HARTFORD, Conn. - A week after being re-elected as chair of the House Democratic Caucus, Rep. John Larson joined with retired union members at the state capitol who were calling for the protection and expansion of Social Security.
"Working people want America to keep its promise on Social Security," said Cal Bunnell, president of the Connecticut Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA), which convened the pre-Thanksgiving event.
In reply to the report from the National Fiscal Commission, which proposes cuts to Social Security, John Olsen, president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO pointed out that seniors receiving Social Security are living on an average of $13,000 a year, hardly enough to make ends meet.
"It is insane to think about destroying this safety net," he said. "If it were not for Social Security, 30.8 percent of older Connecticut residents would have incomes below the poverty line."
A report released by Social Security Works this summer detailed the significant amount of $8.4 billion that Social Security benefits bring to the local Connecticut economy each year, equaling 4 percent of the state's GDP. The report further pointed out that without Social Security, the number of older women living in poverty would jump from 8.9 percent to 46.6 percent in Connecticut.
"We reject the toxic twisting of facts designed to divide the generations and convince the American people to tamper with Social Security, a successful government program that has kept millions of Americans out of poverty for the past 75 years," said Mary Elia, Organizer for the Connecticut ARA.
While Larson lauded Social Security as the best government program which keeps seniors out of poverty, he did not reply to questions from the media about whether or not he would consider raising the age level or other proposals from the Deficit Commission. Instead, Larson said that he would look at all proposals, but was committed to keeping Social Security intact.
Nationally, ARA is sponsoring a call-in day to Congress on Tuesday, November 30 around the theme "Don't Carve Up Social Security!" A special toll-free number will be available on that day across the country so there will be no cost for those who want to make it clear to elected officials that cuts to Social Security are off limits. The number is 1-866-529-7630.
Speaking at the state Capitol press conference, Bette Marafine of the Connecticut ARA called on Congress to "Stop making Social Security the scapegoat for the deficit. Social Security is the most fiscally responsible and prudently managed part of the government." She noted that raising the payroll tax cap on Social Security taxes for the wealthiest Americans is a prudent way to keep the system strong and viable for the future.
State Senator Edith Prague reminded everyone that Social Security is solvent now, and the economic conditions in 20 years cannot be predicted.
Photo: Rep. John Larson (Art Perlo/PW)