Californians fighting privatization on two fronts

OPINION

The Alliance of Retired Americans and its California affiliate CARA, along with the entire labor movement, are part of a broad and growing national coalition determined to uphold Social Security against the intense attack being mounted by the Bush administration and its Wall Street allies. Demonstrations and actions are already in full swing, and much more grassroots organizing will be needed to defeat the Bush campaign.

At the same time, Californians are waging a similar struggle against the plans of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to privatize public pensions and cut back and privatize programs and services millions of Californians depend on for a decent quality of life.

Social Security is the most successful government program in U.S. history. It’s one of the New Deal programs won by that then-newly-formed militant labor organization, the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), and signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935.

Many people besides seniors are served by Social Security. About one-third of Social Security payouts are to disabled workers, widowed spouses and dependent children.

Social security has never missed a payment and is now operating with a $2 trillion surplus. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates solvency until 2052 — despite the pressure of the retiring “baby boomers” which will start around 2011. If Social Security does need help later in the century, a major but simple step is to raise the “cap” on the income level of those who pay the Social Security tax — now at around $90,000. Another major aid if needed: just roll back one-fourth of Bush’s tax cuts for the rich for one year — problem solved!

Another aspect of Social Security’s success is that less than one percent of Social Security funds are spent on administrative costs. If the right-wing attempts to privatize Social Security succeed and the profit hungry financiers on Wall Street take over, administrative costs would reach at least 15 percent.

Speaking of Wall Street, what happens to your “social security” invested in the stock market if that market crashes? Indeed, in recent years countless workers have seen their private pensions melt away as the stocks they were based on collapsed.

Fifty-three members of Congress are from California. They must hear from us on these issues. Our governor must hear from us also concerning his attacks on state workers’ pensions. Every day brings a new attack by Schwarzenegger on working people — teachers, nurses, construction workers and more — on workers compensation, on health care, on the minimum wage. The governor is even trying to take away workers’ 30-minute lunch breaks. He is targeting the poor, the disabled and the elderly for further cuts. Even children are to be cheated by the governor, breaking his promise to restore $2 billion withheld last year from funds earmarked for desperate public schools. Older youth face impossible increases in college costs. And if this isn’t enough, he adds insult to injury by calling those who dare to question him “girlie men,” “stooges,” and “losers.”

Hopefully in the next election we will turn this corporate stooge into a “loser.”



Nell Ranta is a retired hotel and restaurant worker, member of FORUM (Federation of Retired Union Members) and the Sacramento, Calif., Gray Panthers.