Our Mission

The mission of the New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans is to strive for social and economic justice, and civil rights for all citizens to enjoy lives with dignity, personal and family fulfillment, and security. The Alliance believes that all older and retired persons have a responsibility to strive to create a society that incorporates these goals and rights and that retirement provides them with opportunities to pursue new and expanded activities with their unions, civic organizations and their communities.

Monday, December 14, 2015

That SENIORS Act of 2015 sponsored by Frank Guinta

Frank Guinta is sponsoring a bill, H.R.4140: Saving the Earnings and Noting the Investment of Our Retired Seniors Act of 2015 (or SENIORS Act of 2015), for a one-time increase in the Social Security COLA.  There is no summary of the bill yet. Here's information on how the COLA is currently calculated. It's a formula, set way back in 1973.

Besides the fact that it wouldn't be much money, about $149 for the year, the offsets required to find the money for this increase are questionable.  Sequestration is still in effect (which essentially caps and constantly decreases the federal budget, and Guinta voted for that in 2011), and there is no money just sitting around available for this increase.  So Guinta had to use offsets in his bill to come up with the money.

To do this Guinta ends 3 federal programs.  These offsets are as follows:

  • Any balance in the U.S. Enrichment Corporation Fund is permanently rescinded
  • Any funds not yet expended in the Making Home Affordable Program, $2.5 billion to be transferred to the general fund of the Treasury
  • Any balance remaining in the DOE ATVM (Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing) Loan Program is rescinded

Let's take these one by one.

The U.S. Enrichment Corporation Fund designated funds to clean up nuclear wastes so that, after the US Enrichment Corporation was privatized in 1998, the Dept of Energy/taxpayers would not be stuck footing the bill for the treatment and disposal of nuclear wastes.  The fund was established to prevent an "unfunded environmental liability," in the words of Sen. Mitch McConnell on July 15, 1998.  This would leave taxpayers with the bill for nuclear waste clean-up.

Here is what the Dept of Treasury says about its Making Home Affordable Program:
Program Purpose and Overview
In early 2009, Treasury launched the Making Home Affordable® Program (MHA) to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure. MHA is only one part of the Obama Administration’s broader efforts to strengthen the housing market.
Since its inception, MHA has helped homeowners avoid foreclosure by providing a variety of solutions to modify or refinance their mortgages, get temporary forbearance if they are unemployed, or transition out of homeownership via a short sale or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure.
The cornerstone of MHA is the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), which provides eligible homeowners the opportunity to reduce their monthly mortgage payments to more affordable levels.
Since its launch, Treasury launched additional programs under MHA to help homeowners who are unemployed, “underwater” on their loan (those who owe more on their home than it is currently worth), or struggling with a second lien. It also includes options for homeowners who would like to transition to a more affordable living situation through a short sale or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure.  In early 2012, the Obama Administration announced important enhancements to MHA that will expand the pool of eligible borrowers. On June 26, 2014, the Obama Administration extended the application deadline for MHA programs to December 31, 2016.
Guinta would end a program that helps families keep their homes. Does he have a plan for these people?

Finally, here is what the Dept of Energy says about its ATVM program:
ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY VEHICLES MANUFACTURING DIRECT LOAN PROGRAM
The Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) direct loan program was established in Section 136 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to support the production of fuel-efficient, advanced technology vehicles  and qualifying components in the United States.
The ATVM loan program provides direct loans to automotive or component manufacturers for reequipping, expanding, or establishing manufacturing facilities in the U.S. that produce fuel-efficient advanced technology vehicles or qualifying components, or for engineering integration performed in the U.S. for advanced technology vehicles or qualifying components.
To date, the program has supported the production of more than 4 million advanced technology vehicles and has over $16 billion in remaining loan authority.
LPO is currently accepting new applications for ATVM loans.  Prospective applicants are encouraged to review eligibility requirements before applying.
Guinta apparently thinks it isn't necessary to foster innovation and help US manufacturers produce more fuel-efficient vehicles. This would harm business, cut jobs, limit the production of more affordable vehicles, and hurt the environment, all in one.

The solution here is a repeal of sequestration, an increase in federal resources through fair taxation, and an end to corporate giveaways and tax loopholes.  That would be a good start.

