(November 7, 2014) A Republican tide swept over the country Tuesday, giving the GOP full control of Congress. The GOP’s crowning achievement was capturing a majority in the U.S. Senate. Republicans have picked up seven Senate seats and will have at least 52, with Alaska still counting and Louisiana going to a December 6 runoff – a wider margin than most had thought likely just a few weeks ago. House Republicans picked up more than a dozen seats and will likely have roughly 250 House seats for the first time since before the Great Depression, depending on how too-close-to-call races break.
Governorships that Democrats expected to wrest from Republicans proved out of their reach in states including Wisconsin, Florida, and Michigan, and Democrats also lost gubernatorial races in solidly blue states such as Maryland and Massachusetts.
In addition, Republicans now control 29 state legislatures, holding both chambers—two more than they did, and the most they have since the 1920s. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) reports, Democrats are now “at their lowest point in state legislatures in nearly a century.” In this week’s election, Democrats lost their majorities in legislative chambers in Washington, Colorado, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York and West Virginia. In all, NCSL reports that there are 67 legislative chambers controlled by Republicans and just 29 controlled by Democrats (http://tinyurl.com/lvkkvm9).
“There were a few bright spots on Tuesday night,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “Minimum wage initiatives passed even in states voting for conservative candidates, such as Alaska, Nebraska, Arkansas, and South Dakota. The city of Phoenix rejected anti-retiree pension reforms. But overall, it was not the night many Alliance members were hoping for, to say the least.”
New Leadership in U.S. Senate Likely Poses an Increased Threat to Seniors
Seniors will once again have to be concerned with the possibility of a grand bargain on Social Security and Medicare. The Republicans could force Senate Democrats to either filibuster a reform bill from their own president or betray their own principles and the promises they made their constituents (http://tinyurl.com/nxrf2k3). Senior Republicans are also discussing a fast-track procedure known as “reconciliation,” which would permit them to push a measure through the Senate with just 51 votes. Among the targets under consideration are cuts to Medicare benefits and tax reform. In addition, likely new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) are hoping to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (http://tinyurl.com/l3l77n8).
“The Alliance for Retired Americans is ready to have a busy, defensive first three- to four months of 2015,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance.
Union Seniors Voted Democratic by a Margin of 35%
According to a Hart Research survey in 11 Senate battleground states, while the non-union electorate voted 6% more for Republicans than Democrats, union voters preferred Democrats by 26%. That difference continued over key demographic groups: while non-union seniors (65+) voted 21% more for Republicans than Democrats, union seniors voted Democratic by a margin of 35%. Similarly, Republicans won non-union white women voted by 25%, and union member white women voted for Democrats by that same margin – 25%. Non-union voters who make less than $50,000 per year voted for Democrats 1% more than Republicans, while their union counterparts voted for Democrats 35% more than Republicans. More at http://tinyurl.com/p6qghck.
Overall, an estimated 37% of eligible voters cast a ballot in the midterm elections, said Michael McDonald, an associate professor at the University of Florida. If that projection holds, it would be the lowest turnout since 1942, when Americans busy fighting a war let the level drop to 34%. This year’s electorate was largely older, whiter and more male than is often the case in presidential years. More at http://tinyurl.com/ppczhur.
On Monday, McDonald said he believed that the country was on track to have about 27.5% of the votes cast prior to Election Day, up from 24.9% in 2010, as reported by the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.
U.S. Social Security Benefits Compare Unfavorably to Those in Other Countries
Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, wrote on Wednesday for MarketWatch about a chart from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Pensions at a Glance. The chart shows where seniors stand globally by providing the gross replacement rate — retirement benefits as a percent of pre-retirement earnings — for single individuals earning the average wage. Comparable data are provided for 34 OECD countries, which include many of the biggest world economies, as well as 8 other major economies — Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa. The chart illustrates that American workers get lower Social Security benefits compared to many other countries. The United States is currently ranked on the bottom half of the chart, between Slovenia and Ireland. You can view the chart at http://tinyurl.com/ljb8gpm.
“When politicians talk about cutting Social Security benefits, we should remind them that we only want what seniors are getting in many other developed countries,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.
Help Keep Postal Standards in Place to Prevent Delayed Mail
On January 5, 2015, the United States Postal Service is slated to lower “service standards” to virtually eliminate overnight delivery – including first-class mail from one address to another in the same city or town. The American Postal Workers Union (APWU) and its sister postal unions, the National Association of Letter Carriers, National Postal Mail Handlers, and the National Rural Letter Carriers are taking part in a National Day of Action on November 14, 2014 to prevent that from happening. Help tell the Postmaster General to stop delaying America’s mail by going to http://tinyurl.com/lgc5ycn!