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McCaskill, other Missouri members of Congress targeted by opponents of entitlement cuts

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 10, 2012 - Retired St. Louis teacher Patricia McHugh is upset by the very idea that Congress is considering proposals that could cut benefits for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, as part of negotiations with the White House to avoid the “fiscal cliff.”

“Keep your hands off my Medicare and your hands off my Social Security,’’ said McHugh on Monday, as she carried a sign making the same demand. “And to talk about raising the retirement age. That’s fine if you’re just behind a desk. But no one should have to teach in the inner city past age 50. Much less truck drivers and coal miners.”

McHugh was among several dozen people, including retirees and union activists, who braved the cold to rally outside the St. Louis Social Security office, 5669 Delmar Blvd., and then walk several blocks to deliver a letter to the local office of U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

“She’s been there for us previously, and we really want her to be there for us again, in the future, to protect the people who are most vulnerable,’’ said Alexandra Townsend with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Townsend said the letter was simply to underscore that labor and others see McCaskill as “a champion for working families,’’ and expect her to continue in that role.

Various speakers made similar points:

  • “We cannot cut our way to job creation, balance the budget at the expense of the middle class, and destroy programs that provide a measure of economic security for millions of Americans,” said the Rev. Roosevelt Broadnax of Greater New Hope Baptist Church. “We must also invest in job creation that will allow more individuals to pursue the American Dream.”
  • “Medicare and Social Security are bedrock programs that Missouri’s seniors depend on,” said Earline Jones of the Missouri Alliance of Retired Americans Education Fund. “Any deal that includes cutting either of these programs is a nonstarter for seniors, families, children and workers who rely on them.”

McCaskill was among several Missouri members of Congress, in both parties, targeted for rallies Monday aimed at highlighting concerns about proposed entitlement cuts as part of a federal deficit-reduction package.
The rallies also promote support for newly re-elected President Barack Obama’s call for ending the Bush-era tax cuts for incomes above $250,000 a year.

McCaskill has said in interviews that she is cool to the idea of raising the eligibility age for Social Security or Medicare but would support some sort of means-testing to restrict benefits or increase premiums for wealthy Americans.

Jones is leery of the "means-testing" talk. "Means testing has never been part of the conversation,'' she said, citing concerns of what income level would spark benefit cuts or higher premiums. "It's dangerous," she said, contending that it's unfair to make the programs costlier for people who paid into them for decades.

Besides rallies in St. Louis and Springfield at McCaskill's offices, similar events were to be held Monday outside various district offices for U.S. Reps. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Kansas City; Jo Ann Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau; Vicky Hartzler, R-Harrisonville; and Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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