Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) hosted a summit meeting today on Capitol Hill with seniors, the disabled, labor and other grassroots groups united to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from budget cuts.
The summit was held one day before President Barack Obama and congressional leaders are to meet at the White House on ways to reduce deficits and avert automatic Jan. 1 spending cuts and tax increases.
"There are fair ways to reduce the $1 trillion federal deficit and $16 trillion national debt, but balancing the budget on the backs of the elderly, the sick, the children and the poor is not among them," Sanders said. "We are here today to send a very loud and very clear message to the leadership in the House, in the Senate and in the White House: Do not cut Social Security; do not cut Medicare, do not cut Medicaid and do not provide more tax breaks to the top 2 percent who are doing phenomenally well and in many cases have never had it so good."
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said last week's election "presented the American people with a choice between two very different visions for our economy. And, in that election, the American people spoke very clearly in support of an economic policy that puts the middle class first. When it comes to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, the American people told us to protect and strengthen these programs, not cut them," said Harkin, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee. "In the coming weeks and months as the Senate works to create jobs, strengthen the economy, and reduce the deficit and debt, we will stand firm against any misguided effort to cut these programs that undergird the middle class."
"Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are pillars of economic fairness and stability for Americans. Although it is important to reduce our deficit, we should not do so on the backs of our nation's seniors, disabled citizens, and those who are already struggling to stay afloat in this economy. I will fight any efforts to cut benefits under these programs," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).
"MoveOn's 7 million members are deeply committed to defending Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid from any benefit cuts. These are critical systems providing earned benefits and protecting every American who works hard and plays by the rules. It would be unconscionable to cut them just to give millionaires and billionaires another tax cut. That's why MoveOn has joined with Senator Sanders and Social Security Works to organize this summit, and it's why we will campaign aggressively to prevent any benefit cuts as part of any budget deal," said Justin Ruben, executive director of MoveOn.org Political Action.
The Strengthen Social Security Campaign, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, the Alliance for Retired Americans, MoveOn.org, the Service Employees International Union, the AFL-CIO and others helped coordinate the event.
More than 130,000 Americans have signed on to a petition opposing cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The petition is on Sanders' Senate website and also online at the Social Security Works website and MoveOn.org.
Social Security has not contributed a dime to the deficit. It has a $2.7 trillion surplus and can pay all benefits for the next 21 years. Despite this, one of the most talked-about ideas on Capitol Hill is a revision in how inflation is calculated that would cut annual cost-of-living adjustments in Social Security for seniors, disabled veterans and military retirees. Switching to this new way to measure consumer prices, a so-called chained CPI, would result in a significant cut in benefits that would make it harder for permanently disabled veterans and the elderly to make ends meet.
Medicare and Medicaid benefits should not be cut at a time when 50 million Americans have no health insurance and millions more are under-insured. Congressional Republicans want to raise the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67.