DETROIT, Mich. – “The entire Democratic congressional delegation from Michigan, with the exception of one, voted no on war with Iraq,” Rep. Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick (D-Mich.) told an audience at the headquarters of Service Employees Union Local 79, Oct. 12. “Our delegation stood strong. The President was wrong on this one,” she told the cheering crowd.

A war, Cheeks-Kilpatrick told the crowd, would dry up $200 billion for strengthening Social Security, funding a good Medicare prescription drug plan, for public education or other pressing needs of working people and seniors in this country. She said that since Bush could not prove what he said about Saddam Hussein, this was “too much to just sit back and take.”

The meeting was called by the Metro Detroit AFL-CIO to highlight the threats of Bush’s war drive, his threats against Social Security and the threat of a Republican-controlled Congress.

Brian White, NAACP public policy director, echoed this sentiment. “We do not want war, and we are not going to sit on the sidelines anymore. We can’t let our country be driven by special interests – the pharmaceuticals, the Enrons, the military contractors.”

He reminded people that polls indicate that protecting and strengthening Social Security and affordable health care are more important to people than war.

A spokesperson for the Michigan Alliance to Strengthen Social Security and Medicare said that the elections are key to saving Social Security and warned that neither the Bush administration nor Wall Street have changed its views about privatizing Social Security, even if they now call it “modernization.”

“The stock market has lost trillions in the last three years,” Cheeks-Kilpatrick said, “but Social Security hasn’t lost a penny. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

She pointed to the annual surpluses of Social Security and added that while private retirement lost hundreds of billions of dollars in recent years, Social Security and Medicare continue to provide a safety net against poverty or lack of health care during retirement.

According to a report by the Institute for America’s Future (IAF), Michigan workers lost nearly $8 billion in retirement savings due to the stock market decline from December 2000-December 2001. Nationally, nearly $200 billion was lost from 401(k) plans in the same period. These losses will inevitably mean greater post-retirement poverty, continued unemployment and other hardships, the report said. If Social Security had been privatized before this stock market crisis, the IAF said, untold billions would have simply disappeared forever.

The author can be reached at jwendland@politicalaffairs.net

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