AFSA Attends Conference Advocating for Social Security Expansion

Senator Harkin

Senator Harkin speaking at Wednesday’s conference in support of Social Security.

On Wednesday, October 30, 2013, AFSA attended a conference at the Senate Hart Office Building, on the benefits of expanding Social Security. The briefing including a distinguished panel of experts, including representatives from the Economic Policy Institute, AFL-CIO, Alliance for Retired Americans, Social Security Works among others.

During the conference, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) launched an open letter with a straightforward message to members of Congress:

“With corporations cutting pensions that were promised to workers, Americans rely on Social Security now more than ever. We support increasing Social Security benefits. Therefore, in upcoming budget negotiations, a Grand Bargain that cuts Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits must be off the table.”

The conference was followed by a press conference where several Senators and House of Representatives Members proclaimed their support of Social Security including Senator Bernard “Bernie” Sanders (I-VT), Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Representative Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Representative Ted Deutch (D-FL), Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL) and Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA).

Senator  Sanders voiced a strong opposition to Chained CPI, saying that “We are not going to balance the budget on the backs of the sick. The purchasing needs of seniors are higher than the general public. The Chained CPI is not a tweak. It could mean a cut of over $650 by the time a 65 year old turns 75, and more over time. We cannot support tax breaks for billionaires, and continue loopholes for corporations.”

Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) followed Sen. Sanders, stating “Social Security is the bedrock of our nation, it is the foundation of the middle class. It is the most successful program in our nation’s history, and it has significantly reduced poverty among the elderly…We should be working to expand Social Security. The Chained CPI is a benefit cut, and cannot be part of the budget talks. We will not trade lifting sequestration for cutting Social Security.”

Many senators proclaimed to keep fighting to protect Social Security benefits for those who need them most. Representative Cheri Bustos (D-IL) proclaimed that she will “Fight everyday for the seniors I represent. One out of every five of my constituents is served by Social Security. We are not going to balance the budget on the backs of our seniors and we will keep up the fight for you!”

Representative Ted Deutch (D-FL) followed Rep. Bustos’s sentiment, warning listeners about the probable upcoming budget battle, saying, “We cannot trade cuts to Social Security for lifting sequestration. We must strengthen Social Security and protect Medicare.” He followed up by calling Chained CPI just what it is, a cut to necessary programs for seniors, saying, “We know the Chained CPI is a cut, and that it not only hurts seniors, but also the communities they live in.”

Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL) questioned what Congress is considering, saying, “The public overwhelmingly supports Social Security. Those who support cuts say the program is unsustainable. Yet, the program will be found solvent for at least 25 years.” He offers a simpler solution, saying, “If we simply raise the cap on contributions above $113, 000, it will make the program solvent forever and end this debate.”

Finally, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) stated his overwhelming support for strengthening Social Security and continued the common thread of the event, saying, “Social Security has become the de facto retirement plan…Only one in five [has a defined pension plan and use Social Security as a supplement], and the average person only has $10,000 in savings. Social Security has become the defined benefit plan. The Chained CPI is a downward push that continues to cut benefits. ”

All senators and representatives who spoke at this event expressed overwhelming support for strengthening these necessary programs and overwhelming opposition for the Chained CPI proposals floating around the public mind currently.

AFSA will continue working to support Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And as the budget conference members continue their deliberations, AFSA will urge them to protect these important programs, as well as investments in education. We must take a balanced approach to reducing our nation’s deficit that does not harm seniors, veterans, the disabled, and our children.