Texans slam privatization

LA MARQUE, Texas — About 200 Texans met in this small community adjacent to Texas City (location of the recent BP refinery explosion), June 11, to express their opposition to the Bush administration plan to privatize Social Security. They were treated to rousing speeches by Congressperson Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston), Nick Lampson (former congressperson from Houston), Texas AFL-CIO President Emmett Sheppard and others.

Jackson Lee pointed out that Social Security represents 41.1 percent of the total income for persons aged 65 and over in 2005. As a result of Bush’s plan, $1.7 trillion would go to Wall Street, she said.

Noting that Bush just completed a 60-day cross-country campaign for his plan at taxpayer expense, the congresswoman commented that it would have been better if he had spent the time working on an exit strategy from Iraq.

Lampson, who has a progressive voting record and is seen as a great supporter of labor, lost his congressional seat in 2004 due to Tom DeLay’s redistricting scheme . He has announced he will challenge DeLay in the next election. Lampson told the rally how Social Security had enabled his family to survive after his father’s death, and made it possible for him to be successful. He noted that this death benefit has been cut and children of deceased parents now do not have the same opportunity that he had.

Sheppard cited the experience of Enron employees as a lesson about the threat posed by Social Security privatization. One employee had $700,000 in a private retirement account at the time of Enron’s collapse. It is now worth $10,000. This individual now has Social Security, although he lost the retirement income promised by Enron, Sheppard noted. He pointed out that the AFL-CIO had given assistance to victimized Enron employees even though Enron was nonunion.

Sheppard also criticized the Texas Legislature’s failure to pass a bill on school financing or a teachers’ raise. At the same time, he noted, the Legislature was unsuccessful in efforts to “do away with federal unemployment” and “take away voting rights.”

The speakers gave compelling examples of why Social Security is so important to working people. They pointed out the folly of relying on private investment accounts for retirement. Sheila Jackson Lee captured the depth of feeling on this issue: “A policy fight is not personal, but a Social Security fight is personal!”