Billings Gazette (WY)
Guest opinion: Don't let Congress cut Social Security, Medicare benefits
AL EKBLAD and RICHARD TRUMKA
Behind closed doors, some members of Congress are using the lame duck congressional session to arrange a “grand bargain” — and some are insisting on extending tax cuts for the richest 2 percent of Americans while proposing cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security benefits. There is no justice at all in considering cuts to prepaid, earned-benefit programs like Social Security.
There is no logic at all in considering cuts to programs that are depended upon by people across Montana and millions of Americans across the country. Who would be impacted by these decisions in Congress? Everyone.
Huffington Post (NAT)
Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein Wants Seniors to Get Less
The hypocrisy of Lloyd Blankfein, a Wall Street banker, and other corporate leaders who have inserted themselves into the debate over major tax and spending decisions under consideration in Congress is nothing short of repugnant. Blankfein's Goldman Sachs got billions from the federal government during the Wall Street bailouts, enabling him to hold a job that paid him $16.1 million in 2011, and now he wants the rest of us to take a pay cut -- now and in the future. Referring to Social Security, he told CBS, "You're going to have to do something, undoubtedly, to lower people's expectations of what they're going to get." That's a second-rate vision for a first world country, and we just voted for a lot better than that. Blankfein is one of many Fortune 500 CEOs who joined together under the name "Fix the Debt," a campaign to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to address the federal deficit during the fiscal showdown. This group of more than 90 CEOs is pushing cuts to middle-class programs while shielding millionaires, billionaires and big corporations from tax increases.
Columbia Journalism Review (NY)
Dart: CBS and the Goldman Sachs solution
Another approach would have been to add a little economic history and context. The US is a far richer country than it was in 1935 when President Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act, and richer than it was in 1965, when Congress created Medicare. “It’s hard to figure out how we could afford to take care of our old people in 1937(sic) and 1965 when our country was one-quarter or one-half as wealthy as it is today, but can’t afford to do so today,” noted Jim Naureckas on the blog of FAIR, the liberal media advocacy group. The question is a good one.
New York Times (NAT)
Now Touring, the Debt Duo, Simpson-Bowles
On Tuesday, Mr. Bowles and corporate executives he helped recruit to a “Fix the Debt” campaign met privately at the White House with six senior administration officials, including Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. The commission’s report “could have just been put into the dustbin,” said David M. Cote, the chief executive of Honeywell and a panel member. “Instead,” Mr. Cote added, “it’s become the basis for all of this discussion.”
National Journal (NAT)
Billionaire Peterson Sounds Alarm on Deficit
So, Peterson decided to commit a chunk of his Blackstone fortune to deficit reduction: a move that has helped to fund many of the brand-name debt groups in town, including the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget; the Concord Coalition; Comeback America Initiative; Fix the Debt; and, of course, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.
Liberals continue to be skeptical of Peterson, since he originally advocated for just overhauling the entitlement programs. Many progressives see his fight as one waged to primarily shrink the size of Medicare, Medicaid, and the social safety net, rather than to sincerely deal with the tax code or deficit. Peterson disagrees with this characterization, saying that one area he’s most interested in is preserving programs like Social Security for the needy.
Huffington Post (NAT)
Tom Cole, GOP Congressman, Urges Republicans To Agree To Obama Tax Plan
Mollie Reilly & Sam Stein
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) on Tuesday pressed his fellow Republicans to go along with President Barack Obama's plan to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans for the time being in order to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff." In an interview with Politico, the Republican said he has encouraged his colleagues in the House to extend the Bush tax rates for incomes below $250,000 immediately, after which they could push for an extension of the cuts for incomes above that level. Without any congressional action, all of the Bush tax cuts will expire on Jan. 1. "I think we ought to take the 98 percent deal right now," Cole told Politico. "It doesn't mean I agree with raising the top two. I don't." Cole expressed his position during a meeting of the House GOP whip team on Tuesday, arguing that voting for an extension on the cuts for all but the top 2 percent would stop an increase for most Americans and put Republicans in a better position to fight higher rates for the top earners down the road.
