'Entitlements' are human rights!... Corporate media attacking health care for the elderly, pensions as part of propaganda attack on so-called 'entitlements'
For more than a decade, the ruling class has been trying to take away the pensions people earned during their working lives, and Social Security, the modest dollars that keep many older people from abject poverty. But just as those of us who once worked as teachers, coaches, and others know that at a certain age we can no longer do the work we once could. I don't think I'd want to work alongside the current me on a scaffold cleaning brick at 12 floors above Drevel Blvd, as I did when I was working my way through the University of Chicago in 1967 -- a summer I spent working as a union construction laborer at 4554 S. Drexel. Yet the discussion, not only in the USA but across the so-called "civilized" world, is as if the aged, rather than a blessing on society -- and proof we are becoming more civilized and healthy -- are a burden. Only a society whose rulers praise nonsensical programs called things like "Race To The Top" could promote such thinking. And I also do not believe I have the temprament I had during the late 1990s, when I worked at Bowen High School in a job that included suppressing gang violence within the school...
So it was good to read an analysis by FAIR, which we subscribe to, pointing out the sustained attack on older Americans from the same plutocracy that wants to destroy public education and return us to a primitive time when Social Darwinism reigned.
LATEST ANALYSIS FROM FAIR:
Taking Aim at the Elderly. 'Fiscal cliff' deal spared the aged, pundits complain. Fairness and Accuracy in Media Media Advisory. 1/11/13. http://fair.org/take-action/media-advisories/ taking-aim-at-the-elderly/
The outcome of the "fiscal cliff" did not impress many in the corporate media, who have long favored some sort of Simpson-Bowles "grand bargain" that would pair tax increases with spending cuts to so-called "entitlement programs." The last-minute tax deal fell well short on
both counts--but the failure to cut benefits seemed to bother more pundits than anything else.
On Meet the Press (12/30/12), NBC's Tom Brokaw complained that Obama "could help himself a lot if he were tougher on the AARP"--by which he meant tougher on seniors, raising the retirement age for Social Security (which is really a cut in benefits--Extra!, 12/12) and "means-testing" Medicare. (When the discussion was taxes, Brokaw insisted that "$250,000 doesn't make you rich," but proposals to means-test Medicare assume that elderly retirees with incomes as low as $85,000 aren't paying enough for healthcare--FireDogLake, 12/14/12.)
Brokaw went on:
"I think it would have been helpful to him this morning to have said, "Look, we get this tax deal
done, I'm here to help on Medicare and Social Security reforms." We've got to address those, instead of just saying, "I'm going to protect the seniors who are there and the Medicare and Medicaid recipients." Give a little something. Show good faith about what needs to be done on deficit reduction and the entitlement programs."
In the Washington Post (1/3/13), David Ignatius raised the canard that the self-funded entitlement programs are connected to the budget deficit, arguing that Obama
"... come to the table with a grand vision of his own-- a real strategy for cutting the deficit and the entitlement programs that drive it.... He didn't formulate a plan for long-term solvency partly because he didn't want to give up the political weapon of Social Security before the 2012 election."
Ignatius concluded that "it's Obama's job to lead the party toward entitlement reforms and other policies that will be painful but necessary."
The Post's Fareed Zakaria (1/4/13) agreed that the "administration did not go far enough on entitlement reforms, and the Democratic Party as a whole is too obstinately opposed to reform in this area."
New York Times columnist Tom Friedman (1/6/13) was more hopeful that Obama would still come around to cutting benefits:
"Maybe Obama has a strategy: First raise taxes on the wealthy, which gives him the credibility with his base to then make big spending cuts in the next round of negotiations. Could be. But raising taxes on the wealthy is easy."
Friedman added that "Obama has spent a lot of time
lately bashing the rich," and that it was time for him
"to stop just hammering the wealthy."
In Time magazine (1/21/13), Joe Klein complained of
There is a smugness and lassitude to the party
right now, an absence of creative new policy
thinking, a tendency to defend corroded
industrial-age welfare and entitlement programs.
