(November 21, 2014) Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) is retiring after 40 years of dedicated public service, including the championing of policies and legislation benefiting Social Security and Medicare recipients and their families. One of those pieces of legislation was the Strengthening Social Security Act (S.567), designed to immediately increase current benefits by about $800 annually, improve Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) and ensure the program’s future to make retirement more secure for our children and grandchildren, too. To thank Sen. Harkin for his years of service – and pledge to support the Alliance in doing all you can to help secure his legacy with the reintroduction and passage of this important legislation in the 114th United States Congress – go to http://tinyurl.com/lbp577e.
President Obama Unveils Executive Action on Immigration
President Barack Obama unveiled sweeping Executive Actions Thursday night, “aimed at shielding as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation and granting work permits to some, setting off a firestorm of Republican vows to stop the president in his tracks,”Politico reported.
In a joint statement, Alliance President Barbara J. Easterling and Executive Director Richard Fiesta said in response, “Not only would President Obama’s executive action protect 5 to 8 million aspiring Americans from deportation and extend the Dream Act, it would also help strengthen the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds. According to the Center for American Progress, if 85% of undocumented workers were to pay Social Security payroll taxes, those workers would add $1.2 trillion into the Social Security Trust Fund during the 36 years when Social Security will be most affected by Baby Boomers’ retirements.” (http://tinyurl.com/qctsjlj)
“Furthermore, if 85% of undocumented workers contributed to Medicare, they would pay $253 billion into the Medicare Trust Fund over 20 years (http://tinyurl.com/ncrj9vy).” Read the full statement at http://tinyurl.com/oqjt8mq. For more information on how to apply
Lame Duck Session of Congress to Decide Whether to Fund the Government
Without action by the lame duck Congress, the federal government will run out of money on December 11 and shut down. Many Republicans on Capitol Hill want to defund President Obama’s executive actions on immigration through a government spending bill, but a spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee said on Thursday that would be impossible, because the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) agency is entirely self-funded through the fees it collects on various immigration applications; therefore, it would be able to continue to collect fees and carry out its operations even if the government shut down. For more from The Hill, go to http://tinyurl.com/lj65swb.
Mitch McConnell to Become Senate Majority Leader
Last Thursday, Senate Republicans unanimously named Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to serve as majority leader when the new Congress convenes in January. Democrats re-elected Harry Reid of Nevada to lead their caucus and elevated Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts to a newly created seat at the leadership table as part of their efforts to renew the party’s economic message.
On the House side last Thursday, Republicans re-elected Speaker John Boehner (OH) who will need to be approved by the full U.S. House on the first day of the new Congress, as required by the Constitution. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) were also re-elected to their leadership posts. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) won re-election this past Tuesday as House minority leader. Joining her among Democrats reelected to top party positions were Steny Hoyer (MD) as minority whip, Xavier Becerra (CA) as Democratic Caucus chairman, Joseph Crowley (NY) as caucus vice chairman, and James Clyburn (SC) as assistant to the leader.
Commonwealth Fund Study: Older Americans are Sicker than Counterparts Abroad
A survey of people 65-and-older in 11 countries finds that U.S. older adults are sicker than their counterparts abroad, as well as the most likely to have problems paying their medical bills and getting needed health care. According to the Commonwealth Fund, U.S. adults also reported difficulty getting care in a timely fashion and using emergency departments for issues that a primary care physician could treat. Among the bright spots for the United States: having a care plan for chronic illness, and planning for end-of-life care. More at http://tinyurl.com/mh7yqwh.
“It’s further proof of a story we’ve heard before,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “Americans spend a fortune on health care, but the results don’t always show it.”
Forum Addresses Reduced Staff, Services at Social Security Administration
On Tuesday, several leading seniors’ advocates came together at the U.S Capitol to discuss, “The Future of Social Security: What do the People Want?” Forum presenters included Sen.Barbara Mikulski (D-MD); Acting Social Security Administration Commissioner Carolyn Colvin;Witold Skwierczynski, president of the American Federation of Government Employees; Mr.Fiesta; Nancy Altman, co-director of Social Security Works; Eric Kingson, co-director of Social Security Works; and other distinguished speakers.
According to The Washington Post, which covered the event, “Participants at the forum sponsored by the Strengthen Social Security Coalition are organized and mobilized, but they continue to agonize over recent reductions to staff and service.” More at http://tinyurl.com/ojdgsh5.
Idaho Alliance Holds its Founding Convention
Fiesta was in Boise, Idaho last Friday for the founding convention of the Idaho Alliance for Retired Americans. About 30 Alliance members in attendance elected Steve Landon, a SOAR member, as the group’s first president. On Monday, Fiesta was in New York City to speak at the United Federation of Teachers Retirees meeting.
The Alliance for Retired Americans Headquarters office resides in the AFL-CIO national building in Washington, DC. Their primary objective is to mobilize retired union members, community activists, and other seniors into a nationwide grassroots movement advocating a progressive political and social agenda that respects work and strengthens families.