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Mitt Romney and the 1%

9:54 am in Uncategorized by Gerald McEntee

Mitt Romney has released some information on his income taxes over the past two years. Turns out he’s paid less than 14 percent on more than $40 million in income. He makes more in one day than most American makes all year, yet he pays a tax rate that is far less than what the vast majority of Americans pay. Keep in mind that Romney’s income rolled in while he did nothing but clip coupons and hit the campaign trail. It suggests that our once progressive income tax has been turned into a farce, where the very rich get away with paying less than bus drivers, construction crews and health care workers. That’s not right, and it’s why the tax laws need to be changed and changed soon.

It’s now obvious why Romney tried so hard for so long to hide his financial holdings. He’s stashed some of his money in tax havens like Luxemburg and the Cayman Islands. He’s even had a Swiss bank account. He says he’s paid taxes on all his foreign holdings, but The Los Angeles Times reports that Romney failed to disclose at least 23 funds and partnerships on his most recent financial disclosure forms, including 11 based in low-tax foreign countries. While he may not have broken any laws by funneling cash into off-shore accounts and companies, Romney has clearly broken faith with the American people. He amassed his wealth by hollowing-out companies, laying off employees, ruining communities and practicing what is kindly called “vulture capitalism.” He left thousands of families in hardship while he accrued hundreds of millions in wealth. He should be ashamed, but if we’ve learned anything over the past year, Mitt Romney has no shame.

Romney, after all, doesn’t hide that he wants a tax code that rewards the 1 percent and makes the rest of us pay far more than our fair share. He’s running for president with a plan to change the tax code to make rich Americans even richer. The Economist magazine describes his plan as “very progressive, by 15th century standards.” Romney’s “help the rich get richer” plan would reduce the taxes of the top 1 percent by more than $170,000, while adding $600 billion to the deficit. He gets defensive when his plan is attacked, just as he gets hot under the collar when people bring up his past career as a corporate raider. He claims that any criticism of his repugnant business practices is an attack on free enterprise. It is not. It’s an attack on ruthless behavior. He claims that his critics are engaging in “class warfare.” It is not that either. If anything, he’s demonstrated the truth in Warren Buffett’s statement about class warfare: “It’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

Unfortunately, Romney’s not the only candidate out there who is interested in making life easier for the well-to-do. Shockingly, Newt Gingrich’s tax proposals are even worse that Romney’s. He wants to eliminate completely the taxes on capital gains. His radical tax scheme would guarantee that most members of the 1 percent, including Romney, would pay little or no taxes at all. The middle class would be left to pay the country’s bills, including the cost of additional tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy.

Perhaps that’s why the GOP candidates spend their time distorting Pres. Obama’s record, rather than outlining their own hare-brained plans for our country. Rick Santorum goes even farther. He says talking about the middle class is misguided because, get this, it buys into “the class warfare arguments of Barack Obama.” Santorum scolded Romney for using the term in a recent debate: “The governor used a term earlier that I shrink from. And it’s one that I don’t think we should be using as Republicans: Middle class.” And why shouldn’t Republicans talk about the middle class? “There are no classes in America,” Santorum continued. Only a millionaire could believe this.

We shouldn’t be surprised that Romney, Gingrich and Santorum all support the unhinged agenda of their political allies who now control the U.S. House of Representatives. They’ve promised to support radical schemes like the Ryan Budget, which abandons programs that have helped to build and sustain the middle class, including Medicare, Social Security, education assistance, health research and job training programs. They ignore the damage done to the middle class as CEO pay skyrocketed 300% since 1990 and corporate profits doubled. These are the candidates of the 1%, for the 1% and by the 1%. If they have their way, Mitt Romney and the wealthiest people in America won’t have to release their tax returns. They won’t even have to file.

America’s Future is at Stake this Labor Day

7:15 am in Uncategorized by Gerald McEntee

"San Francisco Labor Temple Wall Painting"

"San Francisco Labor Temple Wall Painting" by xeeliz. The San Francisco Temple of Labor was built to house the San Francisco Labor Council and labor union offices and to provide a meeting hall for San Francisco's unions. The building was the primary center for the city's historic labor community for over half a century and played a significant role in the 1934 citywide labor strike for better working conditions.

