Activists Hold Portsmouth “Democracy is For All” Rally

Activists from National Organizations Will Urge Sen. Ayotte to Back Constitutional Amendment Curbing Money in Politics – Vote Is Sept. 8

Portsmouth, NH — Activists representing nationwide organizations, including Public Citizen, MoveOn.org Political Action, People For the American Way, CREDO Action and Common Cause, will deliver 10,500 petitions from New Hampshire’s residents to U.S. Sen. Ayotte (R – NH) office on Sept. 3 asking her to back a constitutional amendment to curb the flood of money in politics.

Fifty U.S. senators support the Democracy For All constitutional amendment (S.J. Res 19), which would establish that Congress and the states have the power to regulate and limit election spending. However, Ayotte has yet to add her name to the list, and is the only New Hampshire congressional delegate to not already pledge support for such an amendment, although just this year 54 New Hampshire towns, mostly in Republican areas, have officially declared their support and asked her to do the same. Activists will urge the senator to become the 51st supporter and to support the amendment on September 8 when the Senate considers it.

The amendment is in response to the U.S. Supreme Court rulings in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) and McCutcheon v. FEC. In Citizens United, the court gave corporations the green light to spend unlimited sums to influence elections. As a result, spending by outside groups – those not affiliated with campaigns – skyrocketed. In McCutcheon, the court struck down the aggregate campaign spending limits, allowing the super-wealthy to contribute millions of dollars directly to candidates, political parties and joint fundraising committees.

Dozens of organizations nationwide have collected approximately 3 million signatures calling for Citizens United to be overturned. Sixteen states, approximately 550 cities and towns, and more than 160 former and current members of Congress and President Barack Obama have indicated support for the amendment. It’s time Ayotte gets on board.

WHEN:          11:00 am, Wednesday, Sept. 3

WHERE:       Kelly Ayotte’s Portsmouth office, 14 Manchester Square, Portsmouth, NH 03801

VISUALS:     Leftist Marching Band, Signs, Boxes containing the petitions

Granite Staters Ask Senator Ayotte To Take The Minimum Wage Challenge

Image from NH Alliance For Retired Americans

Image from NH Alliance For Retired Americans

This week members of the New Hampshire Alliance for Retired American, New Hampshire Citizens Alliance, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) challenged Senator Kelly Ayotte to live on minimum wage for a week.

The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour that leads many to make choices between feeding their families and filling their gas tanks. This is why millions of Americans support raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.

Senator Ayotte supported the GOP filibuster that blocked an “up and down” down of raising the minimum wage.

Activists argued that Senator Ayotte should spend a week in the shoes of a minimum wage worker by joining Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Tim Ryan, Barbara Lee, Mark Takano, and former Gov. Ted Strickland in taking the Minimum Wage Challenge and living on $77 for a week, the take home pay of a minimum wage worker.

“In 1992, my family and I fled our country, the former Yugoslavia, due to the civil war,” said Nina Mujakovic, small business owner. “Since 1998, my family and I have worked very hard to 77 dollars a weekgain back what we lost. We have obtained our American Dream and others need to have the opportunity to achieve theirs. An increase in minimum wage will help them along that path.”

Activist displayed what the reality of a $77.00 food basket looked like.

“Raising the minimum wage is a no-brainer in so many ways,” added Lucy Edward, a member of the Alliance for Retired Americans. “Better incomes lead to a better standard of living, and better health, reducing health care costs. Better incomes lead to better funding for schools, leading to more educated young people who will again have better jobs and even start their own businesses. Raising the minimum wage, and other policies that support working families, are a positive feedback economic engine.”

At the event, Lucy Edwards highlighted how raising the minimum wage will help strengthen our Social Security system.

“Once you understand that the Social Security benefit is calculated on lifetime earnings, and that the Trust Fund is funded from current earnings, you can immediately see that if a person makes more money, not only do their benefits on retirement increase, but the amount they pay into the Social Security Trust Fund increases today. Raising the Federal minimum wage, passing the Paycheck Equity legislation through Congress, and funding projects that create jobs all bring immediate returns to the Trust Fund, extending its ability to pay full benefits into the future.”

You can read Lucy’s full statement at the NH Alliance For Retired Americans Blog.

Activists vowed to watch and wait to see if Senator Ayotte would accept the challenge to live on minimum wage for a week. They are hopeful that she will then understand the difficulty of getting by on $77 a week.

