Saturday, November 23, 2013 9:00 PM
BY SENATOR ROB PORTMAN
There are two paintings beside the desk in my office. One is of George Washington, the man who helped establish the Union. The other is of Abraham Lincoln, the man who saved it.
One hundred and fifty years ago — or seven score and 10 years, as he might have put it—Abraham Lincoln stood on a wind-swept battlefield at a tiny railroad crossing in southern Pennsylvania. He was not the featured speaker that day. That honor fell to Edward Everett. Everett’s speech would last two hours; his first sentence was more than seventy words long.
Friday, November 15, 2013 9:52 PM
As a grandfather of two, with one more grandchild on the way, I appreciate what a wonderful gift it is when grandparents can spend more time with their grandchildren by living longer and healthier lives – which happened, in part, because we, as a nation, invested in Social Security.
Today, almost 63 million Americans receive Social Security benefits. And in Ohio, that number is nearly two million. Yet, just as we as grandparents are there for our families, we need to make sure that Social Security is there both now and for future generations. In fact, preserving and expanding social security is a moral issue.
Here’s why this is a moral issue. For nearly two-thirds of seniors, Social Security provides more than half of their cash income. For more than one-third of seniors, Social Security provides more than 90 percent of their income. And for one-quarter of seniors, Social Security is the sole source of income. Think of that. After working hard all their lives, one out of four seniors would be destitute, having no income, without Social Security.
Unsurprisingly, Social Security helps to lift approximately 600,000 Ohioans out of poverty. In fact, if we didn’t have Social Security, Ohio’s poverty rate for seniors over age 65 would be 48 percent. Because of Social Security, Ohio’s poverty rate for this group of seniors is 8 percent. The result is that seniors are able to live happier and healthier lives providing them with the time and opportunity to spend more time with their families.
Yet, Social Security is under attack by those who wrongly think it adds to the federal deficit and want to cuts benefits under the false premise of deficit reduction.
Even though Social Security is operating at a surplus and is funded separately from the rest of the government, these are the same politicians who want to give extra tax cuts to the wealthiest two percent of Americans and tax breaks for big corporations while using every budget impasse as an opportunity to “reform entitlements.”
What this reform entails is always the same: cutting Americans’ hard-earned, Social Security benefits. Naysayers say that the program is unsustainable. But I don’t hear the same thing about the Department of Defense or tax loopholes for hedge fund managers.
Here’s a general rule of thumb. When people tell you that they want to “save” social security by cutting the benefits of the people that have paid into the program, it’s a pretty good indicator of their intentions.
What they don’t tell you is that we can not only strengthen social security, but also extend its life, by making sure that middle class Americans and wealthy Americans pay into social security at the same rate.
That’s why I’m co-sponsoring the Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013. This legislation would do a number of things to improve Social Security and ensure its solvency.
First, it would change the Social Security benefit formula so that all beneficiaries will get an extra $60-70 a month. Too many seniors have to pick and choose which bills they can afford to pay each month. This extra money would help make sure they don’t have to choose between paying the heating bill or rent.
Second, it provides a cost of living adjustment or COLA that actually reflects the rising costs seniors face. The current formula used to calculate COLAs for Social Security recipients actually measures the costs of younger, employed individuals—and simply does not reflect a retiree’s true expenses, which can include high prescription drug bills.
Finally, this legislation would ask the wealthiest Americans to contribute to Social Security the same percentage that working- and middle-class Americans do. This will extend Social Security’s surplus an additional 16 years, from 2033 through 2049.
For millions of seniors, Social Security has meant food on the table and a roof over their head. And for our nation, Social Security has meant a lower poverty rate. Because of Social Security, more seniors are able to enjoy life and spend time with the families. That’s why I’m proud to support this legislation to strengthen and expand Social Security so that it can be there for generations to come.
Friday, November 15, 2013 9:51 PM
WASHINGTON — In spite of everything — the GOP’s internal scrimmages, the government shutdown, the party’s transparent attempts to derail Obamacare — Republicans keep getting second chances.
The question is, can they handle prosperity? Do they even know what to do with it?