As we celebrate Labor Day 2011, working families face greater attacks on their economic security than at any time since the days of the robber barons in the late19th Century.  In state houses across the country, politicians backed by Wall Street billionaires are attacking fundamental reforms that union members fought and won over many decades, reforms like collective bargaining, child labor laws, safety regulations and even the right of workers to vote.  In the U.S. House of Representatives, right-wing forces have passed legislation to eliminate Medicare, undermine Social Security and increase the taxes paid by working families while giving massive benefits to corporations and the very rich.

Rather than pulling together to find real solutions to our problems, anti-worker billionaires and the politicians they fund are mobilizing to transfer all the burdens of taxation onto working families.  Under the budget bill supported by all except nine Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate, taxes would increase for the working middle class while the wealthiest one percent would find their taxes cut in half.  Millionaires would be taxed at a lower effective rate than anyone working nine to five for a paycheck.  That’s not a real solution, and it does nothing to create jobs.

We fought for reforms . . .

Unions opposed these measures.  The labor movement worked long and hard to enact reforms like the progressive income tax, Social Security and Medicare.  On Labor Day and every day, we need to remember that winning those victories – and so many others – was not a day at the beach or a walk in the park.  When unions fought for collective bargaining rights, for the eight hour work day, to expand non-discrimination laws, to restrict the use of child labor and to enforce workplace safety regulations, we were always opposed by Wall Street.  Yet, today, too many Americans take those reforms for granted.  But many realize how important these reforms were.  And they are mobilizing to oppose the concerted efforts underway across the country to repeal them, along with other policies and laws that have promoted social and economic justice.  Read the rest of this entry →

Why Unemployment Makes the Tea Party Happy

8:21 am in Uncategorized by Gerald McEntee


DONT TREAD ON ME by DonkeyHotey

The tea party Republicans have drawn a line in the sand. The debt ceiling was raised five times during the administration of President George W. Bush. Yet, it is only now, with tea party Republicans holding the balance of power in the U.S. House of Representatives, that America is placed in the position of defaulting on our commitments, for the first time since the founding of our country.

Their irresponsible position is that corporations and billionaires should not have to share the sacrifices needed to keep our economy on track for recovery. That is why they vehemently oppose efforts to cut corporate welfare and to eliminate subsidies for the oil companies. Unlike most Americans, who believe we should pull together to find real solutions, these politicians are intent on dividing Americans by destroying programs that have broad public support. At the same time, they have done all in their power to create instability in the economy and put more Americans out of work.

With more than 14 million Americans out of the job market, it is appalling for these politicians to play games with our nation’s economy. Creating jobs and keeping Americans working have to be top priorities. But for the tea party Republicans controlling the House of Representatives, those are far from the top of their “to-do” list. Instead, they have repeatedly passed bills that would put more Americans out of work. A harsh conclusion, perhaps, but just look at the facts:

Since the tea party took over the U.S. House of Representatives in January 2011, they have pushed legislation which, if enacted, would have added more than 6.5 million additional workers to the unemployment rolls:

• The Economic Policy Institute estimates that nearly 1 million jobs would have been lost if their 2011 appropriations bill had been enacted.
• Their bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act would have cut as many as 400,000 jobs annually, according to the Center for American Progress.
• And the Ryan Budget they passed, which destroys Medicare and Medicaid, student loan programs and health care research, would put as many as 3 million more workers out of their jobs during the next five years.

Thankfully, President Obama and cooler heads in the Senate have kept these job-killing bills from becoming law. But they all passed the tea party-controlled U.S. House of Representatives.

Tea party politicians have been ramming through similar misguided bills at the state and local level. Scott Walker in Wisconsin, John Kasich in Ohio, Chris Christie in New Jersey and Rick Scott in Florida are just a few of the elected officials who have pushed policies to put people out of work. All of them turned down federal funding for transportation projects that could have produced hundreds of thousands of jobs. And they have ruthlessly cut budgets rather than ask billionaires in their states to pay their fair share of taxes. Their actions are hurting job creation, even in the private sector. As economist Adam Hirsch noted on the website Think Progress last month: “States that cut spending are seeing significantly more job losses in the private sector than states maintaining or increasing spending levels.”

In the last Congress, tea party Republicans consistently voted to increase unemployment. In August of 2010, for example, every tea party-backed politician in Congress voted against legislation to provide assistance to the states to pay for teachers, firefighters and vital public services. If they had their way, 300,000 additional jobs would have been lost, adding to the more than 500,000 state and local jobs that have been lost in recent years. The next time a tea party politician tells you that jobs are what they care about, remind them that if it had been up to them, every auto worker at General Motors would be out of work today. And what about the jobs saved or created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act? They opposed the bill kicking and screaming, yet every thinking economist in the country agrees that it saved or created anywhere from to 2 to 4 million jobs.

