In November, congressional leaders went on offense. Senators Tom Harking and Sherrod Brown introduced a bill to [expand] Social Security [benefits]. Elizabeth Warren took to the floor to declare that the tide had changed. Unions rallied their members to flood Congress with calls, and Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Move On and others gathered millions of signatures for petitions (while at 360,000, Fix the Debt fell far short of its 10 million goal.)
As Republicans and Democrats alike talk about trimming social safety-net programs to reduce deficits, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, is pushing a proposal to increase Social Security benefits.
“There are plenty of ways to … get in a better place in the budget,” Brown said in call with reporters and PCCC members Wednesday. “Cutting social security is not one of them.”
He has signed onto a bill, sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, that would make the Social Security benefit formula a tad more generous, would give seniors more robust cost-of-living increases, and would require wealthier Americans to pay more in Social Security taxes.
A growing coalition of progressive groups and seniors’ organizations are gathering behind Sen. Tom Harkin’s bill to expand Social Security benefits. On a conference call with PCCC members, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) was asked by a supporter whether such a measure would stand a chance in a Congress that can’t seem to come together to pass any constructive legislation. “It depends on the pressure that you all put on them,” he said. GOP lawmakers, he added, are “always concerned about a right-wing tea party challenge, but the public is clearly with us on this, and I think the more they hear about this the better our chances of winning some of our Republican colleagues over.”
When the new budget conferees met last week, Budget Chairman Paul Ryan ruled out any new taxes, spawning headlines that he had “killed” the grand bargain. The response from progressives? We killed it first.
“Harry Reid already killed it by saying there will be no benefit cuts. Paul Ryan shot bullets into the corpse,” said Adam Green, who heads up the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “Unfortunately, this zombie has come back to life many times — and by making the case for why seniors need expanded Social Security benefits, a national coalition of groups will continue working to keep a Grand Bargain dead and off the table.”
Liberal Democrats on the Hill have taken the hint: they are not only outright opposing any changes to Social Security, there’s a small but growing group of Senators who are looking to expand the program. A bill introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin and backed by Sens. Sherrod Brown, Mark Begich, and Brian Schatz, would do just that.
“The only way that right-wing politicians win on this if cuts to Social Security are buried under the guise of restructuring and reforming entitlements in some other budget deal,” said Brown on a conference call with PCCC supporters. “I cannot believe there will be a major budget deal presented on the floor of the senate that has cuts to Social Security.”
Today at noon Eastern, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) will join PCCC members from across the nation on a national conference call to discuss growing momentum behind the push to expand Social Security benefits. Click here to listen to the call online.
Yesterday, Sen. Brown announced to the PCCC's national membership base of nearly 1 million members that he will be cosponsoring Senator Tom Harkin's (D-IA) Social Security expansion bill in the Senate and joining forces with the PCCC to go on offense on Social Security.
In a message to PCCC members, Sen. Brown said:
"There are plenty of ways to improve the Social Security that nearly 2 million people in Ohio rely on -- like lifting the income cap, or calculating benefits in a way that better accounts for the expenses seniors face. And neither of those involves cutting benefits. That's why today I'm announcing that I'm teaming up with Tom Harkin and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) to grow a progressive grassroots movement devoted to expanding Social Security."
Progressives are rallying around two bills in the Senate sponsored by Sen. Harkin and Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) that would expand benefits by $452 for retirees at age 75 and $807 at age 85. By "scrapping the cap" on what the wealthy pay into Social Security, the Harkin-Begich plan will pay for these benefit increases and leave trillions left over to extend Social Security's solvency beyond its current $2.7 trillion surplus. Alan Grayson (D-FL), Mike Honda (D-CA), and over 40 members of Congress have co-sponsored House versions of the Harkin-Begich plan.
Over 30 national groups representing over 20 million Americans are leading the movement to expand Social Security benefits including the PCCC, AFL-CIO, National Organization for Women, Latinos for a Secure Retirement, MoveOn, Democracy For America, and CREDO Action.
Over 635,000 progressives ...
In a town consumed by how quickly and how deeply to cut Social Security, a handful of Democratic senators have a different idea: expand it.
Legislation to this effect was introduced earlier this spring by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee. The Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013 has since been co-sponsored by Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Mark Begich (D-AK) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who added his name this week.
Progressive activists are touting the bill, eager to shift the terms of the debate from how much to cut retirement benefits to ways to increase them. The AFL-CIO, the nation's largest labor union, wants to expand Social Security. Liberal activist groups including MoveOn.org and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee have made it their new rallying cry.