With the myriad problems besieging Obamacare, from the non-rollout to the minuscule number of enrollees in the health insurance exchanges, this is no time for gloating. Rather, it is time for Republicans to get very, very busy with their own ideas for across-the-board reforms.
The party of “no” must become the party of “we can, too!” This doesn’t mean sacrificing core principles, though some could use a little shelf time. It does mean picking battles Republicans can win and avoiding skirmishes that further alienate centrists and minorities.
Forget building a larger tent, which increasingly looks like a pup for two white guys and a flashlight. Ditch the tent and build a coliseum. Install Doric columns, if you like, and grab an obelisk on your way to redemption. At no extra cost, here’s an inscription for the keystone: Waste not, want less. Waste not this moment; want less than perfection and aim for the possible.
This was always House Speaker John Boehner’s battle plan, but he finally concluded that leading his conference where it wanted to go was preferable to inciting a civil war. In a recent interview, Boehner told me he thinks at least some of the better-death-than-compromise caucus had come around to understanding that attaching Obamacare to the continuing resolution, resulting in the government shutdown, was the wrong tactic.
Even so, “at least some” may not be enough. And who knows what Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has up his sleeve as new deadlines loom for budget and debt-ceiling negotiations early next year?
In the meantime, House and Senate Republicans have a small window, while Obamacare is hugging the shoals, to show why their ideas are best. Americans frustrated with Congress and disappointed by the president are primed for someone to pick up the bullhorn and say, “We hear you.”
It’s too bad “compassionate conservatism” has become tarnished because compassion is what is needed in today’s GOP playbook: Compassion for the hungry whose food stamps House Republicans excised from the farm bill; compassion for 11 million immigrants who are prisoners in illegal limbo; compassion for gays, lesbians and others seeking protection against workplace discrimination.
These are not such difficult choices in the scheme of things. How to guarantee that Iran can’t weaponize its nuclear capability? That’s tough. Not so tough: Helping the poor feed their families, finding a path for citizenship along with other immigration reforms, extending equal protections to individuals whose sexual orientation should not be a firing offense.
The Senate also has passed a comprehensive immigration bill with the help of 14 Republicans that contains a relatively strenuous path to citizenship that includes paying back taxes and fines, and getting in line behind others seeking citizenship. Hardly a giveaway. Even so, some Republicans aren’t on board with the path to citizenship. Although Boehner told me he hopes to get an immigration bill to the House floor next year, others say 2014’s midterm elections make this unlikely.
What’s really not likely to happen is a Republican White House — ever — without Latino voters. There’s only so much Republicans can accomplish when they control only half of one-third of government. Consider that the biggest states with the largest concentrations of Hispanics — Florida, California, Texas and New York — also convey 151 of the 270 electoral votes needed to be elected president.
Appealing to Latinos doesn’t mean Republicans have to pander or bow to President Obama’s wishes. It means doing the right thing. Even though a slim majority of Americans (53 percent) think most immigrants here illegally should be deported, according to a Reuters/Ipsos online survey last February, a more recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 65 percent favor a path to citizenship if it requires essentially what the Senate bill proposes.
The draconian option of deportation would be an unlovely sight. Not only would families be torn asunder, but America’s crops would wither on the vine, as they did in Alabama after that state’s crackdown prompted a sudden, mass exodus. Yet again, unyielding principle prevailed over common sense and survival.
Time is of the essence if Republicans hope to refresh their image in the public square. Picking battles wisely, acting compassionately, creating rather than negating is the only way forward. Jar the hardwoods, campers, there’s daylight in the swamp.
Kathleen Parker’s email address is
Saturday, November 09, 2013 9:00 PM
BY U.S. SENATOR
Ohio’s heroes who fought for our country shouldn’t have to fight for a job when they return home. Unfortunately, many do. And it’s not right.
Recently, at the SuperJobs Center in Cincinnati, I met Marianne Linardos, a Hamilton native and a Navy veteran who struggled to find full-time employment after returning from serving our nation in the military. Following eight years of unsuccessful job searching, Linardos took things into her own hands — quite literally. She made herself a sign that read, “Hire Me” and walked through the streets of her hometown, with the hopes that a potential employer would see the sign and offer her an opportunity to prove that the skills she developed while serving could be translated into a civilian job.