Mostly rational politics, with occasional rants about how a few crazy Republicans are ruining the country.
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Friday, March 04, 2005
Fix It, Don't Nix It
This morning I was lucky enough to attend the first stop of the 2-day, 4-city "Fix It, Don't Nix It" tour featuring Democratic Senators Harry Reid, Dick Durbin and Bryon Dorgan. The New York event also featured Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, John Kerry, and Frank Lautenberg. I haven't seen any news articles covering the event yet, but hopefully they will be up soon. The crowd was packed, with clearly warm admiration for Senator Kerry, who received the biggest applause of the day by far.
All in all I was very pleased with the event. It seems that the senators, especially Clinton and Dorgan, have gotten much better at articulating in an understandable way (for those that don't spend 5 hours a day reading this stuff) the issues that really DO face Social Security, the ways in which President Bush is EXAGGERATING those issues to push an ideological Republican small-government agenda, and the fact that the President's "plan" doesn't actually solve any of those issues, and would saddle the young generations with $5 TRILLION of debt over the next 20 years. I think every single senator mentioned that number, showing that clearly that's going to be a Demoratic talking point as the fight continues.
They also continually emphasized the point that the President has not even once addressed the fact that 30% of Social Security benefits are paid in the form of disability and survivor benefits - ie. to people who are too injured to work or to families whose provider has died. Bush's plan to cut benefits would dramatically harm those receiving these types of benefits, and yet he hasn't even found the time to think about this aspect. Senator Schumer made the good point that this should be a clear sign that Bush is not out to solve the problems, but rather to get rid of the program altogether. Bush wants to nix it. Dems want to fix it.
Senator Kerry earned a particularly enthusiastic response when he made a compelling point that Bush's pursuit of social security was an ideological crusade that was taking the country's focus off of the REAL crises: specifically Medicare/Medicaid and the millions of Americans that are without affordable healthcare.
The senators shared the stage with 3 "civilians" who spoke about what social security meant to them - a retired woman who relies on social security for the majority of her income; a college junior whose father was disabled and then died, whose family was able to keep their house, and who was able to now go to college, because of social security disability and then survivor benefits.
The star of the show was definitely an 83 year old man named Dan Sembel - who recounted what it was like to live before Social Security - with millions of seniors and families struggling in poverty, especially after the depression. He talked of his "hero" Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who created the FDIC so that people would no longer have to worry about the safety of their bank deposits, and who created Social Security as a contract between generations that we would vow to keep our elders out of poverty. He read a beautiful FDR quote, that he carries around with him, which I hope is reported in the articles about the event.... along the lines of "government that deserves that name should bear its responsiblity to those that can no longer provide for themselves".
The Democratic Senators seem to be hitting their stride on this one. Let's make sure we've got their backs.