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article imagePro-senior lobby 'terrifies' some GOP lawmakers in budget talks

By Karen Graham     Nov 14, 2013 in Politics
The pro-senior lobby in Washington, led by AARP and its 37 million members, as well as unions and Democratic-activists, stand between those ready to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits. Lawmakers are terrified of these groups, and with good reason.
The bipartisan Congressional budget panel met for the second time today in Washington, and there still has been no agreement on priorities or a way to reach a compromise on the federal budget before Dec. 13, except for one little item.
There is one issue that everyone agrees on. House and Senate budget leaders agree that there won't be any debate on areas where there is no agreement, but instead the focus will be on finding cuts in the large number of entitlement and mandatory programs already overburdening taxpayers.
Budget leaders hope to present a longer-term tax and spending package to reduce the U.S. deficit. But whether a compromise can be reached or not is overshadowed by the constant fear of a public backlash if anyone even suggests cuts to the "Big Three," Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. According to Steve Bell, a former Republican Senate budget adviser, "Lawmakers are terrified of the pro-senior lobby."
According to the Congressional Budget Office, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid make up almost half of all federal spending. So the fear of a public outcry if any of the three are touched is very real. There are a couple other reasons, too.
CBO 2010 Federal Budget. Notice that Social Security  Medicare and Medicaid amount to 43 percent of ...
CBO 2010 Federal Budget. Notice that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid amount to 43 percent of total expenditures for FY 2010.
One fear dates back to the 2012 Presidential campaign, when Republican Paul Ryan was a vice-presidential candidate. A television commercial aired for a very short time in Ohio, Florida and Colorado. Viewers saw someone who looked much like Paul Ryan pushing a senior citizen in a wheelchair.
The senior citizen showed obvious panic as "Ryan" pushed her to the edge of a cliff, and shoved her over the cliff. The ad then asked: "Is America Beautiful Without Medicare?" The ad was produced by the Agenda Project, a Democratic-backed activist group out of New York.
The power behind the pro-senior lobby is evident, not only in the ad, but in the numbers of pro-senior activists. The biggest lobby group is AARP, at 37 million strong, a very formidable adversary. Joining them are a number of unions, and other Democratic-activist groups, like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and the Alliance for Retired Americans.
To show the pro-senior lobby's sincerity in not letting up on the pressure to protect senior entitlements, a petition was delivered to the budget meeting today, with 656,353 signatures of voters against entitlement cuts. “No grand bargain in exchange for cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits,” the document says.
There is one other burr under lawmakers saddle blankets, and that is the outcome of the 2014 mid-term elections. The 65-and-over senior voting bloc is growing in numbers. In 2012, 16 percent of registered voters were seniors. The numbers are projected to increase to 19 percent by 2030. Seniors have discovered they still have a great deal of influence, especially at the ballot box.
More about Seniors, Aarp, Social security, Medicare, Warnings
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