Obama Had Unannounced Fiscal Cliff Talk With Finance CEOs
It was called by Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president, and among the other administration officials present were Vice President Joe Biden, National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling and Jeffrey Zients, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, according to White House officials, who asked for anonymity because the meeting wasn’t publicly announced. The talks included a discussion of cuts in entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Obama emphasized his drive to extend existing tax rates for middle-income Americans while letting those for top earners rise when they expire at the end of the year, according to Wolf. “In our meeting the president was clear that the numbers do not add up without the Bush tax extension ending for the top two percent,” said Wolf, former chairman of UBS Americas. “He was equally clear that he thought giving clarity for the other 98 percent of the nation that they would not be paying higher taxes was critical in keeping confidence during the holiday season.”
The Hill (DC)
Durbin: Don't include entitlement reform in short-term fiscal deal
Durbin also said the short-term deal should include an agreement to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. He said he did not believe President Obama would agree to a deal that didn’t include a hike to the debt ceiling, which the nation is set to go over in months.
“We’re not going to find ourselves at some big party celebrating in February and then turn around in March and have another doomsday scenario with the debt ceiling,” Durbin said in comments at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. ”We’ve got to get this done as one big package.” The White House and Congress are trying to negotiate a deal that would prevent taxes from rising on most households in January, when Bush-era tax rates are set to expire. Spending cuts that were a part of last year’s debt ceiling deal are also set to kick in.
THE DAILY CHANGE: IS RAISING THE RETIREMENT AGE TO 70 A GOOD IDEA? ASK A 70.8 YEAR-OLD BLACK MAN
When you break down the situation by race, it gets even worse. While some politicians clamor for the retirement age to be raised to 70, the life expectancy of black males is only 70.8, according to the latest data from the U.S. National Vital Statistics System. That’s nearly six years behind non-Hispanic white men, whose life expectancy is 76.2.
Democrats talk tough on entitlements in fiscal cliff debate
“I personally believe there are things that we can do with entitlements that don’t hurt beneficiaries,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday, noting that he and Obama have insisted that Social Security be off the table. “We hope that they can agree to the tax revenue that we’re talking about, and that is rate increases, and as the president’s said on a number of occasions, we’ll be happy to deal with entitlements.” But there is pressure from off of Capitol Hill to immediately adopt a grand bargain to shave trillions from the debt with a mix of spending cuts and tax revenue. On Wednesday morning, Reid and his leadership team will hear from business leaders behind a national campaign initiative known as “Fix the Debt,” officials said. Republicans are dead set against raising the top income tax rate from 35 percent to 39.6 percent for families who earn more than $250,000, as Obama and his allies on the Hill have repeatedly demanded. But GOP leaders have signaled they’d be open to new revenue from other sources, mainly through closing loopholes and capping deductions, including from high earners, a potential break from their no-new-tax pledge administered by anti-tax activist Grover Norquist.
Huffington Post (NAT)
AFL-CIO Pressures Lawmakers On Fiscal Cliff, Calls GOP 'Hostage Takers'
In the "fly-in lobby day," as it's been billed, the AFL-CIO's local leaders from 33 states will pressure their representatives to let the Bush tax cuts expire and to keep Social Security out of the so-called "fiscal cliff" negotiations. The delegations will meet with House and Senate members from both sides of the aisle, including Democrats who may be willing to cut a deal with Republicans over "entitlement" reforms. The lobby effort coincides with the AFL-CIO's release of state-by-state reports showing the potential effects of cuts to the social insurance programs. The state leaders are presenting lawmakers with a letter from the labor federation's president, Richard Trumka, who told The Huffington Post the morning after the election that the AFL-CIO will not back any budget that includes cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. "Proposals to cut benefits for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are naked attempts to stick working people with the bill for problems they did not cause," the letter from Trumka reads. "Social Security has never added a penny to the deficit and should not be part of any budget negotiations. Working people need more economic security, not less."
