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Arizona GOP Senate Candidate Wants To Privatize Social Security

.Arizona Republican Senate candidate Jim Lamon has repeatedly said he wants to save and preserve Social Security. But his own campaign website reveals that he aims to raise the program's eligibility age and to privatize it, leaving millions of Americans to fend for themselves.

In a video message on his website, Lamon claims, "Social Security is headed for a train wreck, for bankruptcy. Politicians who kick the can down the road, we must save Social Security. I intend to be bold in the U.S. Senate to make it happen."

"So we got to get the priorities: national defense, internal security, border control, our law enforcement agencies, those people who can't provide for themselves mentally, physically, and also, of course, Social Security, Medicare," he said in a November radio appearance with Arizona talk show host Jeff Oravits.

But his campaign policy page reveals that his idea of saving Social Security is actually making significant cuts to the program and privatizing it for people who are not yet retired.

After blaming the "deterioration" of the 87-year-old entitlement program on China and abortion, Lamon calls for a series "fundamental systemic improvements."

First, he says, America must "gradually increase the benefits access age" because "47% of people on Social Security are younger than 65; the intent was never to support people still well able to work."

According to the Social Security Administration, workers can access benefits if they are at least 62 years old, disabled, or blind. Dependent family members can also receive benefits in some circumstances. Lamon's plan would force those people to work longer to receive the benefits they are entitled to receive.

A Lamon spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

Lamon also calls for "universal savings accounts" that would allow individuals in invest their money in risky retirement funds rather than guaranteed government retirement benefits. He calls this an "option for every worker to enjoy the benefit from investment in the US economy while also creating a tangible, inheritable asset for their children, instead of the government-controlled trust fund model."

That would turn Social Security from a pension program into a government-endorsed 401(K) plan. Under then-President George W. Bush in the early 2000s and again in 2018, Republicans unsuccessfully pushed similar privatization schemes.

Experts say a plan like this would benefit the wealthiest Americans and put millions of future retirees at the mercy of the stock market. Someone who put their Social Security funds into a bad investment could be left with nothing, leading to exactly the sort of poverty for senior citizens that the program was designed to end.

In a 1997 article, Brookings Institution economist Henry Aaron wrote that privatizing Social Security was "a bad idea whose time will never come."

"It is far and away the most important U.S. antipoverty program," Aaron wrote of the existing system. "Privatization is a bad idea because it places risks on individual workers that they should not be expected to shoulder and that Social Security now spreads broadly among all workers. It would create costly and needless administrative burdens."

Polls show little support for what Lamon wants to do.

An August 2020 survey by AARP found that 96% of American adults said Social Security was either the most important program or one of the most important programs the government operates.

Another poll that month, conducted by Data for Progress, found 54% of likely voters ranked "preventing cuts to Social Security benefits" as their most important issue for the 2020 election.

Lamon has also been open about his desire to cut Social Security and other entitlement programs.

In a January appearance on the right-wing Charlie Kirk Show, he said that he would preserve the programs for those who already rely on Social Security and Medicare, but "after that, Charlie, everything's on the table" for cuts. "And I intend to be brutal," he promised.

In a radio interview that month on Tucson radio station KVOI's Inside Track, Lamon endorsed entitlement cuts to balance the federal budget, saying, "'Oh Jim, are you going to take those?' You're damn right, because that's where the money is."

After Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, released his party's "Rescue America" plan, which includes letting Social Security and Medicare expire every five years and be subject to reapproval by the Congress, Lamon embraced the package. He joked to supporters in March that it appeared Scott could have plagiarized the plan from his own website, claiming, "Looks awfully familiar!"

While Republicans have long wanted to dismantle Social Security and other government entitlement programs, in 2016 candidate Donald Trump ran on a promise to preserve the programs without cuts.

"Every Republican wants to do a big number of Social Security. They want to do it on Medicare, they want to do it on Medicaid," he said in April 2015, just before kicking off his campaign. "And we can't do that. And it's not fair to the people that have been paying in for years."

"I'm not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and I'm not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid," he reaffirmed in May 2015.

As he did with most of his major campaign promises, Trump abandoned this pledge, vowing in January 2020 that he would make major cuts to the social safety net "toward the end of the year" because he had such a great economy.