"Senator Brown's endorsement of expanding Social Security benefits is a clear sign that Democrats are ready to go on offense after winning the government shutdown, after years of playing defense," said PCCC's co-founder Adam Green. "[O]ur polling shows that expanding benefits is super popular even in deep red states like Texas and Kentucky. Progressives are on offense, and we're not looking back."
You'll hear talk of tax and entitlement reform early next year as House and Senate budget conferees once again look for ways out of another fiscal panic. But before you can say "don't touch my Social Security," a group of progressives -- Democrats in Congress, the AFL-CIO, NOW, MoveOn -- is saying: Let's raise Social Security benefits.
And Ohio Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown will join them today.
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, composed of activists from liberal and labor organizations behind high-profile political and public policy campaigns such as the draft-Elizabeth Warren movement, wants to boost the annual cost-of-living adjustment. By the time a retiree was age 75, he or she would be getting an extra $452 a year, and $807 more a year by age 85.
This could resonate with retirees -- nearly 2 million in Ohio -- who learned last week that the 2014 cost-of-living adjustment will be a meager 1.5 percent.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has become the fifth Democratic senator to get behind a push to increase Social Security benefits for seniors, as progressives seek to push back against White House attempts to cut the program.
PCCC co-founder Adam Green said the Brown move gives momentum to the bill which is backed by the AFL-CIO and many of its member unions.
"Senator Brown's endorsement of expanding Social Security benefits is a clear sign that Democrats are ready to go on offense after winning the government shutdown, after years of playing defense,” Green said.
Senator Sherrod Brown is joining the push to expand Social Security, and he’s making a startling argument: Dems should go on offense on entitlements, rather than let Republicans and Beltway fiscal scolds frame the discussion as one over how muchbenefits should be cut, not one over whether they should be cut at all.
Brown is endorsing Tom Harkin’s bill to expand Social Security benefits, which would boost benefits for beneficiaries by $70 per month, change the cost-of-living calculation to keep pace with rising costs of things seniors need, and scrap the payroll tax cap to strengthen the program over the long term. The crusade to expand Social Security got started with liberal bloggers such as Atrios began pushing for it, and gained some momentum when liberal groups such as the Progressive Change Campaign Committee began mobilizing behind the idea.
Some politicians want to raise the Medicare age, which would save little money for the government and be painful for seniors. In Politico this morning, progressive Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown (OH) flatly objected to the idea and castigated its proponents:
“That is such a Washington, Heritage Foundation construction,” Brown said of raising the eligibility age.
Reminded that some of his own colleagues are open to it, he shot back: “They’re wrong.”
And he wondered, speaking of both Democratic and Republican advocates of such reform, “Do they not ever talk to factory workers, construction workers, people that work in diners?”
Raising the Medicare age would cost seniors approximately $11.4 billion annually.
Click here to pledge to hold any Democrat who agrees to a deal that cuts Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits accountable.
There are now multiple press reports that President Obama will agree to a fiscal deal that enacts a so-called “Chained CPI” to calculate Social Security and veterans’ benefits. Under this plan, “a person age 75 in the future will get a yearly benefit that’s $653 lower after ten years of chained CPI than that person would get under the current formula. An 85-year-old will have $1,139 less to live on.” This represents a huge cut to benefits.
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) told Congressional Quarterly (subscription only) that he doesn't like the idea of the chained CPI "at all" and that his colleagues "overwhelmingly" agree with him:
Democrats sharply criticized the idea on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, but several said they hoped the White House could create a cushion to soften the impact on the neediest beneficiaries.
“I don’t like it at all,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, adding that his colleagues “overwhelmingly” agreed with him on the issue.
We set up an ActBlue page to highlight and reward bold progressive members of Congress who are speaking out publicly today. Check them out and donate $3 to them here.
President Obama's historic endorsement of marriage equality earlier this year is just one indication that America is moving towards giving full rights to its citizens of all sexual orientations.
But most of the Republican Party continues to oppose equality. Ohio Republican Senate candidate Josh Mandel is one of these Republicans who opposes marriage rights for gays and lesbians.
Eight members of Mandel's extended family have just written him an open letter condemning his anti-equality views. These family members note that two of Mandel's cousins are lesbians, and that he is failing to support their rights. Below is the letter in its entirety:
Open Letter to Josh Mandel, Republican Candidate for U.S. Senator from OhioDear Josh,
Four years ago you came into our family. We still remember the excitement surrounding your wedding, and how happy our family members were as they described it afterwards. So we were deeply saddened when you announced during your October 18th debate with Senator Sherrod Brown that you believe only some people should share this right to marry the person they love, while others should not.
