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Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014 12:01 am

Preserve social programs that work

 I started a chapter of the Progressive Democrats of America in Springfield a few years ago. Since then our chapter has grown to include the Greater Springfield Area. At an event last fall in front of U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin’s office we had 75 folks attend from various unions and organizations, many of them traveling from Normal, Bloomington, Peoria, Jacksonville, Morrisonville and Champaign. We were honored to have Deb Russell, a member of the Trades and Labor group, speak out to our rally about the hard battle for Social Security and how this impacts women today. Don Todd, president of the AFSCME retirees local, and many others spoke as well.

After the rally, we pointed out to Bill Houlihan, Sen. Durbin’s staff member, that we were surprised to hear Senator Durbin on Fox News and President Obama on various national networks say it may be time to put cuts to Social Security on the table. The proposal to use a “chained” Consumer Price Index could mean more than $7,000 dollars a year less by the time you are 70.

Recently I had the opportunity to sit in on the national conference call with Bernie Sanders, the Independent senator from Vermont. He was joined by concerned citizens groups from across the country like Social Security Works, which is a group of more than 320 state and national organizations, Alliance for Retired America and many other organizations. Sen. Sanders celebrated our win because of rallies like ours across the nation. Progressives are now successfully working towards expansion of the earned benefits by setting more of what we make aside in a way that will create growth and security. Sanders clearly and joyfully credited this to the workers (that’s you and me) being united and rallying loud in the streets and in the halls of Congress. We beat big money that wanted our Social Security for Wall Street!

A very small minority of Americans have a lot of wealth from huge profits earned by the workers. Many of the boomers lost money in their 401(k) funds in the 1980s. Sen. Sanders helped us understand how afraid our youth are today. He pointed out that the youth need to realize that Social Security is secure and if we “scrap the cap” and everyone pays in on what they earn, Social Security will be there for them, too, and their kids as well. Privatization and private financing of campaigns is not to be tolerated. Our youth need to hear their lawmakers stand up for their parents and grandparents.

I would like you to invite your legislative leaders to town hall meetings, house parties and your organizational events to talk about expanding Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. I would like you to tell them to say no to “chained” CPI. Tell them we need to catch seniors up on their cost of living increases. Seniors don’t buy fancy computers, flat screens and cars. Seniors, the disabled and the ill are often forced to downsize. In doing so, they often lose their homes in order to buy food, heat, meds and clothing. Fixing the infamous ‘cost’ index so seniors will get a raise based on what they purchase rather than on what kids buy and what goes down in price makes sense. Let’s step up and do the right thing. We are the government. Let lawmakers know billionaires can’t be allowed to privatize everything and subsidize Wall Street and their banks.

JoAnn Conrad is coordinator of the Greater Springfield Chapter of the national organization Progressive Democrats of America.

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