Lamon was not only a strong Trump supporter; he also fraudulently pretended to be an elector for Trump in the Electoral College after President Joe Biden won the presidential election in Arizona in 2020.

Lamon has a complicated relationship with government programs. In a March fundraising email, he decried COVID-19 pandemic relief legislation, including the Paycheck Protection Program that provided billions in forgivable loans to businesses, as a "socialist spending binge." But DEPCOM Power, an energy company he founded and ran at the time, took $2.6 million in funds from that very program in May 2020.

Recent polling by RealClearPolitics shows Lamon and state Attorney General Mark Brnovich as front-runners for the GOP nomination for Senate, with venture capitalist Blake Masters close behind.

The winner will face incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly on Nov. 8.

Kelly has pledged not to dismantle entitlement programs, saying in a 2020 ad, "I've got a message for Arizonans: I will protect Social Security and Medicare. Period."

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Even Fox News Is Calling BS On Rick Scott

Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), has drawn a great deal of criticism from Democrats for his proposal to raise taxes on half of Americans — specifically, those with lower incomes. But some Republicans are calling Scott out as well, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. And Scott got some pushback from Fox News’ John Roberts as well during a March 27 appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”

In his 11-point Rescue America Plan, Scott proposes, “All Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game, even if a small amount. Currently, over half of Americans pay no income tax.”

Roberts, not to be confused with the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative chief justice, quoted Scott’s plan directly and told the NRSC chairman, “That would raise taxes on half of Americans and potentially sunset programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Why would you propose something like that in an election year?”

Scott disingenuously responded, “That’s, of course, the Democrat talking points” — and Roberts told him, “No, no, it’s in the plan…. Senator, it’s not a Democratic talking point. It’s in the plan.”

HuffPost’s Josephine Harvey notes that during a recent appearance on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, Scott “got away with making false claims” about what’s in his Rescue America Plan. But Roberts clearly had no intention of letting Scott lie about what’s in his own plan.

McConnell recently said of Scott’s Rescue America Plan, “We will not have as part of our agenda a bill that raises taxes on half the American people and sunsets Social Security and Medicare within five years.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Details Leaked On GOP Plan To Raise Taxes  On Working Class, Gut Social Security

They’re at it again: Republicans want to raise taxes on poor and working-class Americans, end Social Security and Medicare, jack up pollution and corporate profits, all while continuing to pamper their billionaire donor base.

This time it’s the guy in charge of getting Republican senators elected and re-elected, Florida’s Senator Rick Scott.

You may remember him as the guy who ran the company convicted of the largest Medicare fraud in the history of America, who then took his money and ran for Governor of Florida, where he prevented the state from expanding Medicaid for low-income Floridians for all the years he ran the state.

Now he’s the second-richest guy in the senate and, IMHO, the leading candidate for the GOP nomination for president in 2024. And, true to form, he’s echoing the sentiments of the richest guy in the Senate, Mitt Romney, the last guy before Trump to have that nomination.

“There are 47 percent who are with him,” Romney said of Obama voters back in 2012, “who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. These are people who pay no income tax.”

Low income working people in America generally pay a higher percentage of their income as taxes than do most of our billionaires and multi-multi-millionaires. They pay Social Security taxes, Medicare taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, taxes in the form of fees for everything from a driver’s license to road tolls to annual car inspections.

As Romney pointed out, though, about 47 percent of Americans in 2012 made so little money that, after applying the standard deduction, they paid no income tax.

This doesn’t just reveal how few people pay taxes, though. To the contrary, it reveals how many Americans are living in or on the edge of poverty.

The simple reality is if you want more people to pay income taxes, all you have to do is raise working people’s pay. We saw this in a big way between 1950 and 1980, when Keynesian economics reigned and labor unions helped wages — and the taxes they paid — steadily rise for working people.

But Republicans don’t like the idea of what they call “wage inflation.” They’d rather just squeeze working people harder, while continuing their subsidies of the lifestyles of the morbidly rich “donor class.”

More than half of Americans make so little money from their employment that they can’t deal with an unexpected $1000 expense like a car accident or medical bill. And it’s these very people who Rick Scott and the GOP believe need to be further taxed so they’ll have what Scott calls “skin in the game.”

