LA Times (NAT)
The stealth attack on Social Security gains ground
The Social Security Administration is getting better all the time -- at quietly slashing services to Americans. The agency has closed dozens of field offices and sharply cut back the staff and hours of those still open.
The cutbacks threaten to make wait times on its phone lines longer. Rulings on disability applications will take longer too. Put it all together, and client service at the Social Security Administration begins to look more like customer service at your cable company every day. That's bad for the agency, and it's worse for the millions of Americans who pay into the program with every paycheck or depend on its life-sustaining benefits. The agency's latest move, which took effect Oct. 1, is to completely cut out all mailings of annual statements to enrollees and beneficiaries, even to people who request them.
Kaiser Health News (NAT)
Sen. Schumer Says Increasing Medicare Age Won’t Be In Any Deal
Mary Agnes Carey
“I don’t think raising the age will happen,” Schumer, the Senate’s third-ranking Democrat, said during a speech at the National Press Club. “There’s a lot of opposition to it.” Schumer sits on the the Senate Finance Committee and is a member of the Democratic leadership in the Senate. With a lame-duck session expected after the election to seek a way to avert sequestration and to address other fiscal issues, the public statements of senior member like Schumer are often seen a means of testing reaction to potential areas of compromise.
Children and Grandchilden Do Not Pay for Budget Deficits, They Get Interest on the Bonds
Politicians, especially those who want to cut programs like Social Security and Medicare, are fond of telling people that our children and grandchildren will pay the national debt. That one may sell well with focus groups, but it is complete nonsense. Unfortunately, Eduardo Porter repeats this line in his column today.
New York Times (NAT)
Cutbacks and the Fate of the Young
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, if Mr. Romney spared those 55 and over from any changes to Medicare or Social Security, as his campaign has promised, spending on everything else would have to be cut by more than $6 trillion from 2014 to 2022. The center did not specify how this would affect the young. But a repeal of health care reform would drastically reduce health benefits. The budget for Medicaid, which is the biggest federal program serving children, would be cut by almost $2 trillion over 10 years.
Social Security: Where Obama and Romney stand
Last summer, during the debt ceiling negotiations, Obama said the framework created by the so-called Gang of Six -- a bipartisan group of senators -- was "broadly consistent" with his. That framework called on lawmakers to direct any savings from Social Security reform back into the program and not use them for deficit reduction.
San Antonio (TX)
Payroll tax cut finally set to expire
Did the payroll tax cut boost job creation? None of the tax cuts going back to 2001 did.
The payroll tax cut is this: the 6.2 percent Social Security tax paid by employees was reduced to 4.2 percent in 2011. Congress extended the tax cut into 2012. The tax cut was good this year for wages up to the Social Security cap, which is $110,100, a slightly higher amount than in 2011.
The Obama administration started the payroll tax cut as a way to boost consumer spending and job hiring. The payroll tax cut was clever in that it applied to everyone who had a paycheck. If it had been an income-tax rate reduction, it would have helped only the people who earned enough to pay income taxes.
Huffington Post (NAT)
Mr. President: Tweak This!
It would not be right to call it a sell-out: the cuts that Democrats would make to Social Security benefits. They have been signaling it for some time. In the recent presidential debate, the president reiterated his determination to reduce retirement, survivor, and disability benefits for millions of Americans. This admission came in the form of an acknowledgement that his position did not differ materially from that of Mitt Romney. This alleged agreement is that the system is not in fundamental difficulty, but it needs to be "tweaked." Whether Romney's side of this can be believed I will leave to others. My concern here is the view of the more likely winner of the election, and the one I will be gritting my teeth to vote for, Rockin' Barack Obama.
Concord Monitor (NH)
Protect Medicare, Social Security
I am supporting Annie Kuster for Congress. Medicare and Social Security are there for me, and I want them to be there for my children and grandchildren. There are ways to make sure that Medicare and Social Security can be sustained well into the future if Congress is willing to put all solutions on the table. Kuster is willing to work to accomplish this. There is absolutely no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Kuster's opponent, in supporting the Paul Ryan budget, would not only throw out the water and the baby but might just chuck the tub with them. Let us not go backward. Our representatives should make sure that Social Security and Medicare are there for us and our children.
St. Louis Today (MO)
Social Security Administration To Close Field Offices Early
Starting Monday, Nov. 19, all 1,233 Social Security Administration (SSA) field offices will trim office hours by 30 minutes, according to Federal Times, a newspaper for senior U.S. government managers. The reduction in Social Security office hours highlights the importance of seeking Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) representation for people with disabilities, according to Allsup, a nationwide provider of Social Security disability representation and Medicare plan selection services. The announcement comes more than a year after the Social Security announced that field offices would be closing to the public at 3:30 p.m., or 30 minutes earlier than previous hours. This additional reduction of 30 minutes now means field offices will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Weekly Standard (NAT)
Kaine Supports Raising Tax Rates in a Recession
"There's no theology or magic to that number," Kaine told a crowd of 40 at an event in Northern Virginia Wednesday morning. "But it's a number that is a compromise."
Roll Call (NAT)
Support Slim for ‘Gang of Eight’
Sources inside and outside the group are dubious that it will come to agreement. Moreover, Reid and McConnell have been waiting until after the November elections to decide whether to extend the expiring Bush-era tax cuts or how to replace automatic spending cuts set to take effect in January. And they’re certainly not endorsing a product that doesn’t yet exist, or negotiating with a group that they have both publicly dismissed in the past as futile or unnecessary.
“Nothing has changed,” one senior GOP leadership aide said. “The only thing that’s different is that [Senate Budget Chairman] Kent Conrad is not going to be a Senator next year and they’re going to need to find a new member for the group.”
Huffington Post (NAT)
George Allen Targeted By Unions In $2.25 Million Ad Campaign
“George Allen’s radical agenda would help insurance companies pad their profits by delaying and denying health care services. His Medicare and women’s health proposals would gut Medicare and eliminate access to vital preventive health care for millions of women. George Allen is simply out-of-touch with Virginia families,” said Seth Johnson, AFSCME assistant political director, in a statement. Allen, a former senator who lost to Democrat James Webb in 2006, is running to reclaim the seat against former Democratic governor Tim Kaine in a tight race. Polls put Kaine slightly ahead in the race for the retiring Webb's seat.
Obama camp launches Medicaid ad
Some Democrats and center-left policy types have wondered for a while if their party would lean harder at some point into a message about Mitt Romney's plans for Medicaid, the government-funded health program on which many lower-income Americans depend. Well that moment has apparently come — just a few days ahead of the vice presidential debate — with a TV commercial the Obama campaign says is airing in New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada. "It’s one of the hardest decisions a family can make: Realizing a nursing home is the only choice. For many middle-class families, Medicaid is the only way to afford the care," the ad says. "But as a governor, Mitt Romney raised nursing home fees eight times. And as president, his budget cuts Medicaid by one-third."
Vice presidential debate could be a tale of two Ryans
For Vice President Joe Biden, a major question heading into his debate with Ryan in Kentucky on Thursday is "a choice of which Ryan we're going to see," a Biden adviser said. Instead of promoting his own budget plan, which includes caps on future Medicare spending, Ryan is talking up Romney's more voter-friendly version, which has no spending limits, at campaign events. "The vice president has been studying up on (Ryan's) real positions and is prepared to call him out on his actual positions," said the adviser.