|EDITION 11||February 2023|
- Welcome to 2023!
- JUST POLITICS
- FRAUD CORNER
- Chair Corner
- IN SEARCH OF VOLUNTEERS
- Final Thoughts
- Suggestion Box
Welcome to 2023!
From Bobo (Lauren Boebert) calling Adam Schiff a Blue Anon, to spats between Marjorie Taylor Green and Freedom Caucus "allies" Matt Gaetz and Bobo over choosing the new House Majority Leader, to defunding the IRS, to schools punishing kids for being themselves, to Republicans once again trying to tank the economy and cause another recession with spending “cuts,” to state leaders violating the Voting Rights Act (Georgia), to states trying to override the Constitution (North Carolina - read the article below “Moore vs. Harper - Why it Matters")… Hang on tight! 2023 is going to be a bumpy ride.
Whose side are they on? Not yours and mine.
January 20th marks the two year anniversary of the Biden-Harris administration. In the first two years, the Biden-Harris Administration and Democrats delivered results with an economic agenda that is on the side of workers. Here’s a sample:
- Record Job Growth: Strongest two years for job growth on record, unemployment matching a 50-year low, annual inflation down for the past six months in a row, and a record number of Americans with health insurance.
- Lowering Costs for Families: Inflation Reduction Law to lower prescription drug costs, lower health care premiums and energy costs, historic climate action taken, and wealthy corporations forced to pay their fair share – all while reducing the deficit.
- Fixing Our Nation’s Infrastructure: Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is rebuilding roads and bridges, providing clean drinking water, and expanding access to high-speed internet.
- Making More in America: More companies are reinvesting in American manufacturing – creating 750,000 good-paying jobs, with a historic $300 billion in investments in new factories.
- Improving Health Care for Veterans: Passed the PACT Act to strengthen benefits for veterans and their families exposed to toxic burn pits.
- Reducing Gun Violence: Passed the first significant gun safety law in nearly 30 years.
- Providing Historic Student Loan Relief: Student debt relief made available to those who need it most.
- Appointing Historic Court Nominees: Appointed Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman on the Supreme Court, along with a record number of diverse federal judges in his first two years.
- Rebuilding the Global Coalition: Restored our standing on the world stage, and led our allies to support Ukraine and democracy worldwide, making the world a safer and steadier place.
International Voter Registration Day
A couple of election cycles ago, the Vote From Abroad Comms team inaugurated January 15th as International Voter Registration Day to get voters who live abroad in the habit of sending in a new FPCA every year to request their ballots for the year and to re-register.
Please feel free to use the resources provided by the VFA Comms Team at THIS LINK to encourage friends and family to register and request their ballots.
Social Security & Medicare Webinar
Welcome to DA’s new Executive Director!
We’d like to welcome Jarryd Rauch, DA's new Executive Director, formerly with the Democratic National Committee and Association of State Democratic Committees
Michael Moore Podcast
Michael has a message for us all on “How to Win When You’re Blue in a Red State.” Listen to his 12 part podcast.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day
“We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
That line comes from a sermon delivered at Washington’s National Cathedral on March 31, 1968, less than a week before his death. It is a remarkable speech in many ways, well worth reading in full. It contains many of King’s signature lines and themes, but it also outlines his increasingly ambitious and, to many, radical plans to promote economic justice and an end to foreign wars, particularly Vietnam.
The profound quotes from that speech are too plentiful to list them all, but as Martin Luther King Day wraps up, let’s close with a passage that seems to encapsulate King’s expansive vision of a humanity united in justice, peace and prosperity, a vision that was increasingly occupying his mind in his final days.
“We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.”
— Lauren Hakulinen, Editor
What is the debt ceiling, and what happens if the U.S. hits it?
The Treasury Department has warned it will need to take “extraordinary measures” starting Thursday to delay an economic catastrophe for a few months now that the U.S. government has borrowed up to the current $31.4 trillion debt limit. Read more
What is the Platinum Coin?
We are at desperate measures folks, and Treasury may be forced to print a coin to avoid a global financial meltdown. How many of us know that most currencies are tied to the economic strength of the U.S.? How does the coin work, what does it do, and is it legal? Read all about it here
Moore v. Harper and why it matters
The North Carolina Supreme Court struck down the state’s congressional map as an extreme case of partisan gerrymandering. Now the North Carolina legislative leaders have appealed to the Supreme Court to grant them unfettered power to set rules for voting and elections without state constitutional limits.
