Groups take on McCain privatization plan

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Aug. 14, marks the 73rd anniversary of the day the Social Security Act was signed into law by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In recognition of the program’s 73rd birthday, Americans United for Change was joined today by James Roosevelt, Jr., grandson of FDR; Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D – FL); Richard Trumka, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO; and Edward Coyle, executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans to celebrate 73 years of what has been called the most successful government program in the world and that has been credited with lifting America’s seniors from poverty and providing critical financial security for surviving spouses and people with disabilities.

‘It’s hard to remember now, but before Social Security, nearly half of America’s seniors lived in poverty,’ said Roosevelt Jr. ‘After a lifetime of playing by the rules and working hard, there was no guarantee of a secure retirement. My grandfather, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and a majority of Americans thought that was wrong. They believed that lifting our seniors out of poverty is a reflection of our nation’s core values. That’s why my grandfather signed the Social Security Act 73 years ago today. One of the great successes of the 20th century, today Social Security lifts nearly 13 million seniors and 1.3 million children out of poverty.”

Americans United for Change, the group that led the successful national campaign to beat back President Bush’s effort to privatize Social Security in 2005, noted that while there is much cause for celebration today, Social Security as the nation has known it and depended on for 73 years is once again in the crosshairs of the anti-Social Security forces in Washington.

Senator John McCain, who has emerged as the poster child for a third term of President Bush’s policies and who last month called Social Security as FDR conceived it 73 years ago ‘an absolute disgrace,” was urged to abandon his calls to revive the same Bush privatization proposal that was overwhelmingly rejected by the American public in 2005 – a risky investment scheme that would turn Social Security from a guaranteed into a guaranteed gamble and slash guaranteed benefits for millions or seniors, survivors and the disabled, all while not adding a single day to the life of the program.

The new report from the Institute for America’s Future: “The Perils of Privatization; Social Security Privatization Cuts Lifetime Benefits; Makes Senior Citizens Vulnerable to Poverty” is available at

“Like President Bush, John McCain wants to privatize our Social Security, turning it into a gamble with our futures, and making 8.6 million American seniors vulnerable to poverty,” added Roosevelt. “John McCain has even said Social Security is ‘a disgrace.’ I couldn’t disagree more. Our Social Security isn’t a disgrace; it’s a compact, a trust between generations of Americans. It’s a reflection of our values. On the 70th anniversary of Social Security, Americans stood together and said no to George Bush’s attempt to privatize Social Security. On this anniversary, let’s make sure John McCain hears the same message. Tell John McCain to keep his hands off of our Social Security.’

“Social Security is the most successful social program in the world because it has lifted millions of seniors and children out of poverty. It is the most important leg of the retirement stool,” said Rep. Schakowsky. “I strongly disagree with Sen. John McCain who has repeatedly called Social Security a ‘disgrace.’ If it wasn’t for Social Security, half of all seniors would be living in poverty. Social Security has provided a guaranteed benefit for millions of Americans.”

“As it currently stands, Social Security will be solvent until 2041 and could continue to pay full benefits until that time even if we make no changes,” said Wasserman Schultz. I will be 75 years old when that happens. As the child of a baby boomer and the mother of small children, I am deeply concerned about the future solvency of Social Security. However, Senator McCain’s privatization scheme is not the answer and does nothing to fix the problem. Senator Obama has a plan to strengthen Social Security through changes to the payroll tax system that protects middle-class families while simply extending current payroll taxes to earnings above $250,000 a year. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress and the next President of the United States to protect Social Security. Happy birthday Social Security and many happy returns.”

The AFL-CIO and the Alliance for Retired Americans each highlighted a recently launched campaign to reach more than 1 million seniors in the coming weeks with information on John McCain’s plans to put Social Security at risk.

‘Make no mistake, John McCain would eviscerate Social Security as we know it and leave millions of seniors hanging out to dry,’ AFL-CIO’s Trumka said.

“We are reminding retirees that Senator McCain continues to support President Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security,” said Coyle of the Alliance for Retired Americans. “This would create Social Security accounts tied to the roller coaster of Wall Street. With all the turbulence in the stock market, and the rising prices of gas, groceries and health care, this is a gamble few retirees can afford to take. Privatization would hit the next wave of retirees as well – those currently in their mid-to-late 50s – particularly hard, as the massive amount of borrowing needed to create these private accounts would drain the Social Security Trust Fund and reduce benefits just as they approach retirement. The best way to celebrate Social Security’s 73rd birthday is to fight to ensure that Social Security remains strong and successful for generations to come. Happy Birthday, Social Security.”