The Blog of the Frances Perkins Center

It’s up to you and Speaker Pelosi

In Uncategorized on March 8, 2010 at 2:25 pm

It’s up to you and Speaker Pelosi to protect Social Security.

If you signed our petition against the Conrad-Gregg Deficit Commission, or attended our January 14th conference in New York, or have watched the videos of the panel discussions on our web site, you know that there is a move afoot in Washington to blame the current federal deficit on Social Security. The program’s foes are using this as an excuse to suggest raising the retirement age, changing the program from an insurance program for all to a welfare program for the indigent, or cutting benefits in other ways.

While our petition signers and thousands of other private citizens, along with more than 60 national groups, managed to defeat the Conrad-Gregg proposal, President Obama has created a similar commission through executive order. Its co-chairs are retired Republican Senator Alan Simpson, a longtime foe of Social Security who called the program’s beneficiaries “greedy geezers” back in 1995, and former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles. You can read more about the commission on this blog.

Based on the commission’s rules, Social Security will need to have at least five strong advocates on the commission (out of the total of 18 members) to block benefit cuts and potential dismemberment of the program. Of the nine members named so far, only two, Senator Dick Durbin and SEIU President Andy Stern, are known to be staunch defenders of Social Security. Of the nine remaining to be named, six will come from the ranks of Congressional Republicans, not likely to be supporters. It’s up to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to make her three choices from those who will fight to maintain Social Security benefits.

We have written a letter to Speaker Pelosi, urging her to choose carefully and wisely:

Dear Speaker Pelosi:

In the year of the 75th anniversary of Social Security–the centerpiece in the array of transformative social programs instituted by President Roosevelt and Labor Secretary Frances Perkins–we are concerned that this most successful government program is under attack.

Deficit hawks in Congress and inside the Beltway have found that Social Security is a fine scapegoat for the deficit, even though the program has contributed nothing to the current deficit. To the contrary, Social Security has helped to keep our country from falling into a Depression by providing income to millions of people who would otherwise be destitute. As you surely know, more than one-third of all people 65 and older rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income.

The fiscal commission formed by President Obama’s executive order contains a number of known foes of Social Security. Some of them have stated, even before the commission has convened, that their goal is to reduce Social Security benefits or cut the program in some substantial way.

As House Speaker, you will choose three of the committee’s members. We urge you to select three representatives who understand and care deeply about the needs of working and retired Americans and their families, three members who will fight any efforts to raise the retirement age, lower benefits, drop benefits for children and spouses, enact an income cut-off, privatize, or in any other way diminish this great American program that has improved life for millions of Americans and been such a shining example of American values.

We know you hold these values and the program that embodies them as a sacred trust with the American people. Please ensure that your three choices will be a bulwark against the efforts of those who don’t share that trust or those values.

Respectfully yours,

Barbara Burt, Executive Director

The Frances Perkins Center

Let Speaker Pelosi know how you feel about protecting Social Security today. Please write your own letter or feel free to adapt and personalize this one. You can send it to Speaker Pelosi at

Thank you for your help. Your voice makes a difference.


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