In the early years of the Reagan administration, before his neoliberal “trickle down” and “supply side” policies started to really bite Americans, only 18 percent of Americans were so poor that their income didn’t qualify to be taxed.

As “Right to Work for Less” laws spread across America and Republicans on the Supreme Court made it harder for unions to function, more and more working people fell below the tax threshold.

Today it takes two working adults to maintain the same lifestyle that one worker could provide in 1980, so an estimated 61 percent of working Americans this year will make so little pay that their income isn’t subject to taxation.

Rick Scott and the GOP’s solution to this situation isn’t to raise the income of working-class people. Quite to the contrary, they’re suggesting that low-income people should be hit with their very own income tax — in addition to the dozens of other taxes they’re already paying — all so multimillionaires and billionaires like Scott and his friends can hope to see their own taxes go down a tiny bit.

Doing his best imitation of Newt Gingrich, Scott has rolled out his 11-point-plan to soak the American middle class, lock down elections, destroy consumer protections, increase pollution and climate change, and squeeze a few more dollars out of every family, no matter how tight their budgets may already be.

Scott calls that “rescuing America.” And it may be true, if you’re morbidly rich and made your money spewing pollution or hustling opioids.

His plan not only calls for a 50 percent cut in the IRS workforce, presumably to end all audits of rich people like Scott, but also demands all federal legislation to “sunset” within five years. That would almost certainly end Social Security and Medicare, programs that have been in the crosshairs of Republicans since Reagan’s day.

Realizing how “raising taxes on 60% of American voters” will play in campaign ads, Mitch McConnell has backed away from Scott’s bizarre proposal. But Fox “News” is all over it, inviting Scott on repeatedly to hawk his plan and prepare the ground for his candidacy. After all, billionaires like Rupert Murdoch and his family need their tax breaks!

As Sean Hannity told Scott during a recent appearance, “I want to applaud you. I'd like to see the House and the Senate come together on these issues, make these promises to the American people, get elected and then fulfill those promises.”

No doubt multi-millionaire Hannity was speaking his own truth. But for the majority of Americans who are so poor they barely have to pay income taxes, Scott’s plan is just the latest in a 40-year barrage of assaults and insults coming from the GOP.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Massive Cuts To Social Security And Medicare (Secretly) On GOP House Agenda

House Republicans are already scheming about what they will do if they regain a majority in the 2022 midterm elections. These plans apparently include a constitutional amendment that could force massive cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and other safety net programs.

The Hill reported Wednesday that the GOP's so-called "fiscal hawks" want to push a balanced budget amendment, a proposal to amend the Constitution to require that spending not exceed revenue in any single year unless a large majority of members of Congress — typically three-fifths — agrees to it.

"We're heading for a fiscal crisis if we don't get a grip on spending,” Virginia Rep. Bob Good told the outlet.

This is not a new idea for House Republicans. In 1994, they ran on a "Contract with America" promising that if they won control of the Congress, they would bring up several conservative proposals within the first 100 days. A balanced budget amendment was one of those items.

Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate — plus ratification by three-quarters of the states.

The GOP's balanced budget proposal passed in the House in January 1995 but failed in the Senate by a single vote. Republican Oregon Sen. Mark Hatfield refused to go along with the rest of his caucus, saying it would "trivialize the Constitution."

Democrats warned that without an exception for the Social Security Trust Fund, a balanced budget amendment would mean cuts to that program, and most of them also voted no.

"I think the Republicans have a lot of explaining to do to the millions of senior citizens out there who have paid into a trust fund," warned then-Democratic Minority Leader Tom Daschle.

The architect of that 1994 Contract with America was then-House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich. The Hill report noted that he is advising current House GOP leaders on crafting their midterm agenda. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) told the outlet that this was great because so much of Gingrich's 1994 plan was never implemented.

"Today we actually provide more money to people for not working than we did before welfare reform, we just do it in other forms," Issa complained. "We've essentially re-resurrected the welfare system that paid people not to work."

Gingrich infamously admitted in 1996 that the GOP wanted the part of the government that administers Medicare to simply "wither on the vine" as people "voluntarily" left the popular health insurance program for older Americans.

