Award-winning Investigative Journalist Robert Parry (1949-2018)

Award-winning investigative journalist and founder/editor of, Robert Parry has passed away. His ground-breaking work uncovering Reagan-era dirty wars in Central America and many other illegal and immoral policies conducted by successive administrations and U.S. intelligence agencies, stands as an inspiration to all in journalists working in the public interest.

Robert had been a regular guest on our Between The Lines and Counterpoint radio shows -- and many other progressive outlets across the U.S. over four decades.

His penetrating analysis of U.S. foreign policy and international conflicts will be sorely missed, and not easily replaced. His son Nat Parry writes a tribute to his father: Robert Parry’s Legacy and the Future of Consortiumnews.

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Progressives Organize to Stop President Obama's Proposed Social Security and Medicare Benefit Cuts

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Posted April 10, 2013

Interview with Eric Kingson, co-director of the Strengthen Social Security campaign, conducted by Scott Harris


President Obama’s proposed federal budget that was unveiled on April 10, provoked the ire of many progressive groups that had supported him in his last two presidential election campaigns. The flashpoint for anger, and in some cases charges of betrayal, sprang from the White House plan to impose changes to the Social Security system’s cost of living adjustment formula, known as “Chained CPI,” reducing benefits totaling $100 billion or more over 10 years. The president is also calling for $400 billion in unspecified cost savings from the Medicare and Medicaid programs, which assist both senior citizens and the poor and disabled.

A day before the budget was to be announced, progressive legislators from the House and Senate joined by organizers from 15 national organizations, gathered in front of the White House to present two million petition signatures opposed to Obama’s proposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits. Many activists who are gearing up for a fight against the entitlement program cuts point to public opinion polls that overwhelmingly find that Democrats, Republicans and Independent voters oppose any cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

White House Spokesman Dan Pfeiffer told reporters that the president only supports reductions in Social Security and Medicare benefits if the Republicans in Congress accept closing tax loopholes that benefit the wealthiest, and there are protections for the most vulnerable, including the oldest seniors. But opponents of the White House compromise offer to the GOP say that the very groups who worked hardest to re-elect the president will be the ones hurt most by the cuts being proposed. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Eric Kingson, co-director of the Strengthen Social Security campaign, who explains why his coalition of 300 national and state organizations representing over 50 million Americans oppose President Obama’s proposed cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

ERIC KINGSON: The proposal that's being put forward, first and foremost must be understood as a cut, c-u-t. It's called the chained CPI. You would change the way the cost of living adjustment is made in Social Security on an annual basis. It sounds innocuous, it sounds very wonky. There's some wonks who have lined up and have said this is a better way to measure inflation.

But the reality is, what it means is it cuts the cost-of-living adjustment each year by three-tenths of a percentage point. Over 10 years, that means that year 10, if you have a 65-year-old grandfather retiring today, in year 10, on average that grandfather or grandmother would be receiving about $700 less in that year. In year 20, when they're 85, they would receive about $1200 years less. In year 30, if they reach 95, about $1700 less.

What's most concerning is, well there are a number of things. The language that's used, they call this a "little tweak." This is "just a little tweak in benefits." This is not a tweak. This is $28,000 if you live to the age 95 out of the pockets of beneficiaries.

They also have said very, very clearly in the presidential campaign, the congressional campaigns, the president has said he will not slash benefits. This goes against that promise. Almost all politicians have said they will not cut benefits on people 55 and over. This goes against that promise, and it does it in a disingenuous way. They try to sell this notion that inflation is over-protected in Social Security with the cost-of-living adjustment. They're trying to say is that people with disabilities, older people, veterans – many of whom receive Social Security – they've been getting too large a cost-of-living adjustment. This past year, they got a 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment. Meanwhile, their Medicare premium goes up. Their health care costs go up. So they're saying that 1.7 percent is too much. A couple of years ago, they got nothing. They're saying that was "too much."

BETWEEN THE LINES: Eric, there are many defenders of the president who say that this part of political theater. That people on the left, progressives shouldn't get too upset because the president is playing three-dimensional chess while we're all playing checkers. How do you respond to the idea that there's some kind of wisdom in this strategy of offering these benefits cuts to Social Security and Medicare and some better purpose that's unspoken?

ERIC KINGSON: Well if that is the case, they're being "too smart" by half. They're destroying the public's confidence in the system. A part of Social Security is to provide security. The purpose of it - it is there to provide broad security to the American public if people lose wages because of a parent dying, a parent becoming disabled, the spouse becoming disabled, or you reach retirement ages.

Part of what it does is provide piece of mind. If the president is doing this in a disingenuous way, and I hope that's not the case. I hope he's being forthright and saying this is what I believe, because I think it's what he believes. I'd certainly read a lot of what the Republicans want. If he's doing this for political purposes, then he's gambling with the well-being of this institution, and he's playing a cruel joke on the American people. Yes, he's been using this as a bargaining chip certainly to get Republicans to play a little bit on raising some taxes as they should well do.

But, you don't need to do this. He has his own secretary of the Treasury. Jack Lew has made it clear in an op-ed I think was in USA Today, saying that Social Security has nothing to do with the federal deficit and the federal debt. Three-dimensional chess may be a fine game, but not when you're playing with people's lives.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Eric, are you concerned that the GOP, which has rejected this offer of benefit cuts to Social Security and Medicare before since negotiations began in the summer of 2011 from the White House, that they may accept it this time and call the president's bluff and press hard to get this done to make these cuts?

ERIC KINGSON: It's possible. I would put it another way. What is more likely to happen is that the GOP will try to hang this proposal around the White House and all congressional Democrats who are up for election in 2014. The president doesn't have to run for re-election again. But many members of his party do have to run. And they will be running at their peril if they support any kind of cut to the COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment). And even if they don't support a cut, I'm going to guess that the Republicans are going to talk about the Democratic proposal to cut your Social Security benefit.

Learn more about the Strengthen Social Security campaign’s work to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid at

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