In Moore v. Harper, the U.S. Supreme Court considers a case from North Carolina about whether state legislatures have unrestricted powers in how they administer federal elections, including the drawing of congressional district maps. Russell Wheeler explains the independent state legislature theory at the heart of the case, and what the court’s ruling could mean for partisan gerrymandering and the future of how states run elections.
The theory advanced by the legislators, if accepted, would radically reshape the workings of American government, which is why the ACLU, the ACLU of North Carolina, and our legal partners filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court. Read more …
What were the most important issues for swing voters in this year’s midterm elections?
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that two of them were abortion and inflation. The third, which got far less media attention, was Social Security and Medicare.
That data matches what I saw on the ground in the months leading up to the election. I’m best known as “Bowzer” from the band Sha Na Na, but these days I’m President of Social Security Works PAC. In that capacity, I traveled to 35 swing districts from coast to coast where I did more than 50 events on behalf of candidates who support protecting and expanding Social Security. The crowds at those events were large, well informed, and passionate about protecting and expanding our earned benefits.
Jon "Bowser” Bauman, lead singer for Sha Na Na, and Senior Advisor & PAC President, Social Security Works
Sign now: End the Jim Crow relic of runoff elections!
During the reconstruction era, as southern states waged war on their newly liberated Black populations, one tool that many states employed was a Runoff election. The idea was that, having a second election a few weeks after the first would give Jim Crow laws two chances to filter out Black voters, and requiring a 50% threshold would ensure that even if white voters split on the first ballot, they could still gang up and win.
This election system is still in place in Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and other states. We’ve only heard about it as Georgia has become more competitive.
There’s a big difference between instant runoff voting―also known as ranked choice voting―and holding an entirely separate election. In instant runoff elections, voters rank their choices, and the votes for the least popular candidates are redistributed according to voter preferences until a candidate has majority support. But voters only have to go to the polls once.
It’s true that Democrats have won the last two Senate runoffs. That might be why Republicans are giving up―but it doesn’t change the fact that these elections are a huge waste of time and energy in what should be a simple democratic process.
Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State has proposed doing away with costly, time-consuming runoff elections. We agree! Sign now to demand the end of this Jim Crow relic!
Abortion pills in Florida and Alabama
Florida Gov. Greg Abbott and Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall announced that dispensing or taking abortion pills could result in criminal proceedings, in response to the FDA’s expansion of abortion pill access in pharmacies.
Donald Trump had to flip members for Kevin McCarthy to win this speakership. One thing is as clear as day: Donald Trump is still the GOP’s kingmaker. And he’s already running for the top spot again.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (OR) is among those sounding the alarm about unacceptable delays disabled Americans face to even find out if they are eligible for benefits. The calls for action follow a Washington Post report Monday on delays at state offices that process applications for Social Security’s two disability programs.
State operations that review Social Security disability claims face massive backlogs, leaving Americans with disabilities waiting months and even years for judgments. To combat the crisis, House and Senate Democrats are calling for a drastic boost in funding for the Social Security Administration (SSA) to increase staffing, improve technology and expand other investments as the agency confronts the situation.
“The additional SSA funding is badly needed, or the delays will get even worse,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance. “People with disabilities cannot afford to wait years to learn whether they are eligible for benefits. Their bills are due now.” — Ron Wyden
Do NOT do what Joe Biden is doing in this picture!
This photo went viral this Christmas, but health officials advise that the elderly should not climb ladders as falling is the leading cause of injury or death in those over age 65.
Joe is in good health, works out, gets check ups regularly. Be like Joe, but stay off of ladders!
Semiautomatic weapons ban: 'Hundreds of lives will be saved’
Some stats: At the 2017 shooting in Las Vegas 60 people were killed, and 867 were wounded. Since then, there have been 318 shootings in 2018, 374 in 2019, 572 in 2020, 639 in 2021, and 604 in 2022. When will it end?
