By Robby Stern
Social Security Advance:
Supporters of strengthening Social Security have hit a milestone. More than half of all Democrats in the U. S. House of Representatives are now co-sponsoring H.R. 1318, the Strengthening Social Security Act.
According to the national Social Security Works Coalition in Washington D.C., for years the supposed “serious people” in D.C. were promoting cuts to Social Security. President Obama proposed cuts to Social Security including the nefarious chained CPI. The “Cat Food Commission,” led by corporate Democrat Erskine Bowles and notorious Republican right winger Alan Simpson, were promoting cuts to Social Security as a way to eliminate the deficit despite Social Security having no relation to the deficit.
But as Sen. Tom Harkin, original co-sponsor of the Strengthening Social Security Act in the Senate, said: “the serious people are seriously out of touch.”
The Strengthening Social Security Act was introduced in the Senate by Senator Harkin and in the House by Rep. Linda Sanchez. S.B. 567 and H.R. 3118 would modestly increase Social Security benefits; apply a different cost of living formula, the CPI-E (i.e. the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly) and allow the program to pay the enhanced benefits by gradually scrapping the cap on Social Security taxes. The cap unfairly favors the top 5% of income earners who are above the cap and therefore do not pay their fair share into the Social Security system.
Now more than half the Democrats in the House, including Washington Representatives Jim McDermott, Adam Smith and Rick Larsen, have signed as co-sponsors of H.R. 3118, indicating they support these changes in our Social Security system. The number of supporters has grown, and we will work to make the numbers continue to increase. The 2014 election is an opportunity to seek the support of Representatives DelBene, Kilmer and Heck and our two U.S. Senators. We also do not plan to ignore the Republican representatives even though they just voted, again, for Rep. Ryan’s budget that would cut both Social Security and Medicare while protecting and expanding tax cuts for corporations and wealthy individuals.
We know that strengthening Social Security by increasing benefits and scrapping the cap is good policy and smart politics in any district in the country. It is time for the rest of our congressional delegation to co-sponsor and support strengthening Social Security, requiring those earning over the cap to pay the same percentage of income that all the rest of the working population pays into our Social Security program.
Health Care Advance:
PSARA supports a single payer health care system. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides that states can apply for federal waivers in 2017 to establish state-based universal coverage systems. PSARA has joined with a number of other organizations in Washington State to help build a political movement that embraces health care as a human right and puts Washington in a position to apply for the waivers. Washington Community Action Network will be the lead organization in helping to organize this statewide movement.
Meanwhile, let’s acknowledge some of the rather remarkable positive outcomes of the Affordable Care Act. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 12 million people who previously lacked insurance will obtain coverage this year. By 2017, an additional 14 million uninsured will manage to get coverage. The number of uninsured will be halved by the time President Obama leaves office.
No longer can people be denied coverage because of preexisting conditions, and those of us on Medicare have seen genuine improvements in the program including coverage of yearly physicals and reductions in the cost of prescription drugs. Parents can keep their kids under their health care coverage for additional years and premiums on the exchanges are lower than anticipated.
The numbers would be even better but for the nullification acts on the part of Republican governors and legislators in more than half the states. They shamefully refused to expand Medicaid to people up to 133% of the federal poverty level despite the cost being borne by the federal government. The poorest and sickest in those states are being forced to suffer and in some cases die as a result of this political pestilence.
It is also not acceptable that the ACA excluded from coverage undocumented workers and their families and created a five-year waiting period for immigrants who are documented. Additionally, there are too many people who are not Medicaid eligible and cannot afford coverage through the exchanges despite the subsidies.
The Washington State legislature seriously failed working families in our state when they did not pass legislation that would allow Washington to be part of the Federal Basic Health Option, a program that was inserted in the ACA by Sen. Cantwell. The insurers and health care provider associations who expressed “concerns” (read opposition) with the Federal Basic Health Option have damaged low-income workers who are unable to afford the cost of the private insurance plans in the Washington State exchange.
We can and we will do better over the next several years as we organize to win recognition of health care as a human right and insist on universal coverage. But it is remarkable what has been accomplished in broadening health care coverage through the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. It was and is a hard-won victory!