Your cousins, Ellen Ratner and Cholene Espinoza, are among the many wonderful couples whose rights you do not recognize. They were married almost eight years ago in Massachusetts, at a time when it was the only state in the nation to allow same-sex marriage. Their wedding, like yours, was a beautiful and happy occasion for all of us in our family. It hurts us that you would embrace discrimination against them and countless other loving couples in Ohio and around the country.
We are equally distressed by your belief that gay men and women should not be allowed to serve openly in the military. Like you, Cholene spent many years in the ...
Last night, bold progressive Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) faced off with his right-wing challenger Josh Mandel.
At one point, the debate host Chuck Todd asked both candidates if they would be open to raising the retirement age for Social Security and Medicare, which would amount to a huge cut to benefits for both programs.
Mandel tried to weasel out of answering the question, saying that he was open to making changes to the programs for younger people but would not specify whether he would make these exact changes.
When it came time for Brown to answer, he didn't waver. He blasted the idea of raising the retirement age and eloquently explained that working-class people can't work any longer:
BROWN: Here's why I wouldn't raise the retirement age, the age for Medicare eligibility. I met a woman in Youngstown a few months ago. Who said, 'I'm 63 years old I don't have health insurance, I just want to stay alive until I turn 65 so I can get health insurance.' If you raise the retirement age...maybe if you dress like this, if you're the state treasurer, you're a U.S. Senator maybe it works, but for a whole lot of working Americans it doesn't.
TODD: But does it work for anybody?
BROWN: No, you don't! You don't. ... On Social Security, I would not raise the retirement age, because working people, construction people, people who work in diners can't work until they're 70! ... I would think of raising the [payroll tax] cap.
Brown's answer hit the nail on the head: raising the retirement age would hit working-class people the most, whose life expectancy actually hasn't increased very much in recent years. Lifting the payroll tax cap and making the wealthy pay a little bit more would keep Social ...
Josh Mandel -- the Republican is running against bold progressive Senator Sherrod Brown (D-MA) -- released his "ten point" plan for health care yesterday. The two most specific and major ideas in Mandel's plan are the following: re-instating $716 billion in wasteful and inefficient subsidies for private insurance companies in Medicare while repealing the Affordable Care Act, and block-granting Medicaid.
The first is self-explanatory. The Affordable Care Act reduced subsidies to private insurance companies under Medicare Advantage, which saves taxpayers money and does nothing to reduce Medicare benefits. Republicans have seized on this to misleadingly claim that Obama cut Medicare, and are serving their insurance company paymasters by trying to repeal this reform.
The second idea, however, is both newer and incredibly dangerous. Block-granting Medicaid would eliminate the current financing structure where the federal government picks up 50 to 75 percent of each state's Medicaid costs. Instead, it would dramatically decrease the amount of money that the federal government spends on the program and would give states flexibility to drop more Medicaid-eligible patients altogether.
The non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation analyzed possible state responses to transforming Medicaid into a block grant program and repealing the Affordable Care Act and predicted that between 31 and 44 million Americans would lose their health coverage altogether if this change were to be enacted.
PCCC plans to make hundreds of thousands of calls for Elizabeth Warren's Massachusetts Senate race. Another top priority is Alan Grayson's House race in Florida. Call Out The Vote will also help Sen. Sherrod Brown's re-election effort in Ohio and Tammy Baldwin's Senate campaign in Wisconsin. On the House side, calls will go out for Rob Zerban, who is trying unseat Paul Ryan, Annie Kuster's campaign in New Hampshire, and several other progressive candidates.
Out of any of the federal interventions into the economy over the past four years, one of the most successful was the auto rescue, which is so popular that a Romney adviser even ludicrously tried to claim that it was Mitt Romney's idea (remember that the candidate wrote an op-ed titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt").
It's notable that Ohio Republican Josh Mandel -- who is trying to defeat bold progressive incumbent Senator Sherrod Brown (D) -- can't even take a position on it.
The Vindicator newspaper (Youngstown, Ohio) asked Mandel six times whether he would've supported the auto rescue, and each time he dodged the question:
Asked a half dozen times using different scenarios, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, wouldn’t give a yes-or-no answer as to whether he supports the $82 billion federal government bailout of the American auto industry.
During a Wednesday editorial board meeting with The Vindicator, Mandel was repeatedly asked the question.
Each time, Mandel either said it was wrong for the bailout to not help Delphi salaried retirees — who lost their health and life insurance and had their pensions cut by 30 percent to 70 percent — or dismissed various scenarios offered by the editorial board’s members as not being legitimate questions.
It's kind of a given that a U.S. Senator should be able to tell you whether or not they would've supported a major policy like the auto rescue.
UPDATE: Here's the video of Mandel dodging the question for five minutes: