University students rally to defend Social Security

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The message was clear: Social Security is a program for all ages.

“Many of your classmates are here because they are receiving survivor and disability benefits,” San Jose Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren told students and a sprinkling of faculty and community members gathered for a noontime rally May 9 on the San Jose State University campus.

Lofgren, who like all congressional Democrats adamantly opposes the Bush administration’s drive to privatize the program and institute a means test, said about one-third of all Social Security recipients are young and middle-aged people.

One by one, Lofgren demolished the administration’s myths about Social Security being in danger, its supposed wastefulness, the alleged benefits from privatization, and the idea that funds can be diverted from the program without weakening it. She noted the Congressional Budget Office projection that the program is sound until 2052, and pointed out that the program’s administrative costs are far lower than those of private investment accounts.

Lofgren also said the administration’s proposals would result in cuts of up to one-third of benefits for anyone with an income of $37,500 or more per year.

The loudest applause came as she responded to a student’s question about the effect of war spending on Social Security.

“At the same time Bush went to war, he cut taxes,” she pointed out. “So the war has a direct effect on Social Security — we’re borrowing huge amounts of money to pay for the war.”

In brief conversations after the rally, students expressed their concerns for the future of the program. “It seems like across the country, the poor are under attack,” said graduating senior and political science major Huy Tran. “The federal government is cutting education and health care, at the same time it spends more and more money on war, on killing innocent people abroad.”

“It’s all related,” he added. “We need to protect our right to an equitable society.”

“It’s our future,” said Tamara Parsons, another graduating senior. “My grandmother gets Social Security, my mother will receive it soon.” Voicing a frequently heard concern, she said, “If we don’t do something about it, it won’t be here. But what the Bush administration is proposing won’t fix it.”

Sponsors included Americans Uniting America, College Democrats, and other campus organizations.