The Gray Panthers, the most influential organization in the U.S. protecting the rights of seniors, and others, applauded President Obama's announcement on Aug. 14 regarding efforts to privatize Social Security. The President vowed, "I'll fight with everything I've got to stop those who would gamble with your Social Security on Wall Street."
This pleased the Panthers, who have joined with other national groups engaging in efforts to preserve Social Security, which is once again under attack. The struggle to retain the venerable system is the Panthers' way of commemorating the 75th anniversary of Social Security's signing into law by President Roosevelt on Aug. 14,1935.
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Yes, the Republicans are at it again. In particular, House Minority Leader Boehner and Senate hopefuls in Colorado, Kentucky and Nevada are seeking to curtail benefits and even discontinue this most essential means of providing a safety net for retired elderly people, in some cases the only source of income they have. In addition to calling for privatization, they propose to raise the retirement age to 70, a step that would do nothing to retain Social Security as we know it but would have a disastrous effect on millions of people who depend on its benefits for survival. A really objectionable part of this threat is that the rationale for endangering the system is to provide more money for the military. Even Defense Secretary Robert Gates has referenced the absurdity of $2 billion bombers.
The Panthers are engaged in a year-long celebration of their 40 years in existence, founded in 1970 by the legendary Maggie Kuhn with a tiny group of friends. The organization quickly mushroomed into a Movement that has worked for justice and peace for ALL people. To mark their 40th anniversary, local networks are engaging in 40 actions for peace and justice. A primary endeavor of these actions is their major offensive against all onslaughts on the Social Security system.
The Gray Panthers demand:
Eliminate the annual cap on taxable income and raise that cap so that wealthier people are paying more to Social Security. Under current law, wages over a certain yearly total ($106,800 in 2010) are exempted from Social Security payroll taxes. This means that a CEO making millions of dollars a year pays the same amount of FICA taxes as a worker earning $106,800 a year.
Let the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire. The Bush tax cuts have contributed heavily to the current deficit, and revenues gained from these expirations are far more than enough to fill currentstate budget deficits for the next ten years while still leaving an additional $2.76 trillion dollars left over to promote further economic recovery.
An end to the wars. Funds saved from Social Security should not be used to pay for wars; rather, we should end the wars and transfer those funds to finance Social Security and other domestic needs.
An increase in outreach and enrollment. Not only should Social Security be kept intact, but outreach should be increased and enrollment expanded to get a greater number of older adults in poverty into the program.
No privatization of Social Security. As President Obama has said, we must not gamble with Social Security, a program so necessary to the survival of all the people that rely on it, especially older poor women who would be hurt the most. According to National Gray Panthers Chair Judy Lear, "Privatizing Social Security is a recipe for disaster. We've seen how the stock market fluctuates wildly up and down. Imagine what would happen to a person's retirement resources in a downward spiral. They could be wiped out. We just can't allow that to happen."
JOAN WILE -- author of newly-published book,
GRANDMOTHERS AGAINST THE WAR: GETTING OFF OUR FANNIES AND STANDING UP FOR PEACE (Citadel Press, May 2008 -- available at amazon.com and in book stores), which is an account of her founding of (more...)