Groups Mount Major Challenge To Bush Plan

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WASHINGTON – Leaders of organizations representing millions of working Americans today declared at a Campaign for America’s Future news conference that they will work together to stop President Bush’s plan to dismantle Social Security shortly before the president delivered his closing remarks at the White House economic conference.

The groups, including the AFL-CIO, NAACP, NOW, the Alliance for Retired Americans, disability rights groups and the Campaign for America’s Future, represent a coordinated effort to mobilize citizen action in every community and Congressional district in America to save Social Security benefits that would be cut in the president’s plan.

None of the speakers at the news conference, who represent the nation’s largest labor, seniors, women, civil rights and disability groups nationwide, were invited to share their perspective at the president’s economic summit a few blocks away.

Nearly three-quarters of the economic conference participants personally donated to Republican campaigns in recent years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Companies represented by participants from the financial sector—the industry that would benefit the most from President Bush’s plan—have given $6.8 million to the president or his party since 1999.

Campaign for America’s Future co-director Roger Hickey kicked off the news conference, noting that the groups gathered had worked together to successfully defend and strengthen Social Security for more than a decade and that they are more energized now than ever.

"Social Security is at risk from the ideologues again and we’re here to declare our opposition to President Bush’s plan to dismantle America’s most successful social protection and anti-poverty program," said Hickey. "The president’s plan would dramatically cut guaranteed benefits that are very popular with the American people."

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney noted that every American worker deserves a secure retirement and that the 69-year-old Social Security program, which offers retirement and disability income to more than 47 million Americans, is under attack.

"America’s working families are being squeezed as never before. Too many people are losing good jobs, health insurance, pensions and now they face the prospect of losing the one thing that has been a guarantee—Social Security," said Sweeney. "The only group that would benefit from privatization is the financial service industry, to the tune of nearly one trillion dollars in fees to manage the private accounts. This would be the largest windfall for that sector in American history."

NAACP Chairman Julian Bond said that African Americans cannot afford to see their future raffled off in a risky stock market gamble.

"For African Americans already suffering from high unemployment, privatizing Social Security would only cause more harm," said Bond.

National Organization for Women President Kim Gandy also spoke at the news conference, noting that dismantling Social Security disproportionately hurts women and children because they are twice as likely to depend on its benefits for their sole income.

"Social Security is not in trouble. George Bush is in trouble," said Gandy. "More than half of elderly women would live in poverty without the benefits of this guaranteed insurance program. This destructive proposal is effectively economic violence against women—he’s risking our livelihoods to satisfy Wall Street donors and corporate cronies."

"Seniors don’t believe President Bush’s false claim that benefits will not be cut," said George Kourpias, president of the Alliance for Retired Americans, at the news conference. "We will mobilize our forces because retirees, their children and their grandchildren, can’t afford the president’s gamble."

The White House laid out arguments yesterday against raising taxes to handle the $2 trillion in transition costs the president’s plan will entail, leading most experts to conclude that the president plans to add that massive sum to the national debt over the next 10 years. The Bush administration and outside organizations like the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute and a litany of business groups are raising millions of dollars for their public relations campaign to promote the president’s plan to privatize Social Security.

A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released today finds that public opinion remains skeptical about any shifts in the Social Security program. The poll further finds that the public believes it is a bad idea to let workers risk their Social Security taxes in the stock market, by 50 to 38 percent.


The Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) is a center of progressive strategy, organizing and issue campaigns. CAF anchors a progressive leadership network, enlisting leaders at the national, state and local levels to build a more just and democratic society. The Campaign is leading the fight about America’s priorities – against privatization of Social Security, for investment in energy independence, good jobs and a sustainable economy, for affordable health care and more.