This bill is a publicity stunt.  We seniors are used to that by now.  It has a nice name, but the small amount of money involved, about $149 for the full year, hardly balances the damage the offsets would cause.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Why we should oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership

We are delighted to share this excellent article by Rhode Island Alliance for Retired Americans President John Pernorio

Fewer Jobs, Lower Wages
• Voting for the TPP means fewer jobs and lower wages for American workers. This is because it fails to address currency manipulation; has incredibly weak rules of origin on autos and auto parts; and fails to level the playing field in terms of state-owned enterprises and labor and environmental standards.
• All the rhetoric being used to pitch the TPP has been heard before. NAFTA and CAFTA were supposed to end undocumented immigration. The Colombia Free Trade Agreement was supposed to solve the long-standing issues of violent repression of labor unionists. And the Korea FTA was going to create 70,000 jobs. Not one of these promises has been fulfilled.
• The evidence from 20 years of the corporate trade agenda is in. Leading economists including Jared Bernstein, Joseph Stiglitz and Robert Reich agree that the TPP—as currently drafted—won’t work for working families.

Higher Prescription Drug Prices
• The Alliance for Retired Americans, Doctors Without Borders, AARP and Oxfam America agree: TPP contains extreme patent protections for name-brand pharmaceuticals that threaten to restrict access to cheaper lifesaving medicines in all TPP countries, including in the United States.
• TPP contains a lengthy patent exclusivity period for certain types of drugs – including biologics, special drugs used to treat cancer and arthritis. This will make it more difficult for other companies to manufacture the cheaper generic versions of drugs – leading to higher costs for everyone.
• TPP jeopardizes the government’s ability to list and price prescription drugs in public programs, like Medicare, which millions of seniors and disabled people rely on. More specifically, foreign corporations or subsidiaries will be able to challenge Medicare if drug pricing in these programs affects their profits. .
• Furthermore, the Medicare drug discounts negotiated under the Affordable Care Act could be in jeopardy. The ACA, which closed the infamous Medicare Part D “donut hole” when it was passed in 2010, made sure that drug discounts are established by statute. This could be challenged if pharmaceutical companies determine that these discounts put the drugs at below “fair market” prices.
• Finally, TPP could tie the hands of future Congresses to negotiate drug prices under Medicare or enact a Medicare drug rebate program, which would save Medicare $121 billion over 10 years.
• Americans pay the highest prescription drug prices in the industrialized world, and last year drug prices went up by 13 percent. That’s more than eight times the rate of inflation in a single year! We think Congress should be working on ways to reduce drug costs, rather than making this problem worse. This is not the time to support an agreement that could further increase drug costs to consumers and the government while lining the pockets of the pharmaceutical industry.
• The members of the Alliance for Retired Americans will be paying close attention to what our leaders do and so should anyone else who needs Medicare or prescription drugs. Similar to other free trade bills that have been negotiated in secret, TPP is a bad deal for older Americans and working people. We’ve seen it before. From NAFTA to CAFTA, to the most recent agreements with South Korea and Colombia. Please oppose the TPP. The well-being of America’s senior citizens may depend on it.
Please urge your Congressional members to OPPOSE the TPP

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Resolutions!