While they consistently pay lip service to “reducing the debt,” that is not their real goal. Their tax cuts for corporate CEOs and hedge fund managers actually increase our debt. As, under Ryan’s plan “the public debt would increase from $10 trillion in 2011 to $16 trillion in 2021,” even while decimating essential programs for Main Street Americans. That’s because Ryan adds to his Draconian cuts with even larger tax giveaways to his friends on Wall Street. (Ryan wasn’t drinking tea with his Wall Street pals last week. He and two companions spent $700 on two bottles of wine at a Capitol Hill restaurant.)

One is tempted to conclude that the tea party Republicans see political benefit from increasing unemployment while President Obama is at the helm. Michelle Bachmann, in an unguarded moment last week, admitted as much. Whatever their motivation, their policy choices do not reflect the Main Street values shared by most Americans.

It is clear, however, that many of them are willing to tip the country into a double-dip recession and put the world economy into a tailspin. They are, as Warren Buffett said last week, “playing Russian roulette.” And if that leads to more unemployment, apparently the tea party Republicans really don’t care.

Voters Want a Recovery That Works for Everyone

1:06 pm in Uncategorized by Gerald McEntee

Angry voters sent a clear message on Tuesday: Much, much more must be done to put America back to work. But voters rejected right-wing and Tea Party candidates who argued that government should do nothing to improve the economy or protect working families during the worst economic crisis the Great Depression. Voters support efforts to build an economic recovery that works for everyone.

Voters abandoned most of the U.S. Senate candidates backed by the Tea Party, including Sharron Angle, Ken Buck, Joe Miller, and Christine O’Donnell. And they thwarted millionaire candidates who sought to catch a Tea Party wave – such as Linda McMahon, John Raese, Carly Fiorina and Dino Rossi.

But let’s be clear: The loss of the U.S. House of Representatives is a real setback for working families. Washington Republicans have done nothing since the last election to curtail the Bush recession and bring down unemployment. They opposed every effort to address the economic wreckage that resulted from their failed policies in the Bush years. They voted against the Recovery Act that prevented a second Great Depression and a jobs bill that provided emergency funding to the states for public safety, health care and education programs. Now, Republicans must demonstrate that their priority is working families, rather than corporate interests and the very rich. Voters have not embraced the radical plans of Republican leaders in the Congress to cut taxes for millionaires, privatize Social Security and slash Medicare funding.

It is worth noting that in the past century, Republicans gained the most seats in off-year elections following the passage of remarkable legislative achievements by Democratic Congresses: the GOP gained more than 80 seats in 1938 after the passage of the Social Security Act and more than sixty seats in 1966 after the passage of Medicare and the Civil Rights Act. Over the years, voters recognized the enduring value of these historic bills. We have no doubt that in coming years, the passage of health care and Wall Street reform will be regarded as similar, far-reaching victories for all Americans.

On the state level, candidates who support the funding of public services won races for governor in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Rhode Island. We are optimistic about the three gubernatorial races that are now too close to call.

Voters also produced important victories in state ballot initiatives, including the passage of propositions in California to end the destructive requirement of a two-thirds vote to pass the state’s budget. In Colorado, voters rejected the ‘Bad 3’ ballot initiatives, signaling their support for funding the state’s vital public services.

Voters in Massachusetts and Washington also voted to reject proposals that would have restricted the ability of government to pay for the services families rely upon during these tough economic times. These votes signify that Tuesday’s elections were not a blanket rejection of government and revenue-enhancing measures at the ballot box.

AFSCME is proud to stand as a champion of working men and women against an onslaught of money from shady organizations that seek to harm them. We mobilized tens of thousands of volunteers and sent more than 300 staff to key battleground states. Our Councils and affiliates mounted aggressive operations throughout the country. Through phone, mail and person-to-person contact, we reached more than one million of our members to get out the vote.

Progress is a process. The hard work does not end on Election Day. State governments have cut almost a trillion dollars in spending in the past three years and services have been cut to the bone. We will mobilize to defend the programs that help middle class families as well as the working poor and disadvantaged families. We intend to continue our efforts to support working Americans in the days and months ahead, confident in our cause and committed to doing what is necessary to ensure that all of our nation’s families have the ability to realize the American Dream.

