Fix the Debt did a dance flash mob in Farragut Square in downtown Washington, D.C., around noon on Friday. Two participants expressed concern about the debt, but did not want to cut Social Security.
(Full disclosure: In addition to my work as Executive Producer of Take Action News with David Shuster, I am Policy Director of Social Security Works, a group that disagrees with Fix the Debt on how to deal with Social Security.)
Fix the Debt advocates a long-term deficit reduction plan that would combine reductions in Social Security and Medicare with some new revenue. Liberal critics of Fix the Debt believe the policies it supports would devastate non-rich people without addressing the underlying causes of the debt. They are suspicious of the campaign's funding by private equity billionaire Peter G. Peterson and support from dozens of CEOs.
The Fix the Debt flash mob on Friday involved a large coordinated dance to "Freedom," the song by Aretha Franklin. There were initially two groups of young people, one intended to be Democrats in blue shirts opposed to spending cuts and the other Republicans in red shirts opposed to tax increases. They started out on opposite sides, but as the music heated up, they shed their respective partisan t-shirts to reveal purple Fix the Debt t-shirts and joined together in a large dance formation. The lyrics were changed to reflect fiscal themes: Instead of "Freedom," the chorus was "Income," and spoke of "coming together to fix the debt." (See Amanda Terkel's article for footage of the dance.)
After the dance ended, I spoke with Ayesha Taylor, 22, a student at Howard University majoring in Russian, who is originally from Ohio. She found out about the opportunity to participate in Fix the Debt's flash mob from flyers at The Dance Place, a dance studio in Northeast Washington, D.C.. Ayesha said she would receive a $60-65 stipend for her participation on Friday. "But it really was more volunteer," she said. "I was like 'Hey, cool, flashmob!'"
Ayesha did not support cutting Social Security and Medicare. "I don't think that's part of the solution to fix the debt," she said. "It's just that part that I don't agree with."
Al Arcidiacono, 52, was working the soundboard and distributing purple "Fix the Debt" t-shirts across the pathway from the dancers. "It's a great cause, that's why I'm here," Al volunteered.
Al came to help work the flash mob at the request of a friend who works for Fix the Debt. "I do some DJ work out in Montgomery County, so he asked me to come out and play a couple CDs for him," he said.
Al confirmed that the dancers would receive $65 stipends and that his work was also paid, but he did not know how much. "I was willing to work for free," Al said. "It's a great cause."
For Al, reducing the national debt is a major concern. He viewed increases in the government's debt as similar to the explosion of private debt that characterized the housing bubble and collapse. "If you think about it, people are living off of credit," he said. "You saw what happened back in 2008. I lost my position because of the credit bubble. I worked for a company for 25 years, and now we're kinda doing some freelance stuff, just trying to find all kinds of work--even though the economy's getting better. If we don't pay down our debt, it's gonna get worse and worse."
Al was against cutting Social Security benefits. "I see what my mom and dad get," he said. "My mom worked hard for 40 years as a tailor at Saks 5th Avenue. Thank God she was able to save her own money. But what she gets from Social Security is a pittance. It would barely be enough for her and my dad to survive on -- where they live and the lifestyle they've become accustomed to. And they are cutting back a little."
Al suggested diversifying Social Security's investments to address the cost of the baby boomer retirement and longer life expectancy. "I think the Social Security system -- there's no reason why it can't sustain itself," Al said. "I'm one of those guys that believes in investing the money, not just letting it grow at whatever the government has it at."
I verified that he was not referring to diverting revenue for individuals to invest on their own in private accounts, but rather investing Social Security's revenue in more aggressive funds. "The government's got enough financial advisers that know how to play the market," he said.
Views expressed are the author's own.