WASHINGTON - Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. , and leading senior advocates demanded at a press conference here today that Republican lawmakers condemn Majority Leader Eric Cantor's call to abolish Social Security and Medicare.
On Tuesday Cantor said, on a taped interview for NPR's "Morning Edition," that, "Just from the very notion that 50 percent of beneficiaries under the Social Security program use those monies as their sole source of income, we're saying we're going to have to come to grips with the fact that these programs cannot exist if we are to have the kind of America we want to have."
Schakowsky, who co-chairs the Congressional Seniors Task Force, said she is "not surprised that Eric Cantor would call for eliminating a program that has lifted millions of seniors from poverty because the House Majority Leader is the co-author of a book that promotes privatization of Social Security and replacing Medicare with a voucher system.
"These are outrageous plans that are designed to enrich Wall Street at the expense of seniors who worked hard and paid all their lives into Social Security," she said.
"All of my colleagues, Republicans and Democrats, must be put on record regarding where they stand on Eric Cantor's completely out-of-touch call to destroy Social Security."
The Illinois Democrat asserted that "all reputable polls show huge majorities of the population - Republicans, Democrats, Independents and even tea party members - back Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Even Medicaid, the least popular of the three programs, is backed by an overwhelming 67 percent of the population."
Ed Coyle, executive director of the 4-million-member Alliance for Retired Americans, said he was "glad Cantor has finally come out and put his cards on the table. Now we know what we have to do for the 2012 elections.
"Twelve states will decide who is elected president and who will control both houses of Congress," Cole said, "and in each of those states seniors will be a deciding factor. Thank you, Eric Cantor, for clarifying what millions of seniors will be doing in the 2012 elections. You and your Republican colleagues will be hearing from us between now and then."
Eric Kingston, coordinator of the Strengthen Social Security Campaign, a coalition of 270 organizations, blasted Cantor for "thinking he can reach into Social Security as if it were a piggy bank to fund tax cuts for the rich and bailouts for Wall Street institutions."
A reporter from one news outlet said, during the press conference, that he was "receiving emails from the Majority Leader's office saying that Mr. Cantor may have misspoken" during the NPR interview and that "Social Security will not be cut for current recipients in the current Republican budget."
"Don't think that Republicans are going to give Social Security a pass," Schakowsky warned.
She characterized the NPR interview as a clear signal by Cantor to right-wing extremists that "they shouldn't worry. Even if we can't kill the program right now, we will get around to it.
"Their real intentions have always been clear and ending cost of living increases indeed hurts current recipients. But even if there were no cuts at all to the program itself seniors are suffering. Social Security used to be part of a three legged stool," she explained. "The other legs were a defined benefits pension and a decent life savings. For millions of people those other two legs are no longer there."
Photo: (John Bachtell/PW)