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Which Side Are You On? Fiscal Cliff Edition

1:27 pm in Uncategorized by Brian Sonenstein

Firedoglake’s pledge drive to strengthen – not cut – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits has grown to over 70,000 activists. By mobilizing to make phone calls, office visits, run ads, write letters and more, our activists have played an important role in preventing benefit cuts from taking place over the past 4 years.

We’re reviving our pledge drive for the latest showdown, vowing to withhold support from any politician who participates in cutting Social Security, Medicare and/or Medicaid benefits.

It’s time to ask our elected officials: Which side are you on?

Here is my email to our activists:

Pledge to Protect Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid From Benefit Cuts

Dear Firedoglake activist,

Will Democrats in the House and Senate stand firm in opposition to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefit cuts, or cave to the President's "Grand Bargain" strategy of trading cuts for tax increases on the wealthy? Raising taxes on the rich is essential to growing our economy, but we cannot throw the poor, elderly and disabled to the wolves to do so.

Unfortunately, Democratic party leaders like Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin are following the President's lead, proposing a separate commission just to cut Social Security to entice GOP negotiators. Critical resistance is taking root in response as Chicago activists have planned a "Durbinville" shanty town to symbolize the depression-era conditions millions of Americans will face as a result.

Firedoglake is once again organizing our pledge not to support any elected official who votes for cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits.

Add your name to our campaign: "I pledge not to support any elected official who votes to cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits."

Social Security is the biggest and most successful anti-poverty program in America, especially among senior citizens. That means any discussion we should be having about Social Security should involve expanding benefits — not cutting them.

While the idea that we face a "deficit crisis" is far-fetched in the first place, shoring up the budget by attacking programs like Medicare and Medicaid that reduce out-of-pocket medical expenses (the largest contributing factor to poverty today) is heartless and horrific. In engineering the 'fiscal cliff' during the debt ceiling negotiations a year ago, the deficit scolds have put forth the threat of another recession as the public's punishment should we refuse to accept their austerity plan.

Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid continue to provide an essential anti-poverty service to the most vulnerable among us despite repeated attempts to weaken and dismantle them. Cutting their benefits at a time like this makes no sense and we have to stand firm and tell our elected officials they will be held accountable for voting for any program that includes them.

FDL activists have consistently played an important role in opposing cuts to these vital programs. Taking the pledge is the first step in our continued resistance that will include organizing petitions, call campaigns, office visits, advertisements and much more around the Fiscal Cliff negotiations and beyond.

Take the pledge: "I will not support any elected official who votes to cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits."

We have to do everything we can to speak out against any Grand Bargain achieved on the backs of Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare recipients. Please join us in opposing benefit cuts today.

In solidarity,

Brian Sonenstein
Campaign Director,

The Survey AARP Doesn’t Want You to See

10:50 am in Uncategorized by Brian Sonenstein

I previously wrote about how the survey accompanying AARP’s “You’ve Earned a Say” listening tour does not provide members with an adequate opportunity to voice their opinions on the future of their Social Security and Medicare benefits.

If you’re an AARP member, it’s obvious why this is a problem, but if you’re not a member, consider the fact that AARP is the nation’s largest elderly advocate with over 40 million members. AARP’s insurance arm rakes in billions each year and they do quite well off kickbacks from business partners. AARP routinely meets with Washington elite, many of whom support benefit cuts, and spent $15 million on lobbying in 2011 alone – a particularly ‘light’ year for them if you look at their history.

Therefore, which side of the line AARP chooses to be on when benefit cuts return to the table is something that will affect all Americans – not just AARP members. If they drop their opposition, it will provide cover and an air of legitimacy to the notion that benefit cuts are inevitable and necessary, and further promote the fallacy that Social Security is on the brink of collapse. Look no further than AARP’s resignation to benefit cuts last year around the time of Bowles-Simpson, which had it not been for significant public outrage, could have been disastrous for seniors and retirees.

So, is AARP only providing this survey to appear interested in the desires of their membership? Or are they truly looking for their members to voice their opinions?

In an attempt to answer this question, we took AARP’s survey and slightly modified it to include important response options that were left out of questions about the future of Social Security and Medicare. We included options for people who might not think we need major or minor “changes” (read: cuts) to Social Security and Medicare – but instead may want AARP to push for expanding benefits, or to oppose cuts of any kind.

We’re working with CREDO, the National Organization for Women (NOW) and others; contacting over 50,000 AARP members with our own version of the “You’ve Earned a Say” survey – and we’re running Facebook and Google ads targeted at AARP members to get as many people to take the survey as possible. When it comes time for AARP to choose sides, we will compare our results.

This is only the first step in a broader campaign to follow AARP closely and potentially expose new attempts to get the organization’s weight behind benefit cuts and ultimately unnecessary hardship for our seniors and retirees. But for now, please take a moment to fill out our version of the “You’ve Earned a Say” survey, regardless of whether or not you’re an AARP member. While this is by no means a scientific poll, your response will be helpful in providing a contrast between what Americans want and what AARP might be trying to do.