Social Security’s 75th birthday spurs “Hands off” campaign

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The hot summer is heating up even more as the fight to preserve and extend Social Security becomes a front-burner issue in the 2010 elections. As Medicare turns 45 and Social Security turns 75, birthday parties in support are being organized across the country.

In Connecticut, the 35,000-member CT Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA) is hosting two events with congressional representatives, as part of a national effort across the country. Birthday postcards will be sent to Congress warning against any recommendations to cut Social Security as a solution to the national debt.

“It is important to have a good turnout to show that Social Security is something we all believe is so important to the American way of life, that it needs to be preserved, not threatened,” says Connecticut ARA organizer Mary Elia.

The ARA is one of 60 national groups that formed a “Strengthen Social Security – Don’t Cut It” coalition this week aimed at educating the public about the benefits of our nation’s most successful social program. It is estimated that without Social Security, 47 percent of elderly households, 55 percent of disabled workers, and 1.3 million children would be thrust into poverty.

On Wednesday, Aug. 11, at 1:30 p.m. at the New Haven Peoples Center participants will share cake and ice cream with Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and get prepared to spread the message that Social Security is not to blame for the deficit and should be preserved and strengthened.

One week later, on Wednesday Aug. 18 ,at 12:30 p.m., participants will enjoy a luncheon buffet with Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., at the West Hartford Senior Center. Larson will deliver a keynote address followed by questions and answers at the ARA co-sponsored event.

At the conclusion of each program, those present will tell their stories on video camera to be posted on the national ARA website.

In a resolution prepared for the upcoming political convention of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, the ARA emphasizes that Social Security, self-financed through payroll contributions, “is not part of the nation’s deficit and debt problem.” The resolution pinpoints “trillions of dollars in tax cuts for the rich and corporations” as a cause of the budget crisis and calls for a large-scale information campaign.

Larson, whose district includes Hartford, one of the poorest cities in the nation, spoke on the House floor this week with passion “to stand firmly behind Social Security and its benefits to all of the American people.” Referring to Republican proposals to return to former President Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security, he said, “Can you imagine, had the Bush tax cuts gone through, had the Bush proposal for Social Security gone through, what would have happened to so many of our citizens during this great recession? People who rely solely on Social Security would not have anywhere to turn to.”

National ARA Executive Director Ed Coyle, speaking at the press conference of the Strengthen Social Security coalition, emphasized, “We are united against any cuts in benefits, such as increases in the retirement age, and to any form of privatization of Social Security.” Referring to the president’s bi-partisan budget deficit commission, he said, “We will stand united if the commission calls for any cuts to Social Security. We are launching a major lobbying campaign for Congress to block their recommendations.”

At the Peoples Center here, while planning for the birthday parties, two retired union members recalled how Social Security was the lifeline for their family after the loss of a parent. Others spoke of the fact that their Social Security check, for which they paid into the fund during their working life, is their only means of income. The Peoples Center was formed in 1937 by leaders in the struggle for Social Security, just two years after the bill was enacted into law. For more information call 203-624-8664.

Photo: PW



Joelle Fishman
Joelle Fishman

Joelle Fishman chairs the Connecticut Communist Party USA. She is a Commissioner on the City of New Haven Peace Commission, serves on the executive board of the Alliance of Retired Americans in Connecticut and is an active member of many economic rights and social justice organizations. She was a candidate for Congress from 1973 to 1982, maintaining minor-party ballot status for the Communist Party in Connecticut's Third Congressional District. As chair of the CPUSA Political Action Commission, she has played an active role in the broad labor and people's alliance that defeated the ultra-right in the 2008 elections and continues to mobilize for health care, worker rights and peace.