Alliance for Retired Americans Weekly Alert, April 20, 2012

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–April 20, 2012. 

Buffett Rule, CEO PayWatch Website Address Economic Unfairness

The “Buffett Rule” – the Democratic-authored effort to impose a minimum tax on millionaires – failed on a largely partisan Senate vote on Monday. The 51 to 45 procedural vote fell short by 9 votes, since 60 are needed to cut off debate. One Republican, Maine’s Susan Collins, added her vote in favor to those of 49 Democrats and one Independent. Arkansas’ Mark Pryor was the only Democrat who voted with Republicans to block consideration of the measure. The “rule” is named for Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor who has said his secretary pays taxes at a higher rate than he does. Monday’s vote came the day before the filing deadline for federal income tax returns. Democrats want to end the current disparity by generally imposing at least a 30 percent tax on millionaires – more than twice the rate that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, a multimillionaire, paid in 2010. “We need millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share in taxes, or else our political opponents will try to balance the budget on the backs of seniors,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “We have already seen what those attempts look like. They are a key piece of the Paul Ryan Budget.”

Unfairness embedded in the tax code isn’t the only way that earners in the top 1% tend to make out like bandits. This year’s launch of the AFL-CIO Executive PayWatch website – CEO Pay and the 99% — features lots of sharable information, graphics and powerful data. Available at, CEO Pay and the 99% contains the most comprehensive info accessible on executive pay, with all of the available 2011 data searchable by industry, by state and by the top 100 highest paid CEOs. Apple CEO Timothy Cook made the most – nearly $378 million! Also noted on the site: The widening gap between CEO and worker pay. Last year, the ratio of CEO-to-worker pay widened to an astonishing 380 times.  In 1980, CEOs of large U.S. companies made 42 times the average wages of workers.

Kaiser Report Focuses on Economic and Health Security of Seniors

As policymakers seek to reduce the nation’s budget deficit by making changes to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, they often fail to consider how choices in each area interact and affect the economic security of seniors, according to an issue brief by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The Foundation released its report documenting the health and economic insecurity facing seniors last week. It looks at Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid as interrelated, shining a light on the grave consequences that cutting even one program would have for all of the programs and the seniors who rely on them. For example, increasing how much seniors must pay for premiums under Medicare would result in health care expenses absorbing a larger share of retirees’ income and savings, putting them at greater financial risk. Similarly, constraining the growth in annual Social Security payments would mean less income available to pay for health care costs.  Such changes would also disproportionately affect seniors with low-to-moderate incomes, who are more likely to be women, black and Hispanic.

When policymakers consider options to decrease spending, they should take into account the overall effects of proposals on seniors’ ability to pay for needed health care and essential living expenses, the authors state. The issue brief is based on a 2011 roundtable, convened by Kaiser, of experts from the income, retirement security and health policy fields. For a link to the report and the text of the abstract, go to For a pdf of the report, go to

Affordable Senior Health Insurance to Supplement Medicare

As a reminder, affordable insurance supplemental to Medicare is available through the Retiree Health Plan endorsed by the Alliance for union retirees.  The Open Enrollment period is currently in effect through April 30, 2012!  During this period, these Medicare-eligible retirees and their spouses are guaranteed acceptance with no waiting periods, regardless of preexisting health conditions.  If you have questions or would like to enroll in the program, please call 1-866-298-9117.  You can also visit to get more information.

Raising the Social Security Retirement Age Would Increase Income Inequality

A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) examines the impact of raising the Social Security retirement age and its effect on the distribution of wealth from loss of future Social Security benefits. “An increase in the retirement age by one year leads to a cut in benefits of 6 to 7%.” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “Despite that fact, some politicians still want to raise the retirement age as high as 70.”

The report, “The Impact on Inequality of Raising the Social Security Retirement Age,” projects the impact of a gradual increase of the normal retirement age on various demographic groups, looking at each quintile of the wealth distribution, as well as the richest 1 percent. These projections demonstrate that Social Security income is a much larger share of wealth for the bottom four of the five groups. As a result, increasing the retirement age would also increase income inequality. The paper contains separate projections for homeowners and non-homeowners, single individuals and couples in several age cohorts. To see the report, go to

Obituaries: Bernard “B” Rapoport and Priscilla King

American Income Life insurance company founder Bernard “B” Rapport, a lifelong champion of workers’ rights and later a supporter of the Alliance for Retired Americans, has died at the age of 94. “B’s devoted activism and generous philanthropy helped not only seniors, but also the labor movement overall,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance.

The Alliance also lost another friend this week: Priscilla King of Bow, New Hampshire – who spoke on behalf of the Alliance on Capitol Hill in 2009 – died last weekend. Ms. King, along with her husband, had gone into debt due to the doughnut hole gap in prescription drug coverage, and therefore spoke out in favor of health care reform. Here is a video of Ms. King:

Alliance Members in the South, Northeast Can Still Register for Regional Meetings

While the Alliance’s regional meetings in the West and Midwest have already taken place, it is not too late to register for the Southern Regional Meeting in Orlando that begins on April 30, or the Northeast Regional Meeting, which begins in Philadelphia on May 14. For more information, or to register, go to