Californians tell Speaker McCarthy: Preserve, improve, expand Social Security
The message to Speaker Kevin McCarthy and the Republicans who are targeting social programs. | Mitch Palmer / People's World

BAKERSFIELD, Calif.—In between the historic storms directly hitting this area of California, members of the Communist Party’s San Joaquin Valley Club drove long distances to attend a March 17 rally for Social Security at Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s local congressional office.

Their message of what to do with Social Security: “Preserve – Improve – Expand.” That was the slogan on a banner welcoming protesters to Yokuts Park in Bakersfield.

With fortuitous weather, demonstrators arrived by carpool and on chartered buses from up and down the state for the event, which was led by the California Alliance for Retired Americans (CARA). The alliance convened the Day of Action to save and expand Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security from Republican schemes to privatize and hamper the beloved social programs.

Members of National Nurses United on the march in Bakersfield. | Mitch Palmer / People’s World

McCarthy wasn’t happy with the protest, Jodi Reed of the Alliance reported.

“Over 700 people from as far away as Eureka to the North and San Diego to the South and everywhere in between showed up,” she said. “Was Speaker McCarthy there? No. But he knew we were there, and he knew what our message is: Hands Off Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

“From the very start, McCarthy’s office called out the private security guards, Bakersfield Police, and even the Secret Service to try and stop our peaceful protest. We moved our program to the park after we all marched to McCarthy’s office and posted our handwritten messages to him on his office door. And we texted, called, tweeted, and emailed his office in Bakersfield and in Washington, D.C. We were heard,” Reed told those gathered.

Early on in the day, union members from United Domestic Workers/AFSCME, the Service Employees (SEIU), National Nurses United, and other workers arrived from across California. All received lunch in an open air tent, staffed by generous union volunteers.

Speakers and protesters expressed their outrage about McCarthy and other Republicans who would steal from the elderly. Placards included such messages as: “Scrooge McCarthy, Reduce the surplus (old) population” and “Relying on McCarthy? Good luck, you’ll need it!”

Protesters displayed handmade banners and signs with messages against Republican suggestions of making cuts to Social Security. One sign: “My generation wants to retire!!!” Another sign: “TRAITOR”. Yet another: “Craven McCarthy, Stinker of the House.”

McCarthy’s office window was completely papered over with signs and posters stating people’s opposition to his publicly announced plans to cut Social Security. Demands to protect and expand Social Security and its healthcare component, Medicare, along with Medicaid, are not a big ask from generations of American workers.

That includes the younger generations, who deserve to receive what they have paid and are paying into the Social Security Trust Fund. That Trust Fund belongs to everyone in the country, and it needs expanding so everyone can retire in comfort and security.

Nurses marched in formation, demanding not just protection from cuts, but the expansion of these programs, and Medicare for All as well.

One member of the Long Beach Gray Panthers, who asked to remain anonymous, told this reporter: “He (McCarthy) ain’t for the people, shit, he’s putting the money in his pocket. I mean if you’re out here to save us, save us. You ain’t got time to talk to us, man you done messed up…. You want to demolish Social Security? Hands off everything.”

The windows of Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s office were completely covered with protest signs and notes. | Mitch Palmer / People’s World

In case anyone doubts how bad the threat is, here’s a partial rogue’s gallery of the dangers to the Social Security Trust Fund:

  • On March 9, Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor, called for changing the retirement age for Americans currently in their 20s and limiting Social Security and Medicare benefits for wealthier Americans. Haley said that for those in their 20s, she “would change the retirement age so that it matches life expectancy.”
  • Three days later, Republican Sen. John N. Kennedy of Louisiana also said the retirement age for Social Security eligibility should be raised.
  • Mitt Romney, the Utah Republican and 2012 Republican presidential nominee, falsely claimed he doesn’t know of any “Republican or Democrat in the House or the Senate who is proposing cutting Social Security benefits.”

Romney apparently forgot his Utah Republican colleague, Mike Lee, was caught on a 2010 video saying: “I’m here right now to tell you one thing you’ve probably never heard from a politician: It’ll be my objective to phase out Social Security.”

As Alliance President Robert Roach, Jr., a former top Machinists union official, says: “We must continue to speak out whenever they (Republicans) remind us with their words and actions that they have NOT dropped the idea” of cutting Social Security.

The video of the entire event is available here.

Mitch Palmer contributed information to this article.

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Janice Rothstein
Janice Rothstein

Janice Rothstein is a retired nurse and long-time activist for people's justice. She has a lifelong itch for media, especially film, music, and literature.