No more lies, dont privatize

In Louisville, Ky., workers, active and retired, young and seniors, chanted and carried signs outside the Kentucky Center during President Bush’s election-style sales pitch for Social Security privatization, while three were removed from inside the auditorium. In Memphis, Tenn., four protesters were ejected from Bush’s appearance before a hand-picked crowd. In Montgomery, Ala., the labor federation rallied. And in Shreveport, La., residents protested both Bush’s privatization hustle and the occupation of Iraq.

As Air Force One headed to Florida, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado, polls showed that 56 percent disapprove of Bush’s handling of Social Security while only 37 percent support privatization. “If he’s having difficulty in selling his plan in red states,” Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford (D) told reporters, “you can imagine how much harder it will be in the blue states.”Outside Bush’s Louisville “infomercial,” as some Southern media termed it, a loud group of about 150 chanted, “No more lies, don’t privatize.” Retired teacher James McMillin, 59, managed to slip off the picket line and into the Kentucky Center to hear Bush. When McMillin discovered that audience questions were not allowed, he decided to interrupt, shouting that Bush “is trying to do away with Social Security.” He was one of three audience members tossed out. “Other people need to be heard rather than the lip service that apparently Mr. Bush is coordinating and orchestrating for most of his appearances,” he told reporters outside the center, with security guards at his shoulder.

Privatizing Social Security is a “dumb idea” according to David Bronner, director of Alabama’s wildly successful state workers’ retirement system. Bronner has increased his program’s assets from $500 million to $26 billion. He says Bush’s plan basically means “you’re taking a program that has a problem and you’re creating your own crisis.”

The day before Bush’s visit to Montgomery, Bronner told the state’s Chamber of Commerce he opposes the Bush privatization scheme, saying it “will gut Social Security.” He told the business group, “Bush’s plan for Social Security is detrimental for roughly 98 percent of Alabamans.”

Orange County hears Rep. Sanchez on Social SecuritySpecial to the World

The first of 12 California town hall meetings on preserving Social Security, in Orange County, March 12, featured a keynote address by Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Orange County), who recounted the reasons the Bush administration’s privatization program will not assure a secure future to retirees, survivors and the disabled.

Visits are planned to urge area members of Congress who did not attend the meeting, to strongly oppose the administration’s proposals.

While a majority of the more than 100 people who gathered at Teamsters Local 952 in Orange were seniors, many younger people participated including a number in their 20s and 30s.

The audience also heard state Senator Joe Dunn (D-Garden Grove) take on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal to privatize pensions for all new state workers. Assemblyman Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana), County Supervisor Lou Correa, Al Ibarra of the Orange County Federation of Labor, Patrick Kelly of Teamsters Local 952 and Tim Smead of the Young Democrats addressed the crowd.

More town hall meetings will be held Tues., March 29, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Wilson Senior Center, 350 N. “C” St., Oxnard; Fri., April 1 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at IAM Local 653, 544 W. Olive, Fresno; Sat., April 2 from 10 a.m. to noon at San Diego Council Chambers, 202 C St., 12th Fl.; and Sat., April 2 at SEIU Local 660, 500 S. Virgil, Los Angeles. Later meetings will be highlighted in coming issues. The series is sponsored by the California Alliance for Retired Americans and the California Labor Federation. For information call (760) 554-2356 in southern California and (415) 550-0828 in northern California.More bluntly, at the rally hosted by the Alabama Federation of Labor, Alabama State Rep. John Robinson roared, “We’re here to tell him to keep his stinkin’ hands off Social Security.”

Working families are fighting hard to save Social Security, since 1935 the most successful program ever initiated and sustained by the government. Their leaders see a more sinister and dangerous agenda behind the Bush rhetoric.

Lynn Williams, former president of the United Steelworkers of America, currently heads the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR), which speaks for hundreds of thousands of former steelworkers in the U.S. and Canada. He believes that privatization is a Bush bailout for Wall Street.

“One sure sign of a con game is the promise of free or easy money — ‘get rich quick,’” the veteran labor leader said from his home in Toronto, Canada. “Bush is out selling private accounts to replace Social Security in much the same way he peddled the corporate tax cuts in 2001. ‘It’s your money,’ he says of Social Security. ‘You can control it better than the government.’ Meanwhile, the stock market is in big trouble, the trade deficit and job losses soar — like we have been trying to tell politicians for years — more and more people, especially the young people he is appealing to, are out of work or working for less wages and no benefits, families’ debt is deepening and the federal debt, as even Greenspan admits, is reaching dangerous proportions. The entire economy is a mess.”

Williams called Social Security privatization “a trillion-dollar bailout to Wall Street at the expense of active U.S. workers,” especially young workers who would be hardest hit. “Social Security is the government working for the people,” he said. It is “efficient, reliable and accountable, unlike corporations or Wall Street. When they do something stupid — they screw up all the time — there is no accountability, no reliability, despite the devastating effects on people and their communities.”

Williams was optimistic, saying, “Bush is a successful salesman but I don’t think he’s going to make it. Our [SOAR] leaders and members are doing a good, effective job.”

Williams has cause for optimism. In a March 15 series of non-binding resolutions, a kind of straw poll, the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate split 50 for and 50 against a resolution reading, “Congress should reject any Social Security plan that requires deep benefit cuts or a massive increase in the debt.” Five Republicans joined all 45 Senate Democrats in supporting the resolution. The five were Susan Collins and Olympia Snow of Maine, Ohio’s Mike DeWine, Lindsey Graham from South Carolina and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

All those letters, faxes, lobbying days, demonstrations, phone calls, e-mails and home visits are having an effect.

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