They even blocked a modest money-saving change in
Social Security's cost-of-living index. And this
is where the real challenge of Obama's second term
And liberal Bloomberg columnist Jonathan Alter (1/3/13)
criticized Obama's progressive critics before arguing:
Just as Republicans must learn to live with tax
increases, Democrats must learn to live with--and
vote for--changes in entitlements. They should
keep in mind that reforms such as a chained
consumer price index, which alters the inflation
calculation applied to Social Security, and means
testing the benefits of wealthy retirees, do not
threaten the social safety net.
Neither Franklin Roosevelt on Social Security nor
Lyndon Johnson on Medicare was wedded to any of
the particulars of those programs--only the
principle of guaranteed support from the
It is worth mentioning that Obama did, in fact, support
cutting Social Security benefits, endorsing Klein and
Alter's idea of a bogus change to inflation measurement
in order to siphon money away from older retirees (FAIR
Blog, 12/19/12). And the Affordable Care Act has
reduced the projected Medicare trust fund shortfall by
two-thirds--something that too often escapes media
Beyond that, there are plenty of ways for the federal
government to honor its commitments to Social Security
recipients and to pay for Medicare without punishing
those who rely on these programs for their retirement
and their health. The Medicare funding problem is a
matter of reducing healthcare inflation--which could be
addressed by limiting the growth of payments to doctors
and allowing the government to negotiate for lower drug
costs, for starters.
Far from being too tough on the rich, the fiscal cliff
tax deal was enormously beneficial to the wealthy--with
breaks on estate tax and investment income (Washington
Post, 1/8/13; CBPP.org, 1/4/13; CTJ.org, 1/10/13).
Other potential sources of revenue, like a tax on Wall
Street transactions, were basically off-limits.
But these arguments basically do not exist in the
corporate media, where well-to-do pundits piously argue
that the poor and the elderly should sacrifice
retirement benefits or pay more for healthcare as they
THE AFL CIO IS ALSO WARNING OBAMA NOT TO MOVE AGAINST SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE...
Will Obama Cave on Social Security?
With chained CPI a likely part of any debt
ceiling deal, outraged progressives are
organizing in advance
By Josh Eidelson
January 12, 2013
A top official at the nation's largest union federation
slammed a Social Security cut proposal that's been
floated by President Obama, but stopped short of
calling it a deal-breaker in the next round of budget
"We remain strongly opposed" to chained CPI, AFL-
CIO government affairs director Bill Samuel told
Salon. "It's a very substantial benefit cut."
"Chained CPI" is a proposed alternative method of
calculating cost of living adjustments, which would
reduce future increases in Social Security benefits.
Samuel said that for many seniors on fixed incomes,
even "the current system may not be adequate." He
called the claim that chained CPI could be
implemented in a way that would be fair to such
retirees "sort of ludicrous."
Obama has repeatedly touted chained CPI as an
aspect of a potential "Grand Bargain" with
Republicans to reduce the deficit. In a "Meet the
Press" interview aired on Dec. 30, the president
highlighted it both as an example of his willingness
to make concessions to the GOP and part of his
"pursuit of strengthening Social Security for the
The same day that interview aired, Republicans
reportedly dropped their insistence on including
chained CPI in the scaled-down so-called fiscal cliff
deal, signaling they expect it to be part of a larger
deficit deal in the next few months. So, it appears,
does Obama. Can labor stop them?
"The White House has signaled many times they're
very open to this concept, which puts us in a very
precarious situation," said Eric Kingson, a co-chair
of Strengthen Social Security. That coalition, whose
300-some member groups include the AFL-CIO and
some of its largest unions, supports increasing
Social Security benefits and opposes chained CPI,
which Kingson called "a disguised benefit cut."
Kingson and fellow co-chair Nancy Altman told
Salon they would recommend that the Strengthen
Social Security coalition oppose any overall deficit
deal that includes chained CPI. Altman, whom the
AFL-CIO is urging Obama to nominate as Social
Security commissioner, said, "I think we would
certainly have the view that there should be a line
in the sand that should not be crossed." But she
noted that individual coalition members would
"have to weigh a lot of things" in deciding whether
their own groups would also support torpedoing an
overall deal over chained CPI.
No member of that coalition is more prominent than
the AFL-CIO, the federation of 56 unions that played
a major role in reelecting the president. So will the
AFL-CIO pledge to oppose any deficit deal that
includes chained CPI? "I'm not going to answer
that," said Samuel. "That's theoretical. I expect we
will remain opposed to chained CPI."