Board member Steven Kloppenburg reads our resolutions at the conference

The Biennial Conference of the New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans is in the record books.  Part of the agenda was to read and accept our resolutions for this coming election year.  They are as follows: 
Senior Citizens and Climate Justice for All 
Whereas: many seniors have children and grandchildren, and many seniors have time and energy to volunteer, and
Whereas: unless the human population of the planet does not change our energy footprint NOW, the planet may become an inhospitable environment for humans, and many other living things, including our food crops and animals, within the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren (and maybe ourselves), and
Whereas: the mission of the New Hampshire Alliance states that we believe that all older and retired persons have a responsibility to strive to create a society that incorporates social and economic justice, and civil rights for all citizens to enjoy lives with dignity, personal and family fulfillment, and security, and environmental security is a worthy goal,
Be it resolved that: the New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans urges all senior citizens in New Hampshire to volunteer their time and energy to elect candidates at the state and national level who pledge to work for climate justice for all.
Expand Social Security 
Whereas: The cost of living in New Hampshire is higher than many other states due to the cost of property taxes, the limited stock of affordable housing, the lack of public transportation in much of the state, and the need to heat homes for half the year, and
Whereas: Social Security provided benefits to 1 in 5 of residents [2014] and lifted 68,000 residents out of poverty [2012].
Whereas: the poverty rate per person was $11,173 in 2013, and per household $14,095, and
Whereas: state support for low income seniors who wish to remain in their own homes is very limited, and
Whereas: our experience shows that unless seniors have substantial income from sources other than Social Security, maintaining a household in New Hampshire in retirement is difficult, if not impossible,
Be it resolved that: the New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans requests that our Congressional delegation vote for any and all bills introduced in Congress to increase Social Security benefits by raising or removing the cap on the income subject to Social Security taxes; to correct the CPI used to compute the COLA so that it more accurately represents where seniors spend their money: to introduce caregiver credits toward Social Security benefits for those who leave or do not enter the workforce in order to provide support for children, the disabled and elders at home; to repeal the WEP and GPO; and to fully fund the trust fund for Social Security Disability Insurance.
Be it further resolved that: the New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans urges the New Hampshire legislature to pass a resolution encouraging our Congressional delegation to vote for the changes we have noted in this resolution. 
Expand Medicare to Include Dental Services, Hearing Aids and Eyeglasses 
Whereas: Medicare ignores anything above the neck that does not involve surgery and
Whereas:  dental work, hearing aids and glasses are often priced out of seniors’ price range and
Whereas: eating, communicating and seeing are important activities to keep seniors healthy
Be it resolved that: Medicare should be expanded to cover the full range of dental services, hearing aids and eyeglasses.   
Create Affordable Housing for New Hampshire Citizens 
Whereas: New Hampshire has a limited supply of affordable housing, having a housing stock that has an overabundance of 3 and 4 bedroom houses, and a limited supply of rental properties, and
Whereas: young workers and families who wish to stay in New Hampshire are looking for affordable housing at the same time that many seniors are trying to downsize from the larger homes they lived in while raising their families, and
Whereas: the dependence of the government revenue stream on property taxes, especially for education, not only adds substantially to the cost of housing in our state, but also leads to attempts by municipalities to avoid adding schoolchildren to their populations, and
Whereas: these difficulties lead to competition between seniors and young families for the limited supply of affordable housing, further driving up the prices for both private homes and apartments,
Be it resolved that: the New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans urges our governor and state legislature to change the tax structure of our state to remove the perverse incentive to limit the number of young families with children in their communities; and to prioritize the provision of affordable housing for both groups of citizens as an essential requirement to reverse the loss of our young workers and provide a secure retirement for our seniors.
Invest in Transportation Options for Senior Citizens 
Whereas: NH is the third oldest state in the country and
Whereas: most NH seniors are dependent on private automobiles for transportation, as are most of NH’s citizens and
Whereas: owning and driving a car is often limited or no longer possible for seniors as they age and
Whereas: there is very limited or no public transportation in many parts of our state and
Whereas: other options, such as government or non-profit supported options for essential travel, are often underfunded in NH
Be it resolved that:  the New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans will make investment in senior transportation options a priority in the 2016 election campaign.  
 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Wages and retirement benefits - what's the connection?