In 2018, after adding about $1.9 trillion to the debt with their Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, House Republicans again tried to enact a balanced budget amendment.

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare warned then that such an amendment was "a colossally dangerous idea."

"Among other disastrous effects, it would result in devastating cuts to Social Security and Medicare," it warned, writing:

In order to balance the budget every year, Congress would be forced to make draconian cuts to Medicare Part B, Medicaid and other programs that seniors depend upon. Medicare and Medicaid cannot sustain cuts (other than common sense cost-saving measures) without hurting beneficiaries. Period. At a time when seniors' out of pocket health care costs are rising, the BBA puts the health and financial security of Medicare's 58.5 million beneficiaries and Medicaid's 72.3 million at risk.
Equally serious is the BBA's potential impact on Social Security. Under the BBA, if federal expenditures exceed revenues, the government would be forbidden from paying benefits from the Social Security trust fund reserves – even though the trust fund is self-financed by workers' payroll contributions and unrelated to general revenues. Ditto for reserves in the Medicare Part A trust fund. Benefits would then have to be slashed in order to keep the federal budget in balance, something seniors on fixed incomes could ill afford.

The same year, Seth Hanlon and Alex Rowell of the Center for American Progress wrote that a balanced budget amendment "would force unthinkable spending cuts and threaten Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other critical priorities." They predicted that in a recession, "Social Security benefits and other government spending would have to be cut by 35 percent, if done across the board. That would be devastating for those who rely on Social Security and other government programs and, as discussed below, potentially catastrophic for the economy."

Richard Kogan, senior fellow at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, warned in 2019 that any constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget was "fundamentally flawed" because it would "hurt the economy even if it tries to account for recessions" and "undercut Social Security, Medicare, and other programs that have built up reserves."

A constitutional requirement for a balanced budget, he predicted, "would risk tipping a weak economy into recession and making recessions more frequent, longer, and deeper, causing very large job losses and hurting long-term growth. That's because it would force policymakers to cut spending or raise taxes just when the economy is weak or already in recession — the opposite of good economic policy."

It is not just Democrats and economic experts who have called out congressional Republicans for their repeated attempts to destroy the Social Security and Medicare systems.

In April 2015, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump told New Hampshire Republicans, "Every Republican wants to do a big number of Social Security. They want to do it on Medicare, they want to do it on Medicaid. And we can't do that. And it's not fair to the people that have been paying in for years."

After getting elected, Trump repeatedly tried to break his promises not to cut Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Winning The Fight To Expand Social Security

Reprinted with permission from DC Report

Out of sight from most Americans, powerful, organized and determined monied interests have waged a more than three-decade-long, billionaire-funded campaign to dismantle Social Security. That campaign has enjoyed some success. And it is with us still.

It is not hard to see the successes of that campaign. Many Americans have been persuaded that Social Security is unaffordable, in crisis and must, at the very least, be scaled back. But while the campaign has succeeded in undermining confidence in the future of Social Security, it has failed to scale back Social Security's modest, but vital benefits, or, worse, radically transform Social Security, ending it as we know it. The good news is that over the last few years, the movement to expand, not cut, Social Security has been growing.

It is no accident that so many in the news media and political elite have bought the lies. The campaign is backed by hundreds of millions of dollars and a cottage industry of academics who have built their careers on criticizing Social Security. Together, those forces brought a veneer of respectability to claims that Social Security is unaffordable, in crisis, and spawning competition and conflict between generations.

Trudy Lieberman, a noted media critic and former New York University journalism professor, has observed that most media outlets have been reporting "only one side of this story using 'facts' that are misleading or flat-out wrong while ignoring others."

The machinations of the anti-Social Security campaign largely explain why media elites and both political parties lost an understanding of the conceptual underpinnings that have led to Social Security's popularity. Indeed, Social Security is often described as a problem rather than the solution that it is.

An Earned Right

Rather than define Social Security as an earned right to insurance purchased with our work and contributions, the critics imply that it is a government handout. The media and politicians use words and phrases like "entitlement," "makers versus takers," "deficit crisis" and "safety net" to spread and reinforce the message. The campaign's messaging, repeated over and over again, falsely asserts that Social Security was and remains a cause of federal deficits, even though Social Security does not add even a penny to the federal debt.

