The sequester and possible cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security

CREDO action
The petition to the Democrats who have signed the Grayson-Takano letter reads:
"Thank you for standing up and not only opposing — but promising to vote against — any deal that cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits. You are the true leaders in the fight to save our social safety net."
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Dear Friend,

We wanted to give you an update on our fight to protect Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits.

Since the fight to raise the debt ceiling in 2011, our country has been made to suffer through a series of completely artificial fiscal crises engineered to make it easier to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — all overwhelmingly popular and extremely successful programs that are vital parts of the social safety net.

Today we've just started the latest in this series of unnecessary crises in the form of "the sequester" — brutal and automatic, across-the-board cuts in federal spending that took effect on Friday.

There's every reason to believe the push to cut benefits will intensify in the coming days, especially because the continuing resolution that funds the federal government expires in a few weeks.

And with the Republicans as seasoned hostage takers who are accustomed to Democrats caving to their demands whenever they threaten drive the economy into a ditch over an ideological issue, it's more important than ever for Democrats to come out and draw a line in the sand and publicly promise that they won't vote for any bill that cuts Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits.

Progressive champions Rep. Alan Grayson and Rep. Mark Takano have written a letter with that pledge, and 22 of their colleagues have joined them.

Thank the 24 Democrats who have drawn a line in the sand and pledged to vote against any deal that cuts benefits. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

CREDO, along with our allies, have been fighting hard to stop these cuts since before President Obama struck a terrible deal with House Republicans to raise the debt ceiling.

For over a year and a half, we have engaged in a progressive flank strategy to get Democrats to draw a line in the sand on benefit cuts.

This is due to a recognition that the fight is not strictly between Democrats and Republicans.

Despite an election where the voters made it very clear that they wanted no part of cutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits, the White House and many moderate and conservative Democrats are all too willing to put benefit cuts on the table. So this is a last ditch battle by progressives in the Democratic Party to stop their leadership from joining with Republicans to sell out the social safety net.

This is well understood inside the Beltway, but outside of Washington, DC, Democratic politicians for the most part have not been frank with voters that the Obama White House has decided that benefits need to be cut and that many Democrats in Congress and the Senate will support the president if that is the deal that is sent to them for an up-or-down vote.

In e-mail that was recently made public, a top Obama economic advisor said it explicitly.

The e-mail included this language: "The idea that the sequester was to force both sides to go back to try at a big or grand bar[g]ain with a mix of entitlements and revenues (even if there were serious disagreements on composition) was part of the DNA of the thing from the start" and "the sequester was just designed to force all back to table on entitlements and revenues."

"Entitlements" here means Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits.

That is why we fought hard back in 2011 to push the undemocratic "Super Committee" created in the aftermath of the debt ceiling debacle not to agree to cuts to Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security benefits.

In fact, the only reason we avoided cuts to benefits during that ginned up fiscal crisis was because the Republicans refused to vote for any deal that included any roll back of the Bush tax cuts, even though Democrats were willing to give away the store on benefit cuts in return.

Because Republicans were so obstructionist and were unwilling to accept the deep concessions (vigorously opposed by CREDO) offered by Democrats, Congress kicked the can down the road with the sequester.

After seeing the deal Democrats were willing to offer Republicans in 2011, we knew that we needed to play hardball this time around. And that is why we have been pressuring Congressional Democrats to draw a line in the sand and refuse to vote for any cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits.

Now, this may not sound like a difficult ask of a member of Congress. But it is. Democratic members of Congress may readily declare that they oppose cuts to benefits. But it is incredibly difficult to get them on the record to promise to vote against any bill that comes to the floor that contains those cuts.

Thanks to the leadership of Reps. Grayson and Takano, Congressional Democrats now have a straightforward mechanism to make such a promise. And progressives have a way of knowing which Democrats don't just say they will protect these programs — but who have committed to voting that way once a deal comes to the floor.

This is powerful for two reasons.

First, a bloc of Democrats taking a stand has the potential to influence the media narrative and the political landscape that the ongoing negotiations are occurring within — so publicly taking a stand now is much more powerful than withholding a vote for a bad deal once it's already been cut.

And second, the White House will need Democratic votes to pass a deal. If enough Democrats say they won't vote for a deal that contains cuts, then they can shape the deal that eventually comes to the floor for a vote. This is what Tea Party Republicans do all the time. And it's time for Democrats to draw a line in the sand on issues that really matter.

Thank the co-signers of the Grayson-Takano letter drawing a line in sand on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

The sequester is a tactic to create enough pain (and the pain it will cause is real) to force through cuts that normally would be off the table.

It was designed to create a crisis that everyone would look to avoid.

And so we cannot allow Democrats to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire by agreeing to cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits in order to undo the sequester or avoid any other short-term crisis.

Hundreds of thousands of CREDO activists have signed petitions, thousands have made phone calls, and hundreds have participated in one of almost 50 in-person meetings we've organized between our members and the district staffs of their senators and representatives.

CREDO has been organizing to get co-signers on the Grayson-Takano letter in a coalition that includes PCCC, DFA, MoveOn, Progressives United, the Working Families Party, Rebuild the Dream, ColorOfChange, Progressive Democrats of American and others.

Thus far, 24 Democrats in the House have co-signed the letter, and we're still pushing.

We need to shower these brave Democrats with recognition for the leadership they are showing. And we need to keep on fighting.

Thank the co-signers of the Grayson-Takano letter. Click the link below to automatically sign the petition:

Your activism matters.

Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

P.S. The signers of the Grayson-Takano letter are: Alan Grayson (FL-09), Mark Takano (CA-41), Keith Ellison (MN-05), Raul Grijalva (AZ-03), Maxine Waters (CA-43), Rick Nolan (MN-08), Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Jim McGovern (MA-02), Luis Gutierrez (IL-04) Nydia Velazquez (NY-07), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Jose Serrano (NY-15), John Conyers (MI-13), Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Eni Faleomavaega (AS-01), Graciela Napolitano (CA-32), Alcee Hastings (FL-20), Corrine Brown (FL-05), Matt Cartwright (PA-17), Peter DeFazio (OR-04), Gene Green (TX-29), Danny Davis (IL-07), Kathy Castor (FL-14) and Ed Markey (MA-05) .

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