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Never thought I would say this but I am looking forward to Monday:

Senator Mark Begich plans to introduce two bills related to social security by next Monday. Begich met with leaders of Alaska organizations today (thursday) in Anchorage to gauge their concerns and to announce his plan. The Senator says the conversation on social security will come before Congress by June, and now is the time to make changes that will strengthen social security benefits, not curtail them.

Begich plans to introduce the Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act and the Social Security Fairness Act of 2013 when he returns to Washington, DC next week. He says his plan has three points. The Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act would remove a cap on high income contributions. The cap is now at 113,700 dollars. Removing the cap would make high income earners pay into Social Security just like everyone else, he says.

The second part of that bill would revise how SS payments are adjusted to better reflect how America’s senior spend their income. Currently, payments are based on a Consumer Price Index model that does not accurately reflect higher costs seniors pay, for medications, for example. The bill would create a CPI – E for elders.

The Social Security Fairness Act would remove penalties that are now placed on retirees who worked more than one job, paid into Social Security, but then retired under a different retirement system. Under current law, they are denied their Social Security benefits Many government workers and some teachers in Alaska fall into this category. Workers like Jeanae  Sears

”When I retired four years ago on June 1, with 43 years, I lost forty five percent of my base pay right then. That’s why I am so adamant about fairness. “ - Alaska Public Media, 5/2/13

As many of you know, I have written a great deal about Protecting & Preserving Social Security Act of 2013:

And here are some highlights:
Increases Benefits for Seniors and Persons with Disabilities. Currently, Social Security benefits are adjusted by the Consumer Price Index for workers. However, costs and spending patterns for seniors do not mirror those of the workforce. That is why Sen. Begich’s bill calls for adjusting cost-of-living increases with a Consumer Price Index specifically for the elderly which was created to more accurately measure the costs of goods and services seniors actually buy.

Lifts the Cap on High-Income Contributions. Current law sets a cap based on income at $113,700 for paying into Social Security. If an individual’s wages hit that total for the year, they no longer pay into the program. Sen. Begich’s bill lifts the cap and asks higher income earners to pay Social Security on all their earnings in order to increase the program’s revenue stream and extend the overall solvency of the program.

Extends Social Security for approximately 75 years through modest revenue increases gradually implemented over the course of seven years. - Alaska Native News, 11/14/12

By the way, my interview with Senator Begich that I did for the Social Security blogathon is on his website:

Begich has been an ardent supporter of strengthening Social Security and has stood strong against any cuts to Social Security including the Chained CPI:

Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, introduced a resolution last week with 16 co-sponsors, all Democrats, opposing the president’s plan.
“We cannot balance the budget on the backs of millions of North Carolina seniors, veterans and surviving military family members who rely on Social Security and veterans benefits,” Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, one of the co-sponsors, said in a statement.
Another co-sponsor, Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska, said in an interview: “I do not think it is right to ask our seniors and veterans to pay the price of decades of wasteful spending.”

The new inflation calculator is called the “chained” consumer price index because it recognizes that as prices rise, even slowly, consumers buy fewer of the same items.

Opponents of using the chained consumer price index for Social Security counter that seniors spend a greater share of their money on health care, which they say costs more than other goods.

At current rates, the change would nudge down the annual Social Security benefits increase from 1.7 percent to 1.5 percent. Applying that modification would decrease the average Social Security benefit hike by $36 next year, just a tiny fraction of the average annual payment of $14,760 , but the hit would reach $360 in 2023, according to testimony by Jeffrey Kling, the head of economic analysis for the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, at an April 18 hearing of the House of Representatives Social Security Subcommittee.

The change wasn’t part of the budget that the Democratic-controlled Senate passed March 23, and that plan’s architect, Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., doesn’t support the Obama proposal. Another influential Democratic critic is Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. He noted that Obama’s budget also would accelerate the Medicare means testing, which was begun under President George W. Bush to make wealthy recipients pay more for Medicare, by creating four new upper-income tax brackets and setting higher premiums for them.
“Cutting Social Security and Medicare will hit our seniors with a one-two punch,” Baucus said at an April 17 budget hearing.

In addition to saving $230 billion in Social Security spending over a decade – minus $15 billion to protect the very poor, old and people with disabilities – the new inflation calculator would recoup $38 billion through being applied to other federal benefits, among them pensions for military and civilian employees and Pell Grants for college students. The accelerated means testing for Medicare would preserve another $50 billion.

Versions of these changes were contained in the recommendations of a high-profile task force Obama set up in 2010, led by former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, a Democrat, and Republican former Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming. The president largely ignored those recommendations. - San Luis Obispo Tribune, 5/2/13
I don't have a lot of info on the Social Security Fairness Act but I recommend contacting Begich's office for more details:

(202) 224-3004

Glad to see Begich is still fighting to stop cuts to Social Security and to strengthen it.  This is why I am strongly supporting Senator Begich's re-election campaign.  I may not agree with all his votes but this is one big issue that we need guys like Begich for.  In other Begich-related news, the Senator from Alaska is also looking out for rural schools:

Schools sit in disrepair, students lack books, and teachers need supplies throughout the Arkansas and Mississippi Delta region, an impoverished area in the South.