NH Alliance President Lucy Edwards and AFL-CIO President Trumpka 

Our Alliance President Lucy Edwards delivered remarks at the NH AFL-CIO Raising Wages Summit in Concord on November 7, 2015.  Here is what she said:
I have the honor of being the President of the Board of the New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans and I like to start all my remarks with a description of what our Alliance is all about. Our mission is to strive for social and economic justice, and civil rights for all citizens to enjoy lives with dignity, personal and family fulfillment, and security. The Alliance believes that all older and retired persons have a responsibility to strive to create a society that incorporates these goals and rights and that retirement provides them with opportunities to pursue new and expanded activities with their unions, civic organizations and their communities.
I find that I think about wages in this day and age this way: can we afford to live on and then retire on what we earn with dignity, personal and family fulfillment and security?  Those were the ideals that I grew up with, the ideas that the New Deal brought to American society.  When they were working for many Americans we had an economy that was the envy of the world. Today we have income inequality that we haven’t seen since before the New Deal, and so many Americans are struggling to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.  We have a generation of our fellow citizens whose retirement benefits have been decimated and for whom stopping work looks like a dream that will never be realized.
Here are a few basics:
First: Social Security benefits are based on lifetime earnings.
Second: the ability to save for retirement outside of Social Security depends on earnings as well.
Third: making sure that all jobs paid a livable wage would increase the funds that the Social Security Trust Fund takes in and would help to push off or completely remove any possible insolvency from the fund.  If we could also raise or scrap the cap on the income that is taxed for FICA, we’d solve the funding problem for a long time if not forever. AND, we could raise benefits as well. Add a COLA that is linked to the real list of goods and services that seniors and the disabled purchase, and you’ve got a big improvement in this program that so many seniors depend on for most of their income in retirement.
The minimum wage is, of course, not the only problem.  There is also the wage gap between women and men, and the issue of caregiving as well.  Caregivers who take time out of work, or never hold jobs outside the home setting, are deprived of the Social Security credits that provide the basis of retirement income, and of the funds to supplement Social Security with savings as well.
Anne-Marie Slaughter notes this problem in her new book “Unfinished Business” where she says:
What’s really going on here is we are discriminating against people who have to care for others, which is a role that society needs people to play. Right now we’re focusing on the problem that, if you’re at the top and take time out to take care of others, you’re knocked off your leadership track. But much more important is that, if you are a woman in the middle class or a low-income woman and you take even a day or two off to care for others, you could lose your job. You get docked pay. You don’t have access to affordable day care.
And your retirement looks less and less possible.
Just recently I came upon an article from the Washington Post describing the increase in mortality rates among white non-college-educated 45-54 year olds.  Most of the increase came from alcoholism, drug-addiction and liver disease. Add this to the heroin epidemic we are seeing here in NH, and elsewhere, and the physical and emotional consequences of the lack of decent jobs at livable wages is taking a dreadful toll on our citizens of all ages. The cost of healthcare now and later from these distortions of our economy will put Medicare and Medicaid in even more danger of being targeted for cuts. Without these healthcare programs, retirement security is not possible for most of us.
These problems, we know, are all intertwined with the power that big money has over our elections and our governmental decisions. Those who suffer the most are, in my estimation, considered “disposable” by too many decision makers. When I hear some of the presidential candidates talk, as a senior woman I find myself feeling very “disposable” and it makes me very angry.  That’s why I joined the NH Alliance, to work with other senior activists to do something about these problems, for ourselves and for all those who need hope of a better future.
We know what we need to do.  We have the tools, the skills, the knowledge and the means to fix these problems.  What we need is the political will. 
You can also hear her remarks here.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Statement by Retiree Leader Richard Fiesta on the Budget Agreement that Protects Social Security and Medicare Beneficiaries

October 27, 2015
For Immediate Release
The following statement was issued by Richard Fiesta, regarding the deal between Congressional leaders and the White House announced October 26 to avert default and keep the government funded:

“Movement to prevent a default and avert a government shutdown is welcome news for all Americans, but the deal is not perfect.
“The Alliance for Retired Americans is relieved that this budget deal would protect millions of seniors from significant increases to their Medicare Part B deductibles while preventing a 20% cut to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits in 2016.
“The reallocation between the Social Security Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) and SSDI trust funds would prevent a massive cut in benefits for the disabled. The transfer would not impact the long-term solvency of Social Security.
“We would have preferred no increase to Medicare Part B premiums; however, limiting the increases of those who are not ‘held harmless' is a step in the right direction. In early October, Virginia Alliance President Ron Thompson of Ivor, Virginia spoke at a Capitol Hill press conference on how the increase would financially harm him. Over the last two weeks more than 30,000 Alliance members contacted their Members of Congress saying that a 52% premium hike was unfair and unwarranted. Our voices were heard.
“While it appears a crisis has been averted, we have not improved retirement security for our nation’s seniors by expanding their earned Social Security benefits. We will continue to fight to make that a reality by urging Congress to implement a more accurate way to calculate cost-of-living adjustments: the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E).”