Alliance for Democracy

June 26: Defend Social Security & Medicare, cut Military Spending‏

Posted in AmericaSpeaks, Entitlements by Alliance for Democracy Portland OR on June 22, 2010

A couple of days ago I emailed about the America Speaks event at the Oregon Convention Center and I wrote that while I thought we should attend, we needed to be aware that it came with an agenda, an agenda which would be quite different than one which we might put together. I also said that if I learned of a protest, I would let everyone know.

Well, this being Portland, I have not been disappointed.  See message below with all the details of the protest as well as additional information about the event itself, reenforcing what I wrote in my earlier email.

The event will most likely be covered by the media including the Oregonian, so start writing your letters now so that when the story appears, you will be ready to send them to the newspaper.  Here is the email address: letters@news.oregonian.com

David e. Delk, Alliance for Democracy – Portland Chapter, 503.232.5495


From: Christopher Lowe <clowe@igc.org>
Subject: [Justeconannounce] June 26: Defend Social Security & Medicare, cut Military Spending
To: justeconannounce@enabled.com
Date: Tuesday, June 22, 2010, 7:54 PM

What:  Informational picketing and leafleting outside “Our Budget, Our Economy Town Hall”
When:  This Saturday, June 26th, 7:45-8:45 a.m. (start gathering 7:30)
Where:  Oregon Convention Center, 777 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Portland
(Public transport:   #6 bus, Red, Green & Blue Max lines; street parking nearby)

Why:
As many people are aware, the right wing and corporate media have been ginning up a scare over federal budgetary deficits.  The scare is being used in the short term to obstruct extension of unemployment benefits and more vigorous efforts to create jobs and bring the “recovery” to ordinary people.

In the long term, it is being used to set up an attack on Social Security and Medicare, despite the fact that these programs have their own revenue streams through payroll taxes and in fact subsidize other federal spending, notably the bloated military with its thousands of bases and destructive, wealth-draining wars.

The “Our Budget, Our Economy Town Hall” organized by a group called America Speaks as part of a national series of events is susceptible to misuse to advance this deficit scare agenda with its attacks on economic recovery spending, unemployment benefits and human needs spending.   The purpose of the actions on Saturday outside of the “town hall” is to demonstrate rejection of the deficit scare agenda and to demand protection of human needs spending and cuts to destructive and bloated military spending.

These actions are part of a national response being coordinated by Social Security Works and Healthcare-NOW!

Contact:  For more information or to RSVP (useful though not required), or if you would like to have a quote included in a press release, contact Chris at <clowe@igc.org> or 503 788 2543.

————

Background:
A key vehicle for the attack on Social Security and Medicare (as well as Medicaid and other human needs programs) will be the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, appointed by President Obama in February, and stacked with known enemies of “entitlements” (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid).

On June 26th, in 20 cities across the country, including Portland, America Speaks is running free “town hall” meetings called “Our Budget, Our Economy” to bring together people from a wide variety of backgrounds and views to deliberate about priorities for future budgets and for reducing the federal deficit and the growth of the national debt.  America Speaks is a non-partisan organization which has run similar kinds of events on various issues going back to the mid-1990s.  For general information about them, see http://www.americaspeaks.org/ .  For information on the June 26th “town halls” see http://usabudgetdiscussion.org/ .  The results of these deliberations are to be delivered to the National Commission on June 30th, according to America Speaks.

America Speaks as an organization appears to try to play an “honest broker” sort of role in discussions it organizes.  It explicitly aims to foster serious public engagement in important issues, a worthy goal, and attempts to define itself as neutral on the issues.  Even more so, the people who are participating in the “town hall” on Saturday are doing so on those terms, honestly according to their own views.  Many of them will be progressive people taking part in order to defend funding for human needs.  Therefore the action this Saturday is not a criticism of those who choose to participate, nor an attempt to disrupt the event.

For a useful perspective on the context from the Portland Jobs with Justice Economic Crisis Committee, see
http://www.jwjpdx.org/jwjnews/2010/beware-the-201cbalance-the-budget201d-hype

Concerns about pre-slanting the results:
Despite America Speaks’ apparently sincere efforts at neutrality, and the undoubted goodwill of local organizers, the funding, process and materials for the “town hall” raise troubling issues that appear likely to pre-slant the results against Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

Funding:  A key source of funding, though not the only one, is the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.  Peterson is a prominent enemy of “entitlements” (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) who uses exaggeration and misrepresentation as scare tactics to advance his views.

Process:  The “town halls” actually will be composed of many small groups, like focus groups.  Groups will work through a series of questions and choices that are presented to them, seeking to reach agreement on answering them, with answers recorded using electronic technology that will allow all of the answers to be collated.  In order for this technology to work, only ideas and approaches that are in the choices offered can be chosen.  So, for example, there is no option to choose to cut military spending by more than 15%, nor is there an option to choose either a national improved Medicare for all single payer system (on the left side) or medical vouchers (on the right) as ways to address rising health care costs, because the organizers pre-determined that these choices were “off the table.”  Participants thus will not be allowed full deliberation.

Materials and assumptions:  Participants will work with two main documents, a “curriculum” called “Budget 101” and an “Options Workbook” which defines the actual choices available.  These materials contain many assumptions that tend to pre-slant the results against Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other human needs:  Among the most important are:

1)  Definition of fundamental problems as mainly rising health care costs and aging population (implying cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security).
2)  Downplaying overall military spending, confusing it with Iraq and Afghanistan war & occupation spending, & lack of clarity about whether “black budget” military/intelligence/security spending is included.
3)  Assumption that Bush tax cuts will never be sunsetted ever because President Obama is delaying doing so in the depths of the recession.
4)  Assumption that expenditures and revenues will rise at the same rate
5)  Putting single payer/improved Medicare for all “off the table,” despite its advantages for cutting massive annual private bureaucratic waste and insurance company profits costs as an option for discussion, on the claim of being politically unrealistic (self-fulfilling limitation of discussion) — even though the date aimed for 2025.

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