France changed how I think about money
Year 1: In year one, I was just thrilled to be in France. Living costs were very close to what I paid in San Luis Obispo, CA. I loved the high-quality medical care at a laughably low cost. Even before I got the Carte Vitale, my out-of-pocket cost for doctors and prescriptions were about the same as what I would have paid in the US (co-pay). And since there are no monthly premiums or deductions, WooHOO!!!
Year 2: I file French tax forms for the first time. Even though I don't pay income tax in France, I do pay Taxe Foncière, which is still cheaper than what I paid in CA on a similarly sized apartment. In discussions with French friends, I'm starting to get a feel for just how different France and the French are, regarding work, money, taxes. The minimum wage for employees is higher at 11€/hr (gross). BUT after tax, the median US salary is about 50% more than the median French salary. (See table "Economy" in this link. https://www.worlddata.info/country-comparison.php...) Their minimum wage is higher, but the median salary is lower, meaning that there is much more income equality.... less of the extreme rich, less of the poor, and a bigger middle class in France. They pay far more in taxes, but healthcare and education are practically free. They get pensions from the government.
Year 3: A French doctor I dated told me he was proud to be able to pay taxes, because not everyone can afford to pay taxes. I asked him to repeat that. Yes, he said PROUD. A seismic shift occurred in my thinking that day. My little American brain just about exploded. As Americans, we grow up in a capitalistic dog-eat-dog world, each man for himself, time is money, money talks, protestant work ethic, we live to work, we cheat on our taxes if we think we can get away with it. In France, EGALITÉ is not just an empty word. It means Everyone has access to healthcare regardless of income, whether poor refugees or comfortably retired American FOBs (fresh off the boat). I don't understand how the French health system can afford retirees like me who have never contributed, but get all the same benefits as a French citizen.
Year 4: Inheritance taxes are high in France. And that's what keeps the rich from becoming dynasties. Children cannot be disinherited. And children have a legal financial obligation to their aged parents. The French system is starting to sound more and more logical, and more humane. As I benefit from the medical system, I realize that when I die, without a spouse or children, my assets will go to France. Shock and revulsion at first. I'm over it. I now look forward to helping sustain a system that generously took me in for "free," but it's time to give back when I die. Yep. Sounds fair and right.
Year 5: I am grateful to all my wonderful friends who explain how the systems work.... I know people who have worked in hospitals, schools, banks, construction, and private industry. Their environment shaped their values, and I too am adopting this new set of values. I see the paternalistic attitude of government programs in "le bouclier tarifaire”, free vaccines, free Covid testing, even for noncitizens. I see the continuous healthcare my French friends with cancer receive and feel grateful for their care. I see discounts for the needy and young students. I see public day-care for babies, and generous maternity leave. FAR less racism, No crazy serial shootings every day. Presidential elections that are fair, transparent, where mud-slinging attacks are illegal, and winning is not about how much money you can raise.
I'm so happy to be in the system, that I want to be part of the system. I'm volunteering by teaching English classes. No surprise that I submitted my dossier to request naturalization. Vive la France. Vive la République.
Have these changes happened to you yet? — Janice Wang
A Sneaky Form of Climate Obstruction Hurts Pension Funds
In several Republican-led states, the officials who oversee pension funds for millions of state workers are being told, or may soon be told, to ignore the financial risks associated with a warming world. There’s something distinctly anti-free market about policymakers limiting investment professionals’ choices — and it’s putting the retirement savings of millions at risk.
The Texas comptroller, Glenn Hegar, recently announced that 10 financial firms and 348 funds could be barred from doing business with the state’s pension plans because they appeared to consider environmental risks in their investment decisions regarding the fossil fuel industry. The day before, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida announced a similar move. Other states, including Idaho, Louisiana and West Virginia, have either taken or are thinking of taking similar actions, which amount to ideological litmus tests that will likely result in lower returns for pensioners. Read more
How to recognize and prevent financial elder abuse
Financial abuse is the most common form of elderly abuse in Canada. Here's how you can protect yourself and your loved ones.
Friday, 24 February
Don’t miss our Seniors and Disability Caucus monthly chats via Zoom, from 9 to 10:30 am Eastern Time (US & Canada). Everyone is very welcome! RSVP to get your local time and add to your calendar.