The region desperately needs qualified teachers, and those who do teach there experience cultural divides and hardships. Students who attend schools in poor, rural districts often feel forgotten, overlooked by politicians who tend to shift funding to urban or affluent areas.

“If we want urban communities to do well, we need to also pay attention to the rural communities,” Chris Masingill, federal co-chair of the Delta Regional Authority, told Take Part.

Two United States senators want to do just that. Alaska Sen. Mark Begich and Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas lead the charge to rewrite the No Child Left Behind law so rural schools are given better funding.

“Every student deserves a quality education,” Pryor told TakePart. “Unfortunately, current educational policies are set up to favor urban and suburban school districts. Our students deserve better. That’s why I’m committed to correcting this inequity and reforming our educational policies to ensure that every Arkansas student has the resources and tools they need to succeed.”

But Pryor and Begich may have an uphill battle. That’s because their political colleagues who hail from places like Chicago and New York City will fight to keep funding in metropolitan areas and wealthy suburbs. The Rural School and Community Trust has launched the Formula Fairness Campaign to prepare for the fight on Capitol Hill.

The Rural School and Community Trust notes on its website: “The federal government provides funding to local school districts to combat the negative effect of poverty on student achievement. It provides $2,424 to the Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) School District for each of the 33.6 percent of its students who are disadvantaged. It provides $1,246 to the Philadelphia (Mississippi) School District for each of the 41.3 percent of its students who are disadvantaged.” - Take Part, 5/2/13

Begich has also been getting some praise for calling for a U.S. Ambassador for the Arctic:

In recent weeks, Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, has amplified his call for the creation of an Arctic ambassador position. Begich's stance is that the United States needs someone to oversee all things pertaining to Arctic development and diplomacy. Many of the elite group of nations that have territory in the Arctic, as well as several who don't, have already created similar positions. An Arctic ambassador, as he proposes, would interact with the Arctic Council as well as report to U.S. elected officials.

This is not a new idea - Begich has been requesting this position for some time now. In February, he introduced Senate Bill 270, known as the "United States Ambassador at Large for Arctic Affairs Act of 2013." In it, the senator notes that 100 million acres of U.S. territory lie above the Arctic Circle. Issues such as climate change, tourism, oil and gas development, trade and ship traffic and even immigration are all emerging as large-scale international topics for Arctic nations, and ones that would be well served by having an ambassador.

So why not have an ambassador for the Arctic? Six of the eight Arctic nations have ambassador-level diplomats representing their interests before the Arctic Council, arguably the largest driver of Arctic policy. Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Russia and oddly Singapore have Arctic ambassadors or political equivalents. Canada, soon to be the chair of the Arctic Council, has an Arctic political leader in Minister of Parliament Leona Aglukkaq.

Japan, which does not even have Arctic coastline, but has a vested interest in the future of shipping in the Arctic, is one of 14 states and organizations to apply for permanent observer status with the Arctic council. The nation appointed an Arctic ambassador in March of this year to participate in the council, anticipating its permanent observer status will be approved in May when Sweden hands over the chair of the Arctic Council to Canada.

In addition to appointing an ambassador, it has created a "Consortium for Arctic Research" with some 300 researchers to address long-term Arctic environmental research, planning, human resource development and community outreach inside and outside Japan, the Barents Observer, which serves Russia, Norway, Sweden and Finland, reported. - The Dutch Harbor Fisherman, 5/3/13

By the way, we were suppose to know what Governor Sean Parnell's (R. AK) plans for 2014 today.  Parnell has been rumored to be a potential challenger for Begich:

Coming off a successful legislative session, Gov. Sean Parnell is about to decide how he'll use that capital.

Parnell was set to announce his future political plans during a Friday evening Republican women's event in Fairbanks.

Among his options: He could seek re-election to the office he's held since July 2009. He also has been held out as a possible challenger to Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Begich.

Attorney Bill Walker recently announced plans to seek the GOP nomination for governor. Walker, best known for his advocacy of an "all-Alaska" major natural gas line, finished second to Parnell in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary.

Republicans Joe Miller and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell have said they're considering a challenge to Begich.

Parnell inherited the governor's office in 2009, when he was lieutenant governor and Gov. Sarah Palin resigned during her first term. He won election to the office in his own right in 2010. - Anchorage Daily News, 5/3/13

If you would like to donate to or get involved with Begich's re-election campaign, you can do so here:

Originally posted to pdc on Fri May 03, 2013 at 05:38 PM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, Pushing back at the Grand Bargain, and Social Security Defenders.

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