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For Immediate Release

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Statement of AFSCME President Gerald W. McEntee at Campaign to Strengthen Social Security News Conference

Washington, DC — 

In 2005, George W. Bush went to 60 cities, trying to sell his Social Security privatization plan to the American people. But the more he talked about it, the less people liked it. And his poll numbers kept going down.

It got so tough out there for Bush that I wanted him to go to 60 more cities. In fact, I even offered to pay his way. He never understood that Americans like Social Security. They count on it. That’s why his plan was dead on arrival.

Now, some of the same crowd, on the Fiscal Commission and in Congress, want to bring back the Bush plan. Are they for real? They’re actually talking about privatizing again. They want to change the benefit formula. Worst of all, they want to raise the retirement age. Can you picture all the 70-year-old bricklayers, trash collectors, fire fighters and nurses out there? Is that the kind of society we want?

Social Security supports itself with payroll contributions. It has no borrowing power. It currently has a $2.6 trillion surplus. It doesn’t add a penny to the deficit.

The real issue is all the money that was spent in the Bush years. The tax cuts for the rich. The two wars. The bank bailouts. None of it paid for. All the money borrowed. Much of it from Social Security itself. The politicians who borrowed funds from Social Security now want to renegotiate the deal. Maybe they just don’t want to pay it back. We’re not going to let them get away with that.

So, here’s my plan. It’s a new reality TV show. It stars John Boehner, Alan Simpson and Peter G. Peterson, the Wall Street billionaire. We give each of these guys an average Social Security benefit of $14,000 and tell them to live on it for a year. They won’t get a COLA, but they’ll still have to deduct $100 a month for Medicare Part B and pay $200 a month for Medigap insurance. When do you think they’ll stop calling for benefit cuts? Probably in the first episode.

We have a message for the Commission: Don’t turn Social Security into the scapegoat for the deficit. Social Security is not the problem. Don’t raise the retirement age. Don’t tamper with the COLA. If you break the promise that was made to America’s working families, we’ll hold you accountable. We took on Bush and we won. We’ll fight this just as hard. Keep your hands off Social Security!

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