NEW HAVEN, Conn. - "The genius of the Social Security system is that it ties generations together," emphasized Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-3) at the kickoff event for Social Security's 75th birthday held at the New Haven Peoples Center by the Connecticut Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA). "I pay in for my mother during my working life, and in the future my children will pay in for me," she said, adding that it will never become insolvent.
Addressing a packed room decorated with balloons and a birthday cake, DeLauro decried attempts to privatize or limit Social Security, citing the fact that millions of seniors, disabled and children would fall into poverty without this program.
Two-thirds of seniors rely on Social Security for at least half of their income. A report issued this week, "Social Security Works for Connecticut," by the Social Security Works project and the Strengthen Social Security coalition, shows that 41 percent of all those over 65 years of age and 47 percent of women over 65 would live below the poverty level without Social Security.
In answer to a question from the audience about what can be done to stop the attacks on Social Security DeLauro urged everyone present to take the issue to their unions, civic groups, churches and friends and flood Congress with letters and telephone calls. She reminded the crowd that when there was an attempt to do away with school lunches several years ago, Congress was deluged with little paper plates sent from all over the nation, and school lunch funding remains intact today.
Celestino Cordova, a Fair Haven resident who works with seniors, presented DeLauro with postcards filled out earlier in the program by the 70 participants who ranged in age from 9 to 89, calling on Congress to reject any proposals to raise the retirement age or cut benefits. The postcard campaign and birthday parties will continue through the month of September.
Mary Elia, ARA field staff in Connecticut, gave a PowerPoint presentation with the hard facts about Social Security showing that it is not bankrupt as opponents have claimed, but has a surplus that will last until 2037.
Speaking on behalf of the 53,000-member Connecticut ARA, Cal Bunnell, a retired steelworker, stressed that Social Security is essential for those who have worked hard all their lives to maintain a decent standard of living with dignity.
"There is a big debate going on in our country about what role government should play," said Joelle Fishman a board member of both ARA and the Peoples Center. "Those who want to do away with Social Security want to do away with any role of government for the well-being of people except to protect the corporations and the super rich," she said, urging a large turnout in the November elections.
In Connecticut, Social Security provides benefits to 611,000 people of whom 428,900 are retired workers. It provides benefits to one out of eight state residents, and more than two-thirds of all disability beneficiaries. There are 42,900 children, and 52,400 children living with grandparents in Connecticut who depend on Social Security. One of six Latino households and one of eight African American households in Connecticut depend on Social Security.
The event was the first of two co-sponsored by the Connecticut Alliance of Retired Americans, with another event scheduled at the West Hartford Senior Center on August 18.
The Peoples Center was founded in 1937, two years after the enactment of Social Security, by those who marched and organized for Social Security, unemployment compensation and the right to form unions.
Photo: Rep. Rosa DeLauro cuts the cake at the 75th Birthday Celebration for Social Security at the New Haven Peoples Center, Aug. 11. (PW/Henry Lowendorf)