Hello NOW Leaders,
Here is the latest update from the Strengthen Social Security coalition. The coalition is led by Social Security Works, and NOW is on the coalition's steering committee. As you can see, although we have made significant progress, it is still an uphill battle to defeat efforts to cut Social Security benefits.
Please note that state and local NOW chapters are encouraged to join the coalition. You can do so by signing up here.
Thank you for all you are doing for NOW and for women,
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Dear Coalition Members and Friends:
We write to update you on some recent developments and important accomplishments regarding the campaign's goal to strengthen Social Security. A lot has been happening in the last month. Please let us know if you have additional or different information.
We have heard informally that the co-chairs of the Fiscal Commission are meeting with each member individually in order to gain consensus. All indications are that the co-chairs are pushing for an agreement on Social Security that includes an increase in the retirement age, reductions in benefits -- perhaps through technical, hard-to-understand changes in the method of calculating benefits and then lowering the inflation adjustment -- and some revenue increase by lifting the portion of wages subject to the payroll tax. You can find fact sheets analyzing these various proposals in this Social Security Briefing Book (PDF), which was prepared by Social Security Works and distributed to Members of Congress and candidates. The package is also likely to include some so-called “sweeteners” in the form of modest targeted benefit improvements, such as an increase in the minimum benefit and a larger benefit for those aged 85 and older.
A separate commission – the Domenici-Rivlin Debt Reduction Task Force, operating out of the Bipartisan Policy Center – is expected to release a report on how to reduce the deficit by mid-November. In addition, we have heard that the Peterson-Pew commission may issue a report as well. It is possible that a recent proposal co-authored by Maya MacGuineas, who reportedly is writing the Peterson-Pew report, gives some insight into what that commission will propose. The package, which has significant cuts to Social Security, has not gotten much attention. It is worth noting that Alice Rivlin is a member of all three commissions. Consequently, we are anticipating some common proposals and coordination among the three commissions.
Social Security and the Elections
Social Security has become a major fault line in congressional elections. Our tracking shows at least 80 races where it has become a significant, if not major, issue. At least 10 leading Republican Senate candidates have called for privatizing Social Security and cutting benefits. Many candidates in the House have done the same. Here is a sample of advertising clips from key races.
The SSS Campaign’s efforts building support for the Grijalva letter to President Obama (see below), combined with work by Social Security Works, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, MoveOn.org, and the Campaign for America’s Future, has resulted in more than 200 candidates in this election cycle pledging their opposition to benefit cuts, as reported by the Huffington Post.
Strengthen Social Security Campaign Keeps on Growing
We are now 217 organizations strong: 82 national and 135 state-based groups. Most of the new state groups have joined through Strengthen Social Security Campaigns in 10 states. A full list of organizations in the campaign is here (PDF). If your state affiliates have not joined yet, we request that you urge them to do so by signing up here.
Major Legislative Initiatives
We have achieved considerable success in the last month or so:
- 136 members of the House – more than half the Democratic caucus – have co-signed a letter to President Obama (PDF) opposing all Social Security benefit cuts, including increases in the retirement age, and privatization of the program. The supporters are not just progressives (83% support), but also 31% of New Democrats and 15% of Blue Dogs signed on. Signatures are still being collected on the letter and we welcome your lobbying help. We also urge you to send thank you letters to all signers, but especially the leaders of this effort: Reps. Raul Grijalva (AZ), John Conyers (MI) and Dan Maffei (NY).
- 57 members have co-sponsored House Resolution 1670 opposing an increase in the retirement age, which is sponsored by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (AZ). Combining the signers of the Grijalva letter and the supporters of the Giffords resolution, 147 House members have taken a stand against raising the retirement age.
- 12 Senators have co-sponsored Senate Resolution 664 opposing a Social Security retirement age increase, and other similar benefit cuts, and privatization. This effort, which was underway for less than two weeks before the Senate broke for the election, is being led by Sens. Bernie Sanders (VT), Sherrod Brown (OH) and Debbie Stabenow (MI), among others. Our goal is to get at least 20 Senators as co-sponsors during the lame duck session.
The co-signers and co-sponsors of these three initiatives are here. The campaign plans to build support for all of these efforts when Congress returns on Nov. 15. If you are able and willing to help, please contact the campaign’s Legislative Director, Alison Reardon, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-454-6190.
Ways for Your Organization to Become More Involved
As you know, we are engaged in a very serious effort to preserve the core benefits of Social Security and we could use your help. Please consider:
- Communicating with your network about how important this battle is;
- Sending letters to the House and Senate urging members of Congress to support the legislative initiatives discussed above;
- Joining coalition partners in scheduled lobbying visits on Capitol Hill;
- Scheduling field visits when members of Congress are back in their state;
- Initiating letters to the editor and call-ins to local press and radio.
- Participating on the coalition’s committees: legislative, adequacy of benefits, field and communications committees.
Thanks for participating in the Strengthen Social Security Campaign. As you know, there’s a lot to do before Nov. 2 on this issue, and even more after the election as we enter the critical one-month period before the Fiscal Commission tries to get 14 votes in favor of a report on December 1. We look forward to continuing to work together.
Nancy Altman and Eric Kingson, SSSC Co-chairs and Co-directors of Social Security Works
Frank Clemente, Campaign Manager