Rahall: Don't cut Social Security, Medicare
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., is urging the joint House and Senate committee tasked with negotiating a budget agreement to not cut Social Security and Medicare benefits.
Rahall was one of 61 members of Congress sent a letter to the Budget Conference Committee asking them not to cut the two programs.
House and Senate leaders are continuing budget negotiations to avoid another government shutdown after January 15, when the current continuing resolution runs out.
The Conference Committee is co-chaired by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
"My message to budget negotiators is this," Rahall said. "Don't mess with Social Security and Medicare. Do not even think about cutting the people's benefits.
"Social Security and Medicare are sacred and binding agreements with the American people -- a contract Congress must honor in the ongoing budget negotiations."
In their letter to Murray and Ryan, the 61 members of Congress stress, "Any compromise the conference produces must protect Medicare and Social Security for current and future generations.
"While arriving at a solution to a budget impasse does require difficult choices, it does not require Americans to surrender their hard-earned benefits."
National and state leaders of the American Association of Retired Persons are also taking strong stands against cutting those benefits to reduce the federal deficit.
West Virginia AARP Director Gaylene A. Miller, said on Friday, "We remain steadfast to protect those earned benefits. We oppose cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits to pay for sequestration cuts.
"Social Security is self-financed through payroll taxes and has created surpluses for the past 35 years.
"We have heard from the American public. Conservatives, liberals and independents all agree overwhelmingly on this issue," Miller said.
AARP spokesman Tom Hunter said, "The typical Medicare beneficiary lives off of roughly $22,000 a year," Hunter pointed out. "They spend 17 percent of their income on health care services.
"Adding co-pays and raising deductibles to Medicare could jeopardize their financial stability and their health security."
Rahall and AARP are also raising questions about proposals, some supported by the White House, to cut annual increases in benefits by changing the way Social Security measures inflation.
"Tweaking formulas to undercut COLA [cost of living] adjustments would be breaking faith with the people," Rahall said. "In West Virginia ... we just don't buy undercutting those who held up their end of the bargain, worked all their lives to support benefits for others, only to see a life-long promise broken."
Last December, AARP's national leadership warned "reducing Social Security benefits by moving [from the Consumer Price Index] to a chained consumer price index [would] take $112 billion dollars out of the pockets of current and future Social Security beneficiaries in the next 10 years alone."
AARP called the CCPI proposal "inappropriate and unwarranted. ... Social Security is not the cause of our current large budget deficits."
Miler said, "We have seen entitlements become a dirty word. But you earned those benefits.
"We are going to make sure the American public and people in West Virginia are fully aware of this debate and get their voices heard by members of Congress.
"Shifting costs hurts those who have paid into Medicare all their lives. It does nothing to address the overall cost of health care.
"We are going to keep the spotlight on the issue," Miller said. "These programs should not be part of a backroom deal to fix the nation's budget."
Rahall said, "Congress needs to get back to the basics and recharge our economy by rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, our water and wastewater systems.
"Growing our economy is the surest way to put the security back in Social Security and the care back in Medicare." Reach Paul J. Nyden at email@example.com or 304-348-5164.