Older Women Rally Nationwide

Older Women Rally Nationwide
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The Older Women's League (OWL) rallied this weekend. They organized rallies with members of MoveOn.org outside of "town hall" meetings in 6 cities nationwide, because they were worried. This was all part of a campaign called, "Strengthen Social Security," an effort lead by a group called Social Security Works. The women of OWL participated because the subject matter is something especially near and dear to them - Social Security. In Pasadena, California, Shirley Harlan, OWL Board Member, proudly wore her OWL t-shirt and held signs that read, "Social Security belongs to the people." When asked why she was at the rally outside before heading in to participate in the meeting, she said, "I am here to participate in AmericaSpeaks, and to be sure that Social Security is discussed in a reasonable manner."

While people inside the beltway have been talking about Social Security reform for months now within the context of President Obama's bi-partisan fiscal commission, Americans outside of the beltway are talking about other more immediate problems, like jobs.

Meanwhile, AmericaSpeaks was hosting "town hall" meetings across the country to figure out how to reduce the nation's deficit. AmericaSpeaks was promoted as a simultaneous demographically representative, bi-partisan meeting of Americans in twenty locations nationwide. At the end of the event, results would be shared, and in the next full meeting of President Obama's bi-partisan commission, this Wednesday, the executive director will present the findings to the commission as the opinion of America. As an aside, AmericaSpeaks cost over $400 million to organize, largely funded by the Pete G. Peterson Foundation, whose goal over the past decade has been to dismantle Social Security.

What concerned older women the most is that the materials presented to the participants in AmericaSpeaks didn't have all the facts about Social Security. It is hard to come to a reasonable and fair decision regarding the nation's most fiscally conservative and solvent program (Social Security) without the appropriate facts. Participants were not even told that Social Security has its own dedicated source of revenue. In Portland, Oregon, OWL member Shannon Fitzpatrick was able to get fliers about Social Security placed on the table with all of the other materials. She said, "It was awesome to see activists of all ages and backgrounds there to educate people about the importance of Social Security."
American workers pay in to Social Security through payroll deductions, and that money is placed in a separate fund, not part of general tax revenues, which has been built up in preparation for the retirement of the baby boomers. The surplus in that fund is 2.6 trillion dollars, which has been invested in US Treasury Bonds. Now, just like any other money that's invested in US Treasury Bonds, the government has used it to fund other needs. We've used it to pay for lots of things - the war, our roads, the bank bailouts, and more. However, the government is responsible for those debts, and has to pay out the money it owes to bondholders, including Social Security, with interest. That money can only be found by cutting other programs the government (not the workers) pay for, or by raising revenues. "I would make sure that in the revenue part, that the tax cuts under the Bush Administration in 2001 and 2003 would be allowed to expire," said Dianna Porter, OWL Board member in Missoula, Montana, when interviewed on the local news.

No one can say with a straight face that we should not repay our debt to the hard working Americans who invested their money with the treasury. Or that we should repay our debts to other nations and investors, but not to our own people. This is precisely why women in different time zones across America stood up to hold signs and pass out fliers as participants entered AmericaSpeaks. In Dallas, Texas, Rose Daughety, OWL Board Member, was allowed to go into the convention center to hand out information as the participants walked toward the registration table. She reported, "Two people told us that Social Security was out of money because the government had borrowed against what was in the bank. Otherwise, people were pretty thankful for our information."

Members of the Older Women's League stood together to remind people about the importance of Social Security to the middle class, to the disabled, to widows, to children, and to older women. In Overland Park, Kansas, Sharon Lockhart, OWL Member, organized over thirty women to educate people outside of the event. They were there to remind America that before Social Security, almost half of all older Americans were poor. Now, only 1 in 10 older adults is poor. However, women have a special stake, because 44% of women 65+ who live alone are poor. Social Security is critical to providing even what is already too little to live on.

While 1 in 10 older adults being poor doesn't sound so bad, the fact that 44% of older women living alone live in poverty sounds pretty devastating, especially in a country that prides itself on being the richest nation on the planet. And this disgraceful fact is true even with their Social Security benefit. So women are the first to understand that benefit reductions or a raise in the retirement age (also a benefit cut - click here to read a new brief we put together) mean making choices between basic necessities like food, medication, housing and transportation. Women understand that benefits are already meager and should be improved, not cut.

In Chicago, Illinois, Dee Spiech headed up the activities and stated that, "OWL members were all over Navy Pier distributing fliers on the importance of Social Security and that it didn't cause the deficit."

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