Talking Points Memo (NAT)
Exclusive: Major Unions And Progressive Groups Create Filibuster Reform Coalition
The Fix the Senate coalition includes the Alliance for Justice, the Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, the Communications Workers of America, the Sierra Club, and the United Auto Workers. Their renewed efforts come as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and a newly re-elected Senate Democratic majority have announced their intention to change Senate rules to make the GOP’s obstruction efforts more transparent, and speed up the pace of legislative business in the upper chamber.
The Columbus Dispatch (OH)
GOP aims to turn Social Security into welfare
Conservatives never much liked Social Security. It’s a wildly popular government program that’s totally solvent until 2033. It will be easily fixable and by then may not need fixing at all. Doesn’t quite fit with the government-can’t-do-anything-
THE DAILY CHANGE: VICTORY: DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSMAN CHRIS VAN HOLLEN SAYS HE WILL NOT ACCEPT HIKE IN MEDICARE AGE
We applaud Congressman Van Hollen for listening to his constituents and taking this much-discussed Medicare benefit cut off the table. Today, PCCC members in his district will be calling to thank Van Hollen for his bold statement — and we’ll urge him to firmly take all cuts to Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare benefits off the table.
PBS News Hour (NAT)
In Efforts to Find a Budget Solution, Lawmakers Debate Tax Hikes, Entitlements
KEITH ELLISON: Well, we don't believe there's any reason to cut benefits to people who are receiving Medicare and -- Medicare, Social Security.
But we could do some things like raise the cap on Social Security, or we could allow Medicare Part D to negotiate drug prices like the VA already does. There are ways to find waste, fraud and abuse and make some changes that will get more benefits to more people. But making the most vulnerable people in our society bear the burden of this fiscal problem that we're in right now I think is unfair. And it really wouldn't help our economy much.
The Hill (DC)
Dems raise their asking price for a deal
Democrats are increasing their demands on what should be in a deficit deal, seeking to shield entitlement programs and insisting on raising the nation’s debt ceiling this year. In the wake of President Obama’s reelection and Democratic gains in Congress, party leaders are growing bolder as the Dec. 31 deadline for extending the Bush-era tax rates and stopping automatic spending cuts approaches. While Democrats are seeking to use their new political capital, Republicans are refusing to increase tax rates. That dynamic indicates the parties are moving further away from a deal. But political insiders note that both sides are playing leverage games, jockeying for the best agreement they can get before the December holidays. Democratic leaders say any pact to avoid the fiscal cliff should raise the debt limit so Republicans cannot demand additional spending cuts when the nation’s borrowing authority needs to be increased in early 2013.
Washington Post (NAT)
Obama public relations effort aims to avoid ‘fiscal cliff’
By David Nakamura and Zachary A. Goldfarb,
The negotiations grew even more complicated on Tuesday, when several leading Democrats called on Obama to demand that Republicans agree to raise the nation’s $16.4 trillion debt limit as part of any fiscal deal. “We would be somewhat foolish to work out something on stopping us from going over the cliff and then a month or six weeks later, the Republicans would pull the same game they did before,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), referring to the calamitous debt-ceiling negotiations in the summer of 2011. Obama’s move to mobilize his reelection apparatus for the fiscal debate signals that he intends to follow through on remarks he made during the campaign, when he suggested that major reform required public pressure from outside the Beltway. “You can’t change Washington from the inside,” he said at a Univision forum in Miami in September. “You can only change it from the outside.”
Huffington Post (NAT)
Fiscal Cliff Talks Bring Influx of Corporate Lobbying For Tax Perks For The Wealthy
The corporate coalition, known as The Alliance for Savings and Investment, is composed exclusively of corporations and lobbying groups. Major companies include AT&T, Verizon, Coca-Cola and Altria, while lobbying groups include two organizations representing Wall Street, another representing the natural gas industry and another that works on behalf of major electricity companies like Duke Energy, PEPCO and Consolidated Edison. The group is currently running a misleading television ad urging Congress to extend the low tax rate on dividends that is currently set to expire at year-end. The ad portrays two retired seniors worrying that higher dividend taxes will evaporate their retirement savings. The group has also commissioned multiple studies by the accounting firm Ernst & Young suggesting that an increase on dividend taxes will harm seniors.