The truth is that Social Security has a $2.9 trillion surplus, which it invests. By law, it can only invest in Treasury bonds and other federal instruments backed by the full faith and credit of our government. It is a creditor to our federal government. That means Social Security has loaned our federal government $2.9 trillion. In turn, that means that our government has to borrow less from foreign governments and other investors to finance budget shortfalls. Even so, the false claim that Social Security is a government giveaway and a drain on the nation's resources has become a standard talking point of those who would dismantle the program.

The winds are shifting, however. President Joe Biden explicitly ran on expanding Social Security, as did Hillary Clinton in 2016. Expanding Social Security was a plank in both the 2016 and 2020 Democratic platforms.

That position is in line with what surveys show the overwhelming majority of voters support—Republicans, independents, and Democrats alike. But that doesn't mean that any of us who want to see Social Security expanded, not cut, can let down our guard. Quite the opposite. The anti-Social Security campaigners know how to adjust their tactics to changing situations, how to fade away, how to blend in, and how and when to attack. If those of us who favor expanding, not cutting, Social Security are to be successful, we must remain vigilant and active. The billionaire campaign remains well-funded, well-organized, active, and strategic.

Going forward, we can expand Social Security, even in the face of distortions, misunderstandings, and outright lies promoted by moneyed interests. All of us who care about the economic security of our families have a stake in this cause. Everyone who cares about what kind of nation we leave for our children and grandchildren has a stake.

How To Win

How do we successfully build on the legacy that has been bequeathed to us, leaving it even better for the generations that follow? In short, how do we get our elected officials—who, after all, work for us—to vote to expand Social Security?

We already have some very dedicated leaders championing the cause of expansion, but we need more of them if expansion is to pass the Senate and get signed into law. Getting those now in office who disagree with us to change their minds and getting people elected who already do agree is tricky. All politicians these days claim to support Social Security. All say that their goal is to strengthen or save it. We cannot be satisfied with platitudes. We must demand clear support for expansion, with no cuts whatsoever.

Electing more champions and convincing others to change their minds won't be done without knowledge, commitment, perseverance and action. It won't be done without a vision backed by values that we all share.

It won't be done behind closed doors, without politics and policies that involve the American people and puts us first.

And, it won't be done without a fight. Nor will the fight be an easy one. There is too much money on the side of those who want to dismantle our Social Security system.

Broad Support

Fortunately, the American people—across demographics and the political spectrum—are unified in their opposition to cutting benefits and favor benefit expansions. They appropriately have a sense of contributing toward their own retirement and feel good about receiving Social Security benefits. They understand the importance of providing disability protection for themselves and their families, and the importance of protecting children and other family members if they die. Having witnessed losses in their extended families from unforeseen events—for example, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the devastation in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and now today's pandemic—they understand how quickly and efficiently Social Security responds to community and personal crises. They understand that benefits are not based on need, but rather have been earned through labor and contributions from salaries and wages. They understand how important Social Security is to their own and their family's economic security.

It is imperative to recognize that Social Security didn't just happen. Past generations of politicians and citizens created, improved, fought for and defended our Social Security system. They protected it, safeguarded it, expanded it and passed it forward, stronger than before, as a legacy to all of us, young and old alike. Now it is our turn.

The debate over the future of Social Security is most fundamentally a debate about decency and fairness. It is a debate about our values. In the words of President Franklin Roosevelt, it's not about "the creation of new and strange values," but, as he explained 86 years ago: "It is rather the finding of the way once more to known, but to some degree forgotten, ideals and values. If the means and details are in some instances new, the objectives are as permanent as human nature. Among our objectives I place the security of the men, women, and children of the Nation first."

American Values

Among these values that now underlie the fight over Social Security is compassion for and responsibility to care for our families, our neighbors and ourselves. The recognition that Social Security is part of our compensation for our hard work and contributions is another value this fight over Social Security is about.

Still another value the fight is about is recognition of Social Security's conservative, prudent management of our money. Of all federal programs, Social Security and Medicare are the most closely monitored. Social Security is extremely conservatively financed and must balance its budget without any borrowing whatsoever. Yet this important value is disregarded by our politicians, who tend to lump it together with all other federal spending.