Samuel said that the federation's overall priorities in
any budget deal are the same ones it pushed during
the "fiscal cliff" fight: raising taxes on the top 2
percent of Americans and averting cuts to Medicare,
Medicaid and Social Security. In a follow-up email
to Salon, Samuel added that it was "very unlikely"
that the AFL-CIO would support any deal that
included safety net cuts.
The AFL-CIO's strategy for the current budget wars
will be a topic of discussion at its Executive
Committee meeting on Wednesday.
National Nurses United executive director RoseAnn
DeMoro, one of 53 members of the AFL-CIO
Executive Council, said the federation needs to take
a hard line. "I think they should borrow some
cement from the building trades and draw a line in
the sand and keep it there ." she told Salon. "It
would be unconscionable for the AFL-CIO to
maintain a position of any type of wiggle room with
respect to that." DeMoro said that the varying
politics of its affiliate unions make the AFL-CIO "a
mixture of a whole lot of different forces," but said it
"needs to separate itself from the Democratic Party
and stand on its own."
The AFL-CIO drew a bright line early in the fiscal
cliff showdown. In an interview the day after
President Obama's reelection, AFL-CIO president
Richard Trumka told Salon that the federation
would oppose any fiscal cliff deal that didn't fully
end the Bush tax cuts for the top 2 percent, or
included any cuts to entitlements (chained CPI
included). But on Dec. 20, after Obama was widely
reported to have offered Speaker John Boehner a
"Grand Bargain" including chained CPI, Trumka
told the Huffington Post's Sam Stein that while "we
oppose the cuts," "Obviously I want to look at the
whole deal before we make any decision."
On New Year's Eve, hours before the Senate voted to
approve a deal that had no entitlement cuts but
extended Bush tax cuts on family incomes up to
$450,000, Trumka weighed in with a series of
critical tweets, including "its not a good #fiscalcliff
deal if it gives more tax cuts to 2 percent and sets
the stage for more hostage taking." (According to
Samuel, those tweets were meant to indicate that
"we were concerned about the direction the deal was
taking.") But in an emailed statement the next day,
Trumka called the deal "a breakthrough in
beginning to restore tax fairness," and said it
"achieves some key goals of working families."
However, he said, "lawmakers should have listened
Asked whether that deal had met the minimum
standards Trumka outlined in November, Samuel
said, "I think it depends how you count this, but it
came awfully close." He said that further tax
increases on the top 2 percent will be necessary. But
he touted the absence of entitlement cuts, the
extension of unemployment benefits, and Obama's
success in "breaking through the decades-long
Republican opposition to raising taxes." Samuel
said he believes Obama "did the best he could,
given the circumstances."
What's next? According to the AFL-CIO, in the two
months following Election Day, the federation
mobilized tens of thousands of people for
demonstrations supporting taxing the top 2 percent
and opposing benefit cuts, and generated over
15,000 phone calls. Samuel said the AFL-CIO will
"continue, and maybe even accelerate or ramp up"
such efforts over the coming weeks, with a
particular focus on the President's Day recess.
Samuel said he was optimistic that, once outcry
mounts over GOP hostage-taking on the debt
ceiling, Obama would be able to avoid making any
concessions in exchange for raising it. Instead,
Samuel predicted that the main deal-making will
revolve around the looming sequester cuts and the
coming expiration of government funding.
Samuel said he believes that pressure from the AFL-
CIO and its allies has succeeded in taking other
entitlement cuts, like raising the eligibility age for
Medicare, "off the table." As for chained CPI, he said,
Obama "clearly doesn't have the strong visceral
reaction against it that we do. But I think he
believes it's a pretty tough measure, and my
assumption is he wouldn't push it unless he was
getting something pretty significant in return" from
Republicans. Samuel said that increasing public
opposition to chained CPI could reduce the
willingness of the president, as well as Democrats
and Republicans in Congress, to put it on the table.
While it's already "pretty unpopular," he said, "we
have to make it a proposal that is unacceptable to
"We have a healthy degree of concern," said Samuel.
"One would have to going into this fight - it's not
going to be easy. Our record so far suggests that we
can be successful."