- - Sunday, March 27, 2011


Medicare premiums would offset COLA

Millions of retired and disabled people in the United States had better brace for another year with no increase in Social Security payments.

The government is projecting a slight cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security benefits next year, the first increase since 2009. But for most beneficiaries, rising Medicare premiums threaten to wipe out any increase in payments, leaving them without a raise for a third straight year.

About 45 million people - one in seven in the country - receive both Medicare and Social Security. By law, beneficiaries have their Medicare Part B premiums, which cover doctor visits, deducted from their Social Security payments each month.

When Medicare premiums rise more than Social Security payments, millions of people living on fixed incomes don’t get raises. On the other hand, most don’t get pay cuts, either, because a hold-harmless provision prevents higher Part B premiums from reducing Social Security payments for most people.

David Certner of AARP estimates that as many as three-fourths of beneficiaries will have their entire Social Security increase swallowed by rising Medicare premiums next year.

It’s a tough development for retirees who lost much of their savings when the stock market collapsed, who lost value in their homes when the housing market crashed and who can’t find work because the job market is weak or they are in poor health.


Rep. Scott eyes seat of retiring Sen. Webb

RICHMOND | Rep. Robert C. Scott, Virginia Democrat, says he may be ready to move to the Senate after 19 years in Washington.

Virginia’s first - and only - black U.S. House member in the modern era said in an Associated Press telephone interview that he will decide by July whether to seek the seat that Sen. Jim Webb, a fellow Democrat, plans to vacate next year.

Mr. Scott said he’s frustrated with the partisanship in a Republican-controlled House and a Democratic minority that has little say there.

He said the Senate offers more opportunity to address issues such as a deeply unbalanced federal budget that he thinks Republicans would worsen with deep tax cuts for the rich.

Mr. Scott said he hasn’t focused much the Senate vacancy. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine also is interested in running.


Anti-this, pro-that make mix of protests

What do Yemeni violence, Bahrain’s monarchy and genetically modified foods have in common?

All were the subjects Saturday of small but animated protests in front of the White House, where President Obama was ensconced indoors on the other side of the fence.

The pedestrian-only strip of Pennsylvania Avenue, between the White House and Lafayette Square, often hosts demonstrators. Rarely, however, do so many interests bump into one another, literally, and generate such a cacophony of unrelated chants.

Under cool, sunny skies, the easternmost circle comprised people demanding the ouster of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. “Pray for Yemen,” said a child’s hand-lettered sign.

Next was a scrum denouncing Syrian President Bashar Assad. “Stop killing civilians,” said one sign, as the group chanted slogans in Arabic.

Another circle of flag-waving people supported Bahrain’s monarchy. “We love our government” one sign said.


Trim, timely budget deal hailed

ALBANY | Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is sealing a deal with the Legislature on a tentative $132.5 billion state budget that would be historic for its spending cuts as well as its timeliness.

Mr. Cuomo says the budget will set New York on a new course after decades of overspending and overtaxing that have driven residents out of state for better opportunities. It would reduce spending overall by more than 2 percent.

The Legislature still must pass the voluminous budget bills this week. In past years, tentative deals crumbled after lawmakers, lobbyists and reporters pick apart deals struck in closed-door negotiations.

But the 2011-12 budget that Mr. Cuomo, Senate leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver stood behind Sunday would be nearly identical to the proposal Mr. Cuomo presented Feb. 1.

The budget also addresses a $10 billion deficit. It is due Friday.


Pizza magnate targets entitlements

DES MOINES | Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain told hundreds of conservative activists that the nation won’t solve its financial woes until policymakers reform entitlement programs.

Mr. Cain says the conservative movement is gaining strength and will help Republicans take back the government from what he called radical socialism. Without naming any specific government programs, Mr. Cain says, the country has “an entitlement spending crisis” that must be addressed.

Mr. Cain was among several potential GOP presidential candidates to speak Saturday at a conference in Des Moines sponsored by conservative Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican. Mr. King says he wants to allow conservatives to shape the debate as Republicans begin seeking an opponent for President Obama.

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