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Washington Memo: We must not balance the budget on the backs of seniors

Last week, reasonable Republicans and Democrats in Congress came together to end the government shutdown and eliminate the threat of default. It was not a perfect solution, but I voted for it because it was a necessary compromise in the face of an unnecessary shutdown.

As part of the compromise, Congress agreed to try to focus on the budget. This means Republicans and Democrats will try to negotiate a plan to boost job creation; make key investments in infrastructure, education and housing; reduce the deficit; and protect programs vital to middle class security. This will be extremely tough since there are four budgets floating around: President Obama’s budget, the Senate budget (known as the Murray budget), House Republicans’ budget (known as the Ryan Budget), and the House Democrats’ budget (known as the Van Hollen budget).

Before these talks even begin, there is chatter about ways to balance the budget on the backs of seniors by making dramatic changes to Social Security and Medicare.

In past years, House Republicans passed Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget, which eliminates the Medicare guarantee and puts Social Security at risk. The Senate refused to go along.

I strongly oppose the Ryan budgets. America faces real problems. Too many people remain unemployed. Wages have been stagnant for too long. And our deficit, though falling, is still too high. But targeting seniors and other vulnerable populations is not the answer.

New Hampshire seniors have worked for, paid into and earned Medicare and Social Security benefits through a lifetime of hard work. We must keep our commitment to them, and to future generations.

Together with Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security embodies the moral fabric of our country. These programs are the foundation of economic security for seniors and for the most vulnerable. While I am open to proposals that make Social Security stronger and extend its solvency, I will not accept a budget that takes from Social Security beneficiaries without first asking America’s millionaires and multibillion-dollar corporations to pay their fair share. Keep in mind that in 2008, nearly two-thirds of U.S. companies and 68 percent of foreign corporations did not pay federal income taxes, and Wall Street profits have soared while workers’ incomes have been flat.

For six in 10 New Hampshire residents who are 65 and older, Social Security makes up 50 percent or more of their income. As of December 2012, the average monthly benefit for those receiving Social Security was $1,215. Over the course of a year, this averages out to $14,581. It is immoral to balance the budget on the backs of seniors with incomes under $15,000, when those in the top 1 percent have seen their incomes skyrocket over the past 10 years.

More than one-third of Granite Staters over 65 would be living in poverty if they did not receive Social Security. And it’s not just seniors who benefit. Over one-third of beneficiaries in New Hampshire are spouses and families of workers who become disabled or die prematurely, including over 20,000 children. These benefits should not be used as a budget bargaining chip.

We do need to find ways to strengthen Social Security and Medicare. I am proud to have cosponsored legislation to ensure the long-term viability of Social Security. The Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act would create long-range solvency while improving benefits, and it would ensure greater economic security for America’s seniors. There are also a number of efforts to keep Medicare strong and root out fraud, waste and inefficiencies.

I am ready to support a balanced plan to grow the economy and protect children, seniors, families and veterans. We know that Congress must work out a long-term budget to reduce the deficit, invest in job creation, upgrade our infrastructure and strengthen the middle class. But I will not ask seniors or the most vulnerable to carry the burden when we can take other measures. For example, we could end outrageous farm and oil subsidies, close corporate tax loopholes, and do tax reform so our system is fair.

There’s a saying that if you don’t sit at the table, you will be on the menu. There are always too many seats at the table for the most powerful and influential. There must be a seat there for the rest of our citizens.

(Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter represents New Hampshire’s 1st District.)

Legacy Comments11

The US government owes SSI more than 2.7 trillion dollars. Pay up.

Can we at least be honest about the nature and size of these benefits? The average Social Security recipient will take more than twice what they paid in taxes; and if they have a spousal benefit, they will take even more; and if they have a survivor benefit, they will take even more. The average Medicare recipient will receive ten times what they pay in premiums. These are government handouts, pure and simple. The benefits are neither earned nor deserved. They are simply a transfer of wealth from one generation to the next.

From 2000 through 2008 this nation was bestowed with several landmark tax cuts, given to the wealthy and especially corporate America, with repeated promises by the President, along with other elected politicians (pretty much Republicans) that these cuts would stimulate our businesses to invest in themselves, modernize their facilities and manufacturing tooling, make us all more competitive with the rest of the world, and lastly, create 1000s upon 1000s of new jobs. It wasn't tax reform, but the dramatic shift in tax policycreated by all those tax cuts created profound changes, which a large part of our population still does not comprehend. None of those promises materialized, all those new jobs promised never happened. "For this reason alone, we should repeal all of the tax cuts they were given and restore their former tax rates. If they leave the USA because of it, good riddance. People need to wake up to the truth about why we are broke, the sooner the better. Shea-Porter is trying to tell you, pay attention. Of course, the usual cast of GOP supporters will soon show up and deny all of this, and in turn blame it on Obama. But anyone who was here knows better.

Another FALSE statement - every single tax payer got a tax reduction and the lower incomes got a greatER % return. That is FACT - the lowest incomes got a reduction from 15% to 10% - (I WILL DO THE MATH FOR THE DEMOCRATS) THAT IS A 50% REDUCTION. currently 49% OF AMERICANS PAY zero FEDERAL TAXES. tHE DEMOCRAT MACHINE TO

"paid into and earned Medicare and Social Security benefits through a lifetime of hard work" - the public did their part by paying into the system exactly what was asked. To now say, sorry we (Congress) spent the money else-where so you will not get it borders on criminal actions. During the last budget shut down what was the ONE most important thing that kept coming up - The Debt Ceiling - Congress wanted to make sure the "INVESTORS" got their fair return on investment payments. Could not have the "INVESTORS" pissed off. Just like business started taking from the workers to give to the "INVESTORS" (stock holders) larger dividends, Congress now wants to take from the middle class and poorer citizens (SS, medicare) to make sure the rich get their cash payouts as "INVESTORS".

OK - lets give them back exactly what the paid into the system PLUS interest - After you look at you own personal contributions and what you are expecting us to pay you back you soon realize it is a PONZI sceme.

Agreed, but the ponzi scheme was that the politicians took the money and spent it on other things. The plan (SS, Medicare) were set up that the public paid (under threat of law) and down the road they got a payout. The government made the plan and now decides (just like corporate America is doing) that they will just change the rules. Too late for these people to make other plans, they are out of time (called retirement). How about we give you back each dollar you put in your 401K with interest but only the exact dollars you personally put in - sound fair, same principle. Companies told employees they would get health insurance in retirement, nope changed their mind. WHY?, so they could pay the money to wealthy stock holders and those at the top of the company (themselves) rather than to the employees they made a deal with. I'll repeat again, Congress will take from the employees (tax payers) to make sure the investors get 100% guaranteed return. I don't see Congress losing anything (they just make themselves exempt), I don't see their corporate donators loosing anything, I don't see the rich investors (donators) loose anything - only the people who followed the law and have paid in for 30+ years.

Proposed changes do not include those retired or near retirement. A wholesale change is needed or America will go bankrupt soon

To many FALSE statements to respond to them all but you may want to check some non liberal sources - Companies like IBM that dropped retires from their plan are still subsidizing them to get it on their own - through ObamaKare .....your incorrect statement is the kind of False stuff that fills a liberals mind

Misleading headline....Should read 'Must not balance the budget". Period.

You are in violation of the law. The budget control act outlines the budget process. Problem is....there is no penalty for not following it...well, no penalty except for making all our kids reverse millionaires. And another thing...I dont think you understand SS. We pay into SS to support the people currently on SS....we dont have an account that our money goes into. And BTW...you got a raise this year. May I ask...what for?

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