Will Senator Ayotte accept the Minimum Wage Challenge and take one week to see what it is like for the millions of Americans struggling to survive on the minimum wage?   Odds are against it, but with pressure from people like you, that could change.

AFSCME To Call On Senator Ayotte To Take The Minimum Wage Challenge

AFSCME_Logo-2Color

Stand For Working Families

Rally/Press Conference

Urge Senator Ayotte to vote to increase Federal Minimum wage to $10.10  

We will call on Senator Ayotte to take the Minimum Wage Challenge – see what it is like to live on $77.00 per week. Perhaps, this will help her understand the importance of raising the Federal Minimum Wage to give working families a fighting chance to get by.

WHAT:      Press Conference calling on Senator Ayotte to take Minimum Wage Challenge featuring a typical basket of necessities that $77 would buy.

WHERE:     Senator Ayotte’s Manchester Office, 1200 Elm Street, Manchester, NH 03101

WHEN:      Wednesday, August 27 at 12:00 p.m. (noon)

Below is an image you can share with friends or share it on Facebook from here.

Stand for Working Families- August 2014 Call to Action Flier (2)

 

Granite State Progress Renews Call For Senator Ayotte To Host Town Hall On Gun Violence Prevention

477 Days and Counting: Advocates Renew Call for Sen. Ayotte to Host Town Hall Specifically on Gun Violence Prevention

It’s been 16 months since Sen. Ayotte voted against criminal background checks and 477 days since she first refused to meet with New Hampshire gun violence prevention advocates

CONCORD, NH – Gun violence prevention advocates are renewing the call for U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte to host a town hall or forum specifically dedicated to the pressing issue of reducing gun violence. It’s been 477 days since the request was first issued and Senator Ayotte’s office has still refused to sit down and meet.

“Constituents have made phone calls, sent letters, signed petitions, and invited the Senator to coffee, but Senator Ayotte has repeatedly denied meeting requests from gun violence prevention advocates ever since she voted against background checks and the 89 percent of her constituents who support them,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director, Granite State Progress. “We renew our call for Senator Ayotte to host a town hall solely focused on gun violence prevention. In the sixteen months since Senator Ayotte voted against common sense background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, domestic abusers, and the seriously mentally ill, more shootings and more national tragedies have occurred. Senator Ayotte needs to stop hiding behind NRA lobby talking points and meet directly with her constituents. She has a responsibility as a U.S. Senator to participate in open town halls on these important topics instead of cherry-picking the issues she wants to discuss.”

In a letter to Senator Ayotte, Granite State Progress renewed the call for a town hall on gun violence prevention that would include participation from survivors of gun violence and the family members of victims, in addition to gun violence prevention advocates, faith leaders, law enforcement officials, mental health advocates, and responsible gun owners.  Members of the organization are being asked to contact the Senator and call on her to engage in a community conversation about how we can work together to protect more children and families.

Background: In April 2013, Senator Ayotte voted against the Manchin-Toomey background check bill – the only bill that would have required background checks for commercial gun sales and improved the background check system. Instead, Senator Ayotte voted for an amendment created by the gun lobby and sponsored by Senators Chuck Grassley and Ted Cruz that would actually weaken the system and put more guns in the hands of the seriously mentally ill. Ayotte’s public approval ratings plummeted after her vote.

Granite State Progress first issued the call for a town hall specifically on gun violence prevention on April 30, 2013 after Ayotte hosted three poorly publicized town halls where moderators such as former Congressman and current State Senator Jeb Bradley publicly admitted to screening out questions regarding Sen. Ayotte’s vote against background checks and the 89% of her constituents who support them. Granite State Progress, OFA-NH, and Project for Safer Communities re-issued the call during the August 2013 Congressional recess, and Granite State Progress members additionally held coffee sit-ins in the Senator’s district offices to highlight her absence. Sen. Ayotte responded with a generic form letter stating she would hold general town halls later in the year – but for 16 months has ignored constituent requests for a conversation on gun violence prevention.

In contrast, during the national health reform debate in the Summer of ‘09, the New Hampshire Congressional Delegation held town halls specifically focused on the pending health reform legislation – also an issue of national debate and interest.

When Will Senator Ayotte Start Listening To The People On Protecting Our Earned Benefits?