This is not a time for compromising the economic well-being of the middle class and poor, not when income and wealth inequality are higher than they have ever been in the past 50 years. Not when the worldwide pandemic has exacerbated that income and wealth inequality.

This is not a time to accept cuts to our Social Security as "reasonable compromise," as little "tweaks" that will do no lasting harm. Rather, this is the time for our elected leaders to expand Social Security, as the overwhelming majority of Americans who elected them want.

It is a time to successfully build on the legacy that has been bequeathed to us, leaving it even better for the generations that follow. At base, this is about the kind of nation we want for ourselves, our children, and their children. Although couched largely in terms of economics, the debate over the future of Social Security is most fundamentally a debate about the role of government, about all of us working together, and about the societal values the nation seeks to achieve through Social Security for today's and tomorrow's generations.

Nancy Altman, a lawyer, and Eric Kingson, a Syracuse University professor of social work, co-founded Social Security Works, a non-profit organization working to protect and expand Social Security. This article is adapted from their new book Social Security Works for Everyone!, published by The New Press, with a foreword by David Cay Johnston, DCReport editor-in-chief.

Trump Holdovers Blamed For Delay In Social Security Survival Checks

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The Internal Revenue Service, which has some longstanding problems of its own, has another recent, urgent one: a backlog of survival checks meant for millions of disabled and retired Americans. They can't send out the $1,400 checks authorized by the American Rescue Plan President Joe Biden signed into law two weeks ago, on March 11. The reason they can't get those checks out to some of the millions who aren't regular tax filers is because they need the Social Security Administration (SSA) to send them the information to do it. And the hold-over Trumpers at the head of the SSA, commissioner Andrew Saul and deputy commissioner David Black, are likely the problem.

A handful of House Democratic committee chairs including Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal are on the case, demanding immediate action from SSA commissioner Saul to fix this. "We are aware that the IRS asked SSA to start sending payment files two weeks before the American Rescue Plan became law on March 11, 2021," wrote the chairmen. "As of today, SSA still has not provided the IRS with the payment files that are needed to issue EIPs to these struggling Americans. We demand that you immediately provide the IRS this information by tomorrow, March 25, 2021."

It's unclear if the AWOL Saul was actually at work to receive the letter. He has a storied history of not bothering to show up at work, just one of the problems the people who work at SSA have with him. Someone, however, got the message. According to an agency spokesperson, the letter was received, because they told HuffPost they'd get those files over to Treasury by Neal's deadline of Thursday. "Social Security staff is working day and night with Treasury and IRS representatives to ensure that the electronic file of Social Security and SSI recipients is complete, accurate, and ready to be used to issue payments," the spokesperson said.

Which is fine, but it will probably take another week for the IRS to get all the information sorted and checks out to the 30 million people who so far have been left out—those who don't normally have to file taxes. The IRS relies on SSA for the information of people who are disabled and retired and are non-filers. The SSA and IRS have already been through two rounds of this, so the procedure wasn't sprung on anybody. On top of that, the IRS gave SSA a two-week notice ahead of the bill being passed and signed essentially to say "get ready, we're going to need to be on this."

Social Security Works, a group that has been advocating for Social Security for years, was not amused. Executive director Alex Lawson slammed SSA's Saul and Black for the delay in an emailed statement, pointing out the real harm of the delay. "As a result, nearly 30 million seniors and people with disabilities—who are among those hit hardest by COVID—still haven't received their relief checks," he wrote. "They are counting on these checks for basic necessities like food and medication."

"Saul and Black were appointed by Donald Trump and have been acting as his agents for years," Lawson continued. "President Biden can't stand for this any longer. He must protect Social Security beneficiaries by firing Saul and Black immediately."

Saul and Black can both be fired by Biden. Since taking office in 2019, they have been working as doggedly to undermine the system as Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has at the U.S. Postal Service. Like DeJoy, they're longtime Republican operatives and big donors. Like DeJoy, destroying beloved institutions seems to be their jam, and making life particularly hard for the most vulnerable among us their goal. The two have not only run roughshod over staff at the SSA, but they have politicized the Social Security disability program, trying to make benefits harder to get and more burdensome to keep by creating all sorts of hoops for disabled people to jump through.

