Americans under 65 are currently saving and what they will need to maintain their current standard of living when they hit retirement.

Two-thirds of seniors rely on Social Security for the majority of their income in retirement, and for 14 million seniors – 14 million – this is the safety net that keeps them out of poverty. God bless Social Security.

And yet, instead of taking on the retirement crisis, instead of strengthening Social Security, some in Washington are actually fighting to cut benefits.

Let's look at the facts: Social Security will be safe for the next 20 years and even after that will continue to pay most benefits. With some modest adjustments, we can keep the system solvent for many more years – and could even increase benefits.

The absolute last thing we should do in 2013 – at the very moment that Social Security has become the principal lifeline for millions of our seniors to keep their heads above water -- is allow the program to begin to be dismantled inch by inch.

If we want a real middle class that continues to serve as the backbone of our country, then we must take the Retirement Crisis seriously. Sign our national pledge to protect Social Security for America's seniors.

The conversation about retirement and Social Security benefits is not just a conversation about math. At its core, this is a conversation about our values.

I believe we honor our promises, we make good on a system that millions of people paid into faithfully throughout their working years, and we support the right of every person to retire with dignity.

Let's make sure my colleagues in Washington know that our values are America's values. Sign our pledge now.

Thank you for being a part of this,

Elizabeth

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Fun Fact: Medicare Was Not Very Popular in the Beginning, Unlike Now

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imagine that

Today's guest post is from an old Twitter pal of mine, @selfdeprecate. After watching and listening to all the negative coverage of the Affordable Care Act's roll out, with very little attention and publicity given to its many successes, my frustration level is at infinity.

It's time to step back for a moment and put things into historical perspective:

Imagine how often you hear a politician running on protecting Medicare benefits. This platform is nothing new in politics. Now imagine how often you hear a politician running on a platform of eliminating Medicare benefits. Not very often, is it? Just look at what happened to Paul Ryan in 2012 when he proposed replacing Medicare with a voucher system. His plan and his 2012 vice presidential campaign were met with collective lack of support.

That's because Medicare is a pivotal institution to the millions of people who rely on its benefits. These are, of course, benefits that they helped pay for over a lifetime of earning wages and paying taxes. This is a program that many Americans would find life much more difficult without. Perhaps surprisingly, the overall positive sentiment towards this program did not always exist.

In fact, neither of these programs were initially very popular. Ezra Klein quotes Greg Sargent about the Democrats reminding their members that Medicare was initially unpopular:

In a last-minute effort to stiffen Dem spines, senior Dem leadership aides are circulating among House Dems some polling numbers from the 1960s that underscore how controversial Medicare was in the months leading up to its historic passage.

Dem leadership staff is highlighting a series of numbers from 1962 on President John F. Kennedy’s proposal. In July of that year, a Gallup poll found 28% in favor, 24% viewing it unfavorably, and a sizable 33% with no opinion on it — showing an evenly divided public.

A month later, after JFK’s proposal went down, an Opinion Research Corporation poll found 44 percent said it should have been passed, while 37% supported its defeat — also showing an evenly divided public.
Also in that poll, a majority, 54%, said it was a serious problem that “government medical insurance for the aged would be a big step toward socialized medicine.”

After Lyndon Johnson was elected, a Harris poll found only a minority, 46%, supported a Federal plan to extend health care to the aged. Today, of course, Medicare is overwhelmingly popular.

Below, Nicholas D. Kristof quotes opposition to Medicare from newspapers in the 60s:

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page predicts that the legislation will lead to “deteriorating service.” Business groups warn that Washington bureaucrats will invade “the privacy of the examination room,” that we are on the road to rationed care and that patients will lose the “freedom to choose their own doctor.”

All dire — but also wrong. Those forecasts date not from this year, but from the battle over Medicare in the early 1960s. I pulled them from newspaper archives and other accounts.

Considering the current opposition from the GOP in Congress to the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, these critiques sound very familiar. It is amazing, however, how even the misinformation and fear, uncertainty, and doubt surrounding Medicare eventually gave way to the reality that it could be beneficial and did not bring about the end of America.

Jason Parker is a guest poster who operates a political humor blog called Self Deprecate Political Humor & Cartoons.

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