Editor’s Note: Below is a cross-post from the NH Alliance for Retired Americans who have been working over the last year to meet with and talk to Senator Ayotte.  I believe Sen. Ayotte’s office has met with them once, they are obviously not listening to what the people are saying.  When I wrote to Sen. Ayotte about protecting Social Security and Medicare, I got the exact same form letter that Lucy attached below. 

Image and rights from the  NHARA

Image from the NH ARA

Senator Ayotte, You Are Not Listening

Written by Lucy Edwards
President of the NH Alliance for Retired Americans
Posted on the NH ARA Blog

I received an e-mail letter from Senator Ayotte on the subject of Social Security and Medicare (or as she calls them, “entitlements.”) I would like to suggest to her that if she REALLY is interested in making sure that these earned benefit programs are available into the future, she consider some really simple solutions.

First, to fund the Social Security Trust Fund so that it can pay benefits indefinitely, we could do some combination of the following:

  • Raise the minimum wage.  If incomes are higher, payments into the trust fund are higher.
  • Raise the income cap.  If higher earners have to pay on more of their earnings, the payments into the trust fund will be higher.
  • Pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. If women earn more, their payments into the trust fund will be higher.
  • Vote for infrastructure funding and other stimulus programs to raise the number of jobs and the pay for workers.  If more people are working, and making decent incomes, the payments into the trust fund will be higher.  AND life both today and in retirement will be much better for ALL Americans.

I would also remind her that the Affordable Care Act is already lowering the rate of growth of healthcare costs, including Medicare.  More preventative care, less spending on high cost procedures, correcting the overpayments for Medicare Advantage policies, and reining in fraud will help keep costs under control.  Don’t repeal the ACA!

We could also discuss the use of the national debt (for which Republican presidents are mostly responsible) as a straw man (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man) but we will leave that for another discussion.

Here is her letter:

Thank you for contacting me regarding entitlement reform, particularly as it relates to Medicare and Social Security.  I appreciate hearing from you.

Our $17 trillion national debt threatens not only our economic prosperity but also our security and sovereignty.  I believe that it is my responsibility to analyze the underlying problems perpetuating the unsustainable growth in our federal debt and to make a real effort to solve them.  This includes evaluating all areas of the federal budget to determine where appropriate reductions can be made and making the necessary reforms to entitlement programs to ensure they are solvent for current and future generations.

Spending for major health and retirement programs, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, will increase in coming decades, putting greater pressure on the rest of the federal budget.  According to the Office of Management and Budget, in fiscal year (FY) 2013, 66 percent of all federal spending was on entitlement programs, net interest, and other social safety net programs.  Unless significant actions are taken to address these programs’ structural problems, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will grow to consume every dollar of revenue raised by the government.

I also understand the importance of these programs and am aware of how many Americans rely on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  As baby boomers continue to retire, health care costs and Social Security outlays will rise.

According to the most recent Medicare Trustees report, the Medicare Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund has been running cash flow deficits since 2008.  The only thing keeping the program afloat financially is the sale of Treasury bonds in the Medicare Trust Fund – deficit spending.  According to the report, the Medicare HI Trust Fund will be insolvent by 2030.

In addition, the Social Security Trustees report that the Social Security program is now in a permanent cash flow deficit, meaning that as baby boomers retire, the Trust Funds are obligated to pay out more benefits than there are incoming payroll taxes.  This means that to pay benefits, the government must cut spending, raise taxes, or borrow more money from overseas to finance payments.  The Trustees estimate that the Social Security Trust Funds will have a shortfall of $9.6 trillion over the next 75 years and will be exhausted in 2033.  This means that in just 20 years beneficiaries would have to see a 23 percent benefit cut.

I believe we need to ensure the long-term viability of entitlement programs.  In strengthening entitlements, we should ensure that those in or near retirement will not be negatively impacted by any reforms.  However, the longer we put off reforming entitlements, the more difficult changes will be on those nearing retirement.  In order to strengthen entitlements, members of both parties will need to muster the political courage to stop putting off the tough decisions that need to be made in order to preserve these programs and protect the economic strength of our country.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me.  As your Senator, it is important for me to hear from you regarding the current issues affecting New Hampshire and our nation.  Please do not hesitate to be in touch again if I may be of further assistance.

Sincerely,
Kelly A. Ayotte
U. S. Senator

The NH Alliance For Retired Americans Score NH Senators On Issues Effecting Seniors

Please take a look at how your Representatives and Senators in the United States Congress voted on issues of concern to senior citizens and their families.