What’s at Stake Tuesday

5:30 pm in Uncategorized by Gerald McEntee

The conventional wisdom in Washington right now is that the Republicans are about to take back the House, and possibly the Senate. That would be awful news for every American who believes that government should protect the interests of American working families rather than international corporate interests. And it is certainly a nightmare for the young people, minorities, union members and progressives who made history two years ago by electing Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

Nobel Prize winner and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman notes today that Republican control could have dangerous long-term consequences. “In fact,” he writes, “future historians will probably look back at the 2010 election as a catastrophe for America, one that condemned the nation to years of political chaos and economic weakness.”

Anyone who remembers the eight years of George W. Bush should know that now is not the time to play six-bullet Russian roulette with the future. Every vote for the GOP only makes it more likely that they will continue to stand in the way of the kind of reforms Americans support, such as real penalties on corporations that outsource American jobs. Unfortunately, too few voters – particularly independent voters – have gotten that message. We need to be sure over these last few days that we let them know what is really on the ballot Tuesday.

When talking with AFSCME members across the country, I have focused on four issues that I believe have helped to energize them to get active this campaign season: Jobs, Social Security, Retirement and Medicare. How we respond to the challenges posed by these issues will be determined on November 2nd. Here’s why:

American jobs are on the ballot. If Republicans gain power in either the House or the Senate, they will have a much stronger hand in their efforts to give corporations the power to lay off American workers and send our jobs to foreign countries. This has been a GOP priority for years, yet too few independents are aware of it. Remind them that just this August, all but two Republicans in the House voted against reforms to eliminate tax loopholes for companies that outsource American jobs. Just two. Now they want to take control of the entire House.

Social Security is on the ballot. The same politicians who have spent a generation bad-mouthing Social Security now say they want to improve it by privatizing it and giving Wall Street the ability to manage the nation’s retirement security. Republicans from coast-to-coast have made it clear that they have big plans to overhaul Social Security in the coming congressional session. Their candidates for the U.S. Senate in Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky and other states have called for the eventual elimination of Social Security, the greatest program of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. Nevada’s Sharon Angle says Social Security – along with Medicare and Aid to Families with Depended Children – is part of America’s “wicked ways.” She and her fellow Republicans would place our retirement security at risk in the stock market.

Contrary to what the Republican privateers want people to believe, Social Security is healthy. It did not cause the deficit. It has a $2.6 trillion surplus. But Republicans want to take it and hand it away to their backers on Wall Street. We cannot let them do this.

Retirement is on the ballot. John Boehner, Wall Street’s favorite member of the House, has already announced his plans to push the retirement age up to 70. As many know, or should, Boehner would be named Speaker of the House if the Republicans win. He spends many hours each week playing golf with his buddies – the Washington corporate lobbyists. They finance his campaigns and give him checks to distribute to other Republicans on the floor of the House of Representatives. He has no problem asking bricklayers, firefighters, road crews and nurses to keep working until they are 70 to qualify for their full Social Security benefits. And he has no problem allowing corporate lobbyists to write the legislation he’ll push through the House as speaker.

Medicare is on the ballot. Rep. Paul Ryan, who will head up the Budget Committee if the Republicans win Tuesday, has already announced his plan to end Medicare as we know it. He would turn it into a voucher program. Republicans would wreck a program that has successfully provided health security for millions of Americans – for more than forty years – solely to give insurance companies more opportunities to make a buck.

Indeed, they would make unconscionable cuts in other programs that millions of Americans rely on, including veterans’ benefits, children’s health programs, cancer research and food safety. They plan to turn back the clock on environmental protection, women’s rights and the cause of equality for LGBT Americans. Their views are far from mainstream, yet if they gain control of Congress, they could cause untold damage to the lives of countless millions in our country. They have outlined some of their plans in the so-called Pledge to America, which they released to great fan-fare a few weeks ago. Today, few GOP candidates are discussing what’s in the Pledge to America, because they know voters would reject the radical cuts in important programs that the Pledge seeks to hide.

Paul Krugman sees danger ahead with Republican policies: “If they get their way, we’ll get the worst of both worlds: They’ll refuse to do anything to boost the economy now, claiming to be worried about the deficit, while simultaneously increasing long-run deficits with irresponsible tax cuts — cuts they have already announced won’t have to be offset with spending cuts.”

