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Retirees fight for social safety net

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Syracuse University Professor Eric Kingson said unionists should fight to protect and expand the safety net.
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The PSC retirees chapter and its newly formed social safety net working group are asking members under the age of 65 to join their campaign to defend the social safety net – Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are already under threats of cuts by the Republican-led congress.

IN THE CROSSHAIRS

“Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act and other safety net programs are in the crosshairs of the 115th Congress. Given the louder and louder drumbeat of cutbacks and privatization, we need PSC members – in service and retiree – to make phone calls to their representatives in both the US Senate and House of Representatives,” the chapter said in a dispatch to members.

The chapter is setting up face-to-face meetings with congressional district officers in the New York City area. Members interested in joining these visits should send an email, and include the name of their congressional representative.

To lend support, members can also reach out to congress members by phone.

“Go to psc-cuny.org/SafetyNetCampaign. There you will find suggested phone scripts as well as links to talking points, resources and a site to identify who represents you in Congress,” the chapter said. “To call your members of Congress, dial the US Capitol Switchboard at 202- 224-3121. An operator will connect you directly to your congressperson’s office. When we call, we are asking each congressional office to make a commitment not to cut or privatize. We need feedback on these commitments.”

The campaign kicked off at a standing-room-only chapter meeting on February 6, in which Syracuse University professor of social work and one-time congressional candidate Eric Kingson spoke about the importance of fighting to protect the social safety net that was established after the Great Depression.

Noting that federal social safety net programs reduce New York state’s poverty levels by 50 percent, Kingson said that the Republican position of attacking these programs as “too expensive” was “an insulting wedge strategy” that pits younger voters against older voters.

He warned that the Republicans would insist on privatizing many of these programs, or in the case of Social Security, raising the eligibility age.
“All of these cuts are going to pull money out of communities,” Kingson said. “These guys are robbing us.”

Ultimately, he said, not only was there enough taxable wealth in the country to keep these programs, but such a campaign to protect the social safety net should be a catalyst for a bigger movement to expand these programs.

MEDICARE FOR ALL

On Medicare, for example, Kingson saw a potential for not just a health care program for senior citizens, but a real universal health care plan.

“I’d like to see the eligibility age go down first to 62, then to 0,” he said.