Social Security defenders speak up

Oct 24, 2011

Everett Herald

By Mike Benbow

October 24, 2011

Don't give up on Social Security, the state's labor leaders say.

The program has enough money for many years and should be strengthened, not reduced, officials said during a program last week that filled the Jackson Center at Everett Community College.

"The message that it's not going to be there when you retire is a message that has traction, but it's flat-out wrong," said Jason Redrup, vice president of Local 751 of the Machinists Union.

Among the speakers assembled last week was Nancy Altman, co-director of a program called Social Security Works. She noted that the program has provided benefits reliably for 75 years.

Before Social Security, the only choice was the poorhouse, she said.

"There's been a campaign against Social Security since it was enacted," Altman added. "Instead of giving people assurances, the facts have been turned on their heads."

Altman said Social Security has a $2.7 trillion accumulated surplus.

"People support Social Security, but they're worried it's not going to be there," she said.

She noted that the program isn't just for older Americans. It helps the disabled and it helps children who've lost a parent.

Altman and others said they're concerned that Social Security will be reduced by the nonpartisan committee in Congress working to reduce the deficit. She said it has its own fund with a surplus and isn't adding to the nation's deficit.

"That's why this debate is so important to our security and why we must be vigilant," she said. "We have a legacy to pass on to our young people."

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., also spoke at the forum, agreeing that it makes no sense to be cutting Social Security as part of the deficit debate.

He also noted that its detractors have tried in recent years to privatize Social Security.

"If it had been privatized, seniors would have lost billions in the stock market during the recession," he said.

Larsen noted that only the first $106,800 of a person's earnings are subject to Social Security taxes. Raising or eliminating the cap "could keep Social Security fiscally sound for the next 75 years," he said.

Jeff Johnson, head of the state Labor Council, said he thinks it is important to strengthen Social Security by changing or scrapping the cap. "There are folks that would like to destroy this system," he said. "They want to chip away at this system. We're at an FDR moment, a defining moment, in the nation's history."

Johnson and others suggest that people who support Social Security contact Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a member of the deficit-reduction committee, and tell her so.