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Seniors defend Social Security

Senior citizens and their supporters will protest the appearance of the leading proponent of Social Security privatization at a Chicago fundraiser tomorrow.  The action is part of a growing effort to defend the nation’s retirement insurance program.

The Illinois Alliance of Retired Americans, the Main Street Alliance, Citizens Action Illinois, and Chicago Jobs With Justice are among the groups calling a rally for noon tomorrow (Wed., Sept. 1) outside the Four Seasons Hotel, 120 E. Delaware, where Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) will speak at a fundraising luncheon for Joel Pollak, Republican House candidate in the 9th district.

Ryan’s controversial Roadmap for Recovery proposes privatizing Social Security and Medicare as part of a deficit reduction plan.  According to Media Matters, the deficit reductions claimed by Ryan depend on budget tricks.

For John Gaudette of Citizen Action, the bigger trick is the notion that Social Security is a component of the federal deficit – or that the program faces any kind of imminent financial crisis.

“There is no crisis,” he said.  “It’s one of the healthiest programs we’ve got.”  Social Security is fully funded for the next 25 years, and with no changes could pay 80 percent of promised benefits after that, he said.

With a simple fix – raising or eliminating the income cap on Social Security payroll deductions (currently incomes above $108,000 aren’t taxed) — “you don’t have a problem.” he said.  “You don’t ever have to worry about Social Security.”

He sees the attack on Social Security as the final phase of a generation-long drive by corporations and conservatives to minimize the role of government.

One reason for concern is the Obama administration’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility, which some Social Security supporters (including William Greider and Robert Kuttner) view as a vehicle to cut benefits.  The commission is holding hearings and will issue a report after the November elections.

“We hope the White House has learned from health care reform and financial reform” about the dangers of “negotiating preemptively,” Gaudette said.  “If they want to negotiate at all, it should be from a position of improving Social Security,” he said.

He points to the presence of Senator Richard Durbin and Representative Jan Schakowsky (Pollak’s opponent) on the commission as reassurance that voices in the support of the program are represented.  But tomorrow’s action and similar efforts are aimed at “letting them know that we are watching.”

Local supporters are working with the Strengthen Social Security Campaign, a coalition of 60 national organizations which opposes privatization and benefit reductions, including an increase in the retirement age.  The group calls for increasing benefits for the lowest-income recipients.

Recently the coalition demanded the resignation of former Senator Alan Simpson as co-chair of the fiscal responsibility commission, after he sent an insulting e-mail to the executive director of the Older Women’s League.  The administration instead accepted Simpson’s apology.

Tomorrow’s action will also highlight a new report (pdf) from Social Security Works which shows that nearly 2 million Illinois residents receive Social Security retirement, disability, and survivor benefits – and the program is responsible for lifting 772,000 state residents out of poverty.

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  1. […] Senior Citizens Stand Together to Defend Social Security September 1, 2010 By Curtis Black of Community Media Workshop var addthis_config = {"data_track_clickback":true}; show_windycitizen_button( "http://www.chicagotalks.org/2010/09/01/9371/", "text", "Senior Citizens Stand Together to Defend Social Security" ); tweetmeme_url = 'http://www.chicagotalks.org/2010/09/01/9371/';tweetmeme_source = 'chicagotalks';A news report from Curtis Black’s Newstips Blog, Community Media Workshop […]


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