In our December coffee chat topics of discussion included:
- WEP (Windfall Elimination Provision) / Social Security Administration/WEP
- DA's Taxation Task Force
- Health Care while living abroad, including Medicare, and difficulty using host country health care.
- Presidential primary schedule change
There is strong interest in WEP which can be a confusing tax provision. Taxation of American citizens living abroad is a heated issue.
Health care is a topic of conversation each month. There is a hospital in Mexico that will direct bill Medicare and Medicaid. We are trying to find out if there are other countries with medical facilities willing to do that.
One participant said it took her nearly two years and 75 calls to sign up for Social Security.
There were questions about how the decision was made to hold the first primary in South Carolina instead of Iowa. It seems the DNC feels it is more representative of members of the Democratic party.
A few participants were new to DA, and wanted to know how to help Americans vote. One participant says she carries the DA and VFA business cards with her everywhere.
VFA business cards can be found here.
Join the Global Black Caucus for an insightful webinar, during Black History Month 2023, and learn more about the significance of the National Welfare Rights Organization and its activism and legacy which still carries on today. RSVP
Join us on February 19th for a practical explanation of what Medicare is, how it is funded, to whom it is available and the nature of coverage it does or can include. Find out what kind of decisions you will have to make – either now or in the future – and how these decisions and programs can significantly impact your future financial and insurance coverage situation. These decisions are important for people with disabilities and seniors, but knowing what is coming is important for all Americans overseas – whether you plan to stay abroad or move back to the U.S. RSVP to receive the Zoom link.
How to get in touch with the U.S. Embassy where you reside
State Department Country & Area List
How to sign up for Social Security online from abroad
The AARP has written a succinct article on this.
How to read your local newspaper back home
Have you ever had the urge to read a local newspaper from back home? You can — many are listed on Wikipedia.
A Happy New Year to you all. It has been a year since we formed the Seniors Caucus, and we continue to work in DA on Senior issues.
You should know that HR.82 The Social Security Fairness Act, a bill that would fully repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO) was reintroduced in this Congress.
“HR.82 currently has 10 co-sponsors. The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) will work throughout the 118th Congress to increase the number of co-sponsors and to advance the legislation. Even with the turnover of lawmakers from the 117th Congress, 243 former co-sponsors remain, providing a clear path to adding co-sponsors early. Ask your representative to co-sponsor HR.82 today.”
We look forward to a busy year working on the elimination of WEP, trying to expand Medicare, and getting out the vote for all Seniors who are members of DA. Also, this year please think about getting involved in our Caucus. We always need volunteers and input from our caucus members. If you are interested in helping us, please contact us by email: [email protected].
— Betsy Ettorre, Chair of the Seniors Caucus
IN SEARCH OF VOLUNTEERS…
Volunteers are the backbone of our organization.
- The Global Senior Caucus is looking for a “Tweeter” - someone who loves to post on Twitter. We are also in need of an Events Coordinator and two other Steering Committee members. Visit our website for details on our volunteer opportunities.
- The Global Black Caucus is searching to fill more positions. Get in touch here.
- The Global Communications Team is also looking for volunteers as they ramp up for the 2024 election! Do you have a communications background? Are you interested in helping? If so, please fill out the Global Communications Team Interest Form.
At “Geezer Happy Hour,” the “silver tsunami” have been dancing for decades. Read about it here — It’s the Coolest Rock Show in Ann Arbor. And Almost Everyone There Is Over 65.
And sadly, David Crosby has left us. He gave his all, and left a music legacy that will be unmatched. We will Remember Your Name, your heart, soul, cantankerous spirit, your stunningly beautiful harmonies unmatched by any other, your kindness, generosity and wisdom. David’s song What Are Their Names could not be more appropriate today, on his first solo album, “If I Could Only Remember My Name”.
”What are their names, and on what streets do they live? I’d like to ride right over, this afternoon and give them a piece of my mind, about PEACE for Mankind. Peace is not an awful lot to ask.”
Photo credit: © Francesco Lucarelli - Teatro Dal Verme, Milano 11/09/2018
Thanks David for showing us the way: Music is love.
Thanks to Melanie Gardner, Janice Wang, and Karen Lee
for contributions to this month’s newsletter!
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