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SU social work professor co-chairs coalition to support Social Security

August 02, 2010

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On July 29, more than 60 groups, including the AFL-CIO, announced the creation of the coalition Strengthen Social Security … Don’t Cut It. The group is launching a major mobilization to push back the federal budget deficit commission’s assertions that claim Social Security is a major component of the budget deficit and is teetering on the brink of disaster. Co-chair of the coalition is Eric Kingson, professor in the School of Social Work in Syracuse University’s College of Human Ecology.

ssIn a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., the group outlined plans to build support in Congress to fight benefits cuts and press candidates in the next election to pledge to fight any privatization scheme or move to raise the retirement age. Says Ed Coyle, executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans: “The Strengthen Social Security campaign unites everyone here to improve—not weaken—Social Security. We are united against any cuts in benefits, such as increases in the retirement age, and to any form of privatization of Social Security. We will stand united if the commission calls for any cuts to Social Security. We are launching a major lobbying campaign for Congress to block their recommendations.”

Speaking at the press conference, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said that raising the retirement age is a benefit cut, plain and simple. It is a cut that is unnecessary and one that Americans can ill-afford. He also says it unfairly singles out workers in demanding physical occupations and those older workers who may no longer be able to find work due to age discrimination.

Social Security benefits are the largest source of retirement income for most retirees. For six of 10 seniors, Social Security represents more than half of their income. In addition, nearly one-half of older unmarried women and widows, and one-third of all beneficiaries, have little other than Social Security and rely on its monthly benefit for 90 percent or more of their retirement income. “Social Security is the mainstay for millions of older women,” says Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW). ”Every year, a major share of the nearly 24 million women age 62 and older who receive benefits are kept out of poverty because of Social Security. Often that monthly Social Security check is their only income.”

Also taking part in the press conference, AFSCME President Gerald McEntee says the deficit commission is trying to turn Social Security into a scapegoat for the deficit. Social Security is not the problem.

Social Security—with a $2.6 trillion surplus projected to grow to $4.3 trillion by 2023—is not the cause of the nation’s deficit, says O’Neill: “The fiscal commission should address the real causes of the deficit—unfunded wars, irresponsible tax breaks for the wealthiest and an economic crisis caused by financial regulatory failures.”

Kingson says the coalition’s first action will be to hold more than 100 parties around the country to celebrate the 75th birthday of Social Security.

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