The New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans has sent this letter to the editor to papers around the state:

When it comes to support for the senior safety net, New Hampshire’s two Senators could not be more different.  The Alliance for Retired Americans produces a voting record to show how committed our elected representatives are to retirees and older Americans. Votes chosen for 2013 were*:

Seniors Program Cuts
Health Care Repeal
Estate Tax Repeal
Anti-Retiree Budget
Mandatory Benefit Cuts
Limit Victims’ Rights
Limit Voters’ Rights
Cut Emergency Phone Service
Pro-Retiree Budget
Cut Nutrition Programs

Senator Shaheen received a score of 100%, which did not surprise the New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans, since we have had opportunities to speak with her in person both in her office and at events around the state, and to hear her pledge her support for the programs that not only benefit us, but our children and grandchildren now and in the future.

Senator Ayotte received a score of 10%, which, sorry to say, did not surprise us. She has, her staff tells us, been much too busy to meet with us at her office, despite repeated requests. Individual members have attended events she held, despite the short notices, but have not gotten any questions answered.

We at the New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans believe that all New Hampshire retirees and all New Hampshire citizens who care about our retirees or hope to be retired some day should have this information.  Please visit our website for more information and how to contact us.

*http://retiredamericans.org/issues/congressional-voting-record

Lucy Edwards, President, for the Board of the New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans.

3 Things You Need to Know about Today’s Minimum Wage Vote

Here’s the first thing:
Today, the Senate did not vote on raising the minimum wage.  (If they had voted, the bill would almost certainly have passed.)
Rather: today’s vote was on whether to end a filibuster.  The filibuster is a parliamentary maneuver that allows a minority of Senators to prevent the full Senate from voting on a measure.  Since President Obama was elected, the GOP has used the filibuster to drive Congress into gridlock.  (Read more about the filibuster and Scott Brown here.)
The Senate can still vote again (and again) in the future on whether to end the filibuster.

Here’s the second thing:
The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis has been keeping track of corporate profits since 1947.  For the first 40 years after that, there was an almost perfect relationship between total corporate profits and the minimum wage: total corporate profits were almost exactly 55 billion times the minimum wage.  But once the 1986 corporate tax cut started impacting the economy, that changed. (It changed even more after the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts.)

profits vs minimum wage


And here’s the third thing:

Today’s vote to end the filibuster failed by only six votes.  New Hampshire’s Sen. Kelly Ayotte was one of them.

4-30-14 Minimum Wage Filibuster Vote

Senators Ayotte (NH) and Collins (ME) Voted Against Unemployment Insurance Extension (Granite State Rumblings)

Last week the Senate failed to pass an extension of unemployment insurance. Nearly 1.3 million workers lost their unemployment insurance when the emergency program to help them expired on December 28th.

More than one-third of the unemployed have been out of work for more than 6 months. For each week that nothing is done, another 72,000 long-term jobless will lose their Unemployment Insurance, another 3.6 million by the end of 2014.

A total of 8,500 unemployed Granite Staters and 18,100 unemployed Mainers will lose their benefits by the end of 2014 according to information from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Two different bills came up for a vote in the Senate last week. Neither bill received the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster and move forward.

One would have extended unemployment benefits for 11 months and paid for it by extending the existing 2 percent cuts to Medicare health providers by an additional year, to 2024. It failed 52 – 48.

The other bill would have extended unemployment benefits for three months at a cost of 6.4 billion dollars. It failed 55 – 45.

(January 7, 2014 - Source: Mark Wilson/Getty Images North America)

(January 7, 2014 – Source: Mark Wilson/Getty Images North America)

Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Senator Susan Collins of Maine were among the Republican Senate members who voted against extending unemployment insurance. However, they did vote the very first time to allow the issue to be debated in the Senate and subsequent votes taken. We have a chance to convince them to do the right thing again.

Senators are in their home states this week and waiting to hear from their constituents. They have not been home since the checks stopped arriving for the first wave of the long-term unemployed.

Those missing checks are having a huge impact on the families who relied upon them for their basic needs. They are also having an impact on our local communities. The money from those checks is not being spent at the grocery stores in our towns and cities, not being spent on gas and propane and heating oil, not being spent on rent or mortgages.