Tuesday’s elections can save us from the bleak future that awaits working families if the GOP takes control. It is a day when working Americans can stand up to the corporate special interest who control Wall Street and too much of Capitol Hill and elect champions of the middle class to Congress. It’s not too late. Call your friends and neighbors and let them know what’s at stake on Tuesday, November 2nd.

This is the Week

9:29 am in Uncategorized by Gerald McEntee

This is the week we’ve been waiting for.

This is the week when Democrats in Congress can prove that it is still possible for our political institutions to stand with the American people in a time of crisis.

This is the week when we will tell who is looking out for political cover and who is standing with patients, families and doctors who need health care reform.

Let’s be clear about what is at stake when the House votes on health care reform. How you answer these six questions will answer how you stand on health care reform:

  1. Should insurance companies be able to deny patients coverage if they have a preexisting condition? This bill will end the ability of insurance companies to abuse Americans who have pre-existing conditions.
  2. Should insurance companies be able to end your insurance coverage when you get sick? This bill will end their ability to do that.
  3. Should insurance companies be able to double premiums and deductibles whenever they want with no controls on their actions? This bill will regulate the insurance companies and allow the government to prevent massive hikes in premiums and deductibles that individuals and business have to pay.
  4. Should insurance companies have to pay for preventive care? This bill will require it.
  5. Should parents be able to keep their unemployed children on their policies until the young adult turns 26? That’s in the bill.
  6. Should taxpayers be paying more than500,000 in subsidies to the insurance companies? Those sweetheart deals end when President Obama signs health care reform.

Health care reform will lay the groundwork for covering an additional 31 million uninsured Americans. A family of three earning $37,000 a year would pay less than $200 per month for good health insurance for the entire family. The family’s out-of-pocket costs would be limited too, so even if someone in the family faced a serious illness, they would not have to pay more than $4,000 in out-of-pocket expenses.

Don’t believe the corporate flacks and Republican talking heads who tell you this is a complicated issue. There is nothing complicated about it. The only people on Capitol Hill who are confused about health care reform are the people in the pockets of insurance company executives. The folks you see on cable TV, who say we need to start over and spend another year — or another decade — before we pass the reform Americans need, are folks who are reading talking points written by insurance company lobbyists and Republican party pollsters. They say that the public opposes reform, but what the public really opposes are the Republican attempts to water down reform and keep the insurance companies happy.

Now, the top Republicans in Congress are spreading the lie that President Obama’s reforms will hurt Medicare recipients. They are making this up, just as they made up the charges about socialized medicine, government control of health care and death panels. These frauds — and that’s what these politicians are — claim that Medicare will be threatened by President Obama’s reforms. These are the same characters who have tried for years to cut Medicare funding and privatize Social Security. Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and Eric Cantor can run from their records, but they can’t hide. Seniors are not going to buy their new found love of Medicare.

These are the same people claiming we can’t afford health care reform. They ignore the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office, which concluded that health care reform actually cuts the federal deficit. That’s because President Obama is cutting the waste and fraud that Republicans and the insurance companies allowed to spread in the health care system. He’s asking wealthy Americans to pay a bit more so that Medicare will be more solvent and the federal government’s health care costs will decline in the years ahead. Seniors will be happy to know that these reforms will end the donut hole they face on their prescription drug benefit, so they won’t have to worry about losing their savings to prescription bills.

If you care about regulating the insurance companies, cutting the deficit, strengthening Medicare and helping working families, you need to take action today. Call your member of Congress and tell them to support health care reform. You can call your U.S. representative now toll free at 888-460-0813. Tell them the time has come to stand up to the insurance companies. The time has come to pass health care reform.

AFSCME members are doing their part. We will make tens of thousands of calls and write letters. We will spend $1 million on television ads this week to let members of Congress know that working families will not let the insurance industry and their front groups dominate the television airways as this historic opportunity to end insurance company abuses comes to a vote.

Don’t be fooled by the insurance companies, the Chamber of Commerce and the GOP operatives. If we fail to defeat the insurance companies, Americans will look back at this week as the one when we lost the best chance in generations to pass a bill to help working families deal with health care. Call your representative and tell them to support health care reform. It’s time to rein in the abuses. It’s time to control skyrocketing costs. It’s time for an up-or-down Congressional vote . It’s time to tell the insurance companies: Your time is up.