Democrats, including Senate chair of the Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions, and Family Policy Sherrod Brown and the members who called out the SSA for delaying checks, have been demanding that President Biden immediately fire and replace the two. They are "incapable of carrying out Democrats' vision of protecting and expanding Social Security," Brown said in his first statement as committee chair. "As agents of the Trump Social Security agenda, they cut the benefits that hardworking Americans have earned, attacked the Social Security Administration's employees, denied beneficiaries due process, and needlessly increased disability reviews during the Covid-19 pandemic," said Brown.

Add unnecessarily delaying critical financial help to 30 million of the most vulnerable Americans to the list. These guys have got to go.

Biden’s Rescue Plan Restores Veterans’ Aid Cut By Trump

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

The $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan signed into law by President Joe Biden on Thursday contains a number of provisions that will provide new help to veterans struggling due to the pandemic.

U.S. veterans have suffered enormously during the pandemic, experts say. A Wounded Warrior Project survey last spring found that more than half reported worse mental health since the establishment of social distancing measures, and, according to an NBC report, the VA's mental health crisis line received 15% more calls in 2020 than in the previous year.

They are also among those who have experienced unemployment, a housing crisis, and extreme food instability during the pandemic, with some areas seeing food bank demand doubled for the military community in 2020.

The American Rescue Plan will bring relief to veterans by allocating $17 billion to the VA, including $14.4 billion for physical and mental health care and $750 million for housing construction and repair.

The law will allocate $50 billion to housing and rental assistance and $400 million to a job training program for veterans.

The Veteran Rapid Retraining Program offers veterans 12 months of direct payments once they enroll in an approved job-training program. It also provides full tuition payments to their program at no cost to the veteran and a monthly basic housing allowance that equals that of a married, E-5 active-duty soldier.

The program aims to provide job training for more than 17,000 veterans.

The relief will fill gaps in support exacerbated by repeated moves by the Donald Trump administration to slash veterans' benefits and health care.

Throughout his time in office, Trump waged war on programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and Social Security, all heavily relied upon by veterans.

Nearly one in 10 veterans receives health care through Medicaid, according to the House Committee on the Budget, and more than half have insurance coverage under Medicare. More than 620,000 rely on Social Security benefits, and 1.3 million veteran households receive SNAP food stamp benefits.

In 2019, the Trump administration rolled out policy changes that would have imposed work requirements on SNAP recipients, which would have had a disastrous impact on low-income Americans, including veterans, during the pandemic if advocates hadn't effectively blocked them. They would have cut SNAP funding to at least 700,000 Americans.

The Trump Department of Agriculture fought a lengthy battle in federal court to prevent states from administering emergency food stamps to low-income Americans.

In February 2020, just before onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump released a $4.8 trillion budget proposal that contained sharp budget cuts across the board, particularly to Medicare and Medicaid. The House Committee on the Budget issued a statement days later on the harm it would cause veterans by decreasing funding for these crucial programs.

Trump also made repeated attempts to cut Social Security benefits. He signed an executiveorder in August 2020, during a peak in the pandemic, that established a temporary deferral through December of that year for employees under a certain income level of payment of the portion of the payroll tax that funds Social Security, and pledged to make them permanent if he was reelected.

Trump also exacerbated an enormous staffing crisis within the Department of Veteran Affairs, which provides physical and mental health services to veterans. He enacted hiring freezesimpacting the VA and also cut the Interim Staffing Program, which assigned physicians, nurse practitioners, and assistants to VA hospitals and health care centers when permanent staff went on leave or retired.

When David Shulkin, the first veteran affairs secretary under Trump, took office, he vowed to double the size of the staffing program. Instead, he was removed by Trump after objecting to efforts by the administration to privatize the program, which was shut down to be replaced with a telehealth program.

The Trump administration also hampered the VA's efforts to recruit and retain staff by slashing employee benefits and dismantling worker protections. The most common position left unfilled was that of psychiatrist.

Ted Blickwedel, a former VA counselor, told the American Prospect that the Department of Veterans Affairs under Trump "kept pushing the numbers, the numbers, the numbers," adding, "We had counselors taking leave, burning out, facing suicidal thoughts, or obtaining their own therapists."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.