When the Senators return to Washington they need to return having heard the voices loudly and clearly from their constituents about this issue and then vote to undue the harm that has been inflicted on the children, the families, and the communities of the long-term unemployed.

Every Child Matters and other statewide groups are asking you to call Senator Ayotte and Senator Collins tomorrow and tell them to do the right thing. Go back to work and protect those workers who want nothing more than to be able to do the same.

The number for Senator’s Ayotte’s Manchester office is: 603-622-7979

The number for Senator Susan Collins’ Portland office is: 207-780-3575.

Senator Kelly Ayotte Twists The Facts About Immigrants & Taxes With Unemployment Insurance Amendment

This week, as the Senate decides whether to extend unemployment benefits, some Senators are looking for “offsets.”  Unfortunately, a fallback for some members of Congress has become targeting programs for immigrants, without regard to the true fiscal or social impact.

Senator Kelly Ayotte Official Portrait

Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)

One recurring target has been the Addtional Child Tax Credit for immigrant taxpayers. An amendment proposed by Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) prososes to “pay for a three-month extension of unemployment benefits by stopping a scheme that currently allow {sic} illegal immigrants to claim the Additional Child Tax Credit.”

Calling a program which allows immigrant workers to pay taxes and legally claim tax credits a “scheme” distorts reality. Immigrant workers—both undocumented and lawfully present immigrants—like all workers, are required to pay taxes and many do so using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). The IRS has determined that ITIN filers are indeed eligible to claim the Additional Child Tax Credit for their qualified children. Those who are undocumented pay into a system that makes them ineligible for the vast majority of benefits their tax dollars fund.

Weeding out fraud is important and while there have been some reports of fraud in the program, just as there is in other tax programs, the “fraud” doesn’t occur when an ITIN holder claims the credit. Ending the entire program punishes those who are seeking to follow the law.

ITIN filers are doing the right thing by paying into the tax system with little hope of collecting any future benefits for themselves. According to the Treasury Department’s Inspector General, in 2010, ITIN filers reported $60 billion dollars in wages. There may be debate as to whether this is fair or reasonable policy, but it is not a scheme, nor is it fraud. The debate about ITIN filers and the Additional Child Tax Credit should be fueled by honest reporting and reliable facts.

Via press release from the Immigration Policy Center

Granite Staters Rally At Sen Ayotte’s Office In National Day Of Action To Protect Social Security

Ayotte Dec. 3, 2013Statement from New Alliance for Retired Americans President Lucy Edwards at the National Day of Action event in Nashua NH 

As the president of the New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans, a grassroots volunteer group of senior citizens representing 13,000 NH retirees, I am here today with others fighting to save our Social Security and Medicare benefits from any “grand bargain” between the President and Congress.  Right now in Washington DC, a committee of House and Senate members is trying to agree on a budget that could pass both houses of Congress and get the President’s signature.  Our junior Senator, Kelly Ayotte, is one of these members and that is why we are here today.

For many of us, including me, cuts to these earned benefits would mean the loss of our economic security in retirement.  Do not be fooled by those who tell you that there are no seniors in NH who are all or mostly dependent on Social Security for their income, or for whom turning Medicare into a voucher program to buy insurance on our own would most likely mean increased ill-health and even early death.  We’re out here today because we must be getting the word out. This is not some political game played in DC, this is very real and very frightening to many of us.

And let me say that I and my fellows worry about our children and grandchildren as well.  We are not “greedy geezers!”  When a politician says to me that any changes to the programs will not affect anyone over 55, the first people who pop into my mind are my daughters and their husbands!  When a politician says to me that raising the eligibility age for these programs would be fine because people are living longer, I think of all the people I know who have been without health insurance until now, and wonder if they will even be able to work til 65.

What we really need in this age of the 401(k) and “you’re on your own” retirement plans, and proposals such as the Chained CPI, is something like Senator Harkins’ bill, the Strengthen Social Security Act of 2013, which would fit a Consumer Price Index for us seniors to our true costs, including healthcare costs.  The Chained CPI would cut benefits now AND in the future, leaving us with shrinking incomes just at the time when we need the funds the most.

We are here to remind Senator Ayotte of this, and even more important, to remind our fellow citizens that we need to fight for our rights, including the right to a secure retirement.  Don’t let a “grand bargain” steal what we worked so hard for!

Thank you all for coming!

Lucy Edwards

(You can follow the NH Alliance for Retired Americans on twitter @NH_ARA and via their blog)