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Field Dispatches: Strengthen Social Security launch

Resource type: News

Strengthen Social Security |

The Strengthen Social Security Coalition, a broad-based diverse, multi-generational coalition of over 60 national and state organisations, was launched July 29.   The still-growing coalition has organisations representing over 30 million Americans, including workers, women, seniors, persons with disabilities, children, low-income, and the civil and human rights and LGBT communities.

Key members of a presidential deficit commission and Congress have called for cuts in Social Security, including increasing the age for full benefits.  Congress could vote on such proposals as early as December.   

Because Social Security has its own dedicated revenue, it only pays benefits if it has income to cover the cost, and has no borrowing authority. Social Security has not and cannot add to the federal deficit.  Gerald W. McEntee, President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said, “We have a message for the Commission:  Don’t turn Social Security into the scapegoat for the deficit.  Social Security is not the problem.”  

Eliseo Medina, Executive Vice President of the Service Employees International Union, reminded that “When savings evaporated and home values plummeted after Wall Street crashed the economy, Social Security kept sending checks, as it has for more than 75 years. Our conversation as a nation should be focused on adequacy issues, how we strengthen and improve upon Social Security, not how we tear it down.”  

Although benefits average only $13,000 a year, Social Security is America’s most important source of life, disability and retirement protection, especially for low- and moderate income households.  It is the nation’s largest children’s programme, with monthly benefits to 4.4 million children, primarily the dependents of workers who have died or are disabled.

Richard L. Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, asserted, “Raising the eligibility age for a full Social Security benefit would be disastrous for millions of Americans… I know that America can do better than this.”  Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, added, “Social Security is especially vital to women, who would be disproportionately harmed by cuts in benefits.” Hilary Shelton, Director of the Washington Bureau and Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, pointed out that Social Security’s benefits “are imperative to the survival of a disproporationately high number of African Americans.”


Donna Meltzer, Chairperson of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, explained. “It is critical to know that people with disabilities and their families are found across Social Security’s retirement, survivors and disability insurance programmes. More than one-third of all monthly Social Security checks go to more than 20 million people who are not retirees.”

Other speakers at the launch included Justin Ruben (, Dennis Van Roekel (NEA), and Hilary Shelton (NAACP), Ed Coyle (Alliance for Retired Americans).  The launch was moderated by Eric Kingson of Social Security Works, which laid the foundation for and staffs the new coalition and campaign, with funding from The Atlantic Philanthropies.

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