Grassroots Voices for
Economic Justice

a project of the Center for Community Change Action

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement

Groups praise President Obama for Social Security expansion shift

Groups praise President Obama for Social Security expansion shift

from the Augusta Free Press

President Obama’s declaration that Social Security should be expanded, and not cut, has been applauded with great enthusiasm by groups nationwide which work to protect Social Security for everyone.

Among the groups praising Obama’s stance were the Center for Community Change (CCC), ONE Northside, Virginia Organizing, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, The Contact Center, and Grassroots Ambassadors affiliated with CCC.

“The wealthy should have been paying their fair share from the get go but I’m glad to see President Obama take a stand on this urgent issue,” said Grassroots Ambassador Edward Williams with the Contact Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. “Getting an increase in Social Security would help make it easier to pay the monthly bills. I’m a Vietnam veteran and turning 69 this August. I’m proud to be part of this movement to expand Social Security!”

“As someone who would benefit greatly from increased Social Security benefits I applaud President Obama’s shift to expand Social Security. Six years ago, I quit my job to become a full-time unpaid caregiver,” said Grassroots Ambassador Jeannie Brown of Bozeman, Montana. “Social Security will be my lifeline in 15 years when it is my time to retire and it needs to be expanded. I also know that this shift is a direct result of all the work that grassroots leaders, like myself, have done to educate elected officials to the need for this expansion because of our stories. Thank you President Obama in seeing the wisdom to make this happen.”

“When a person like me spends the day on his feet, working with his hands or back in a classroom or hospital, on a roof or knee-deep in cement, raising the age of retirement and/or cutting benefits is simply untenable,” said Grassroots Ambassador Kenn Bowen, a member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement in Iowa City, Iowa. “If everyone pays their fair share, Social Security not only becomes solvent, it becomes stronger and can pay for more and better benefits for those who have given their lives in working service to their families and their country. President Obama is right when he says ‘we should strengthen Social Security by asking the wealthy to pay more.’ We should do this now, sooner not later for the benefit of all Americans. “

“President Obama’s new position to strengthen and expand Social Security will help a lot of people achieve financial stability. It’s high time the wealthy paid their fair share into Social Security. Social Security Disability Benefits were there for me when I was disabled, unable to work, and homeless. Without SSDI, I would still be homeless today,” said Carlos Cardenas, Vice President of the board of ONE Northside in Chicago.

“Virginia Organizing strongly supports ending the cap for Social Security deductions,” said Virginia Organizing leader Eunice Haigler. “As an organization, many of our members rely on Social Security to provide basic living expenses and we are encouraged by the President’s change in position. For me personally, an increase in Social Security means that I can feel my many years of work means something and will give me dignity. Virginia Organizing calls on U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine to support this proposal and move forward to protect and strengthen Social Security for all people, especially those of us who rely on this program for our survival.”

“We are encouraged that President Obama is joining with other lawmakers to expand Social Security and we will continue our efforts to protect this essential program so that everyone will benefit,” said Mary Lassen, CCC”s Managing Director.

Ambassadors from Iowa and Minnesota rally on August 14

Ambassadors from Iowa and Minnesota rally on August 14

IMG_1911.JPGOn August 14, 2014, leaders from TakeAction Minnesota and Iowa Citizens for Community Involvement rallied for the 80th anniversary of Social Security. The group took a 75 foot banner through the streets of downtown Minneapolis, handing out flyers and talking to pedestrians about the importance of Social Security and the need for expanding our country’s most effective anti-poverty system.

They stopped outside the Macy’s store for a rally, targeting the corporate retailer because of its past participation in the Fix the Debt coalition, which has called for cuts to Social Security. Four leaders told their stories and called for specific policies that would ensure Social Security is expanded and remains solvent for another 80 years.

Gloria Coles of TakeAction Minnesota calls for caregiver credit:

Bob Robbins from TakeAction Minnesota calls for a new cost of living adjustment formula, the CPI-E:

Vern Tigges tells his Social Security story and calls for expansion:

Cherie Mortice of Iowa CCI calls for Scrapping the Cap and brings the rally home:

Iowa LTE: Find ways to strengthen Social Security, Medicare

Iowa LTE: Find ways to strengthen Social Security, Medicare

from the Des Moines Register

Find ways to strengthen Social Security, Medicare

Kenn Bowen, Iowa City, Letter to the Editor — May 10, 2015
During a recent speech in New Hampshire, potential Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie proposed pushing back the age of eligibility for Social Security and Medicare for future retirees as part of a plan to cut deficits by $1 trillion over a decade, an approach he said would confront the nation’s “biggest challenges in an honest way.”

Once again, our Republican friends have either deliberately or ignorantly failed to remember Social Security and Medicare are not part of the federal budget; they are funded by payroll taxes on both employer and employee and are completely separate.

The real sadness of all of this talk of raising ages and/or cutting benefits is being made by people who don’t or won’t ever need Social Security or Medicare, yet are determined to take it away from those who do need it.

Congress should be finding ways to strengthen Social Security/Medicare, such as “scrap the cap,” rather than trying to destroy it in a failed plan to reduce deficits about which they seem so worried.

Want to reduce the federal deficits? Cut the Defense Department’s budget by half.

Social Security, Medicare not part of federal budget (Iowa LTE)

Social Security, Medicare not part of federal budget (Iowa LTE)

From the Iowa Press Citizen

During a recent speech in New Hampshire, potential Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie proposed pushing back the age of eligibility for Social Security and Medicare for future retirees as part of a plan to cut deficits by $1 trillion over a decade, an approach he said would confront the nation’s “biggest challenges in an honest way.”

Once again, our Republican friends have either deliberately or ignorantly failed to remember Social Security and Medicare are not part of the federal budget; they are funded by payroll taxes on both employer and employee and are completely separate.

The real sadness of all of this talk of raising ages and/or cutting benefits is being made by people who don’t or won’t ever need Social Security or Medicare, yet are determined to take it away from those who do need it.

Congress should be finding ways to strengthen Social Security and Medicare, such as “Scrap the Cap,“ rather than trying to destroy it in a failed plan to reduce deficits about which they seem so worried.

Want to reduce the federal deficits? Cut the Defense Department’s budget by half.

Kenn Bowen

Iowa City

Iowa CCI Action Fund editorial on Social Security expansion

Iowa CCI Action Fund editorial on Social Security expansion

From the Des Moines Register

‘Protecting’ Social Security leaves much unsaid

The Des Moines Register’s Sept. 8 editorial voicing concerns about perceived gamesmanship over Social Security’s future in the Braley/Ernst U.S. Senate race tells only half the story. Across the nation, candidates in close elections are trying to win the messaging war on who is the better protector of Social Security.

This is not surprising. Yet, everyday Americans are not looking for mere protectors of Social Security, they are looking for champions.

Many Americans face a crisis in their retirement and are leaning more and more on Social Security. Pensions are disappearing, 401(k)s and IRAs are a poor replacement, and wages are not keeping up with gains seen in productivity. It is important to hear what the candidates think about a program that is of growing importance to all Americans.

Social Security remains immensely popular in Iowa and throughout the nation with recent polls showing that seventy-nine percent of likely voters overwhelmingly support increasing Social Security benefits. They support this because for nearly 80 years Americans have built up our Social Security system, which encourages hard work and provides a foundation for retirement.

Unfortunately, the Register and others have claimed Social Security is heading toward bankruptcy, which is not true. The program faces a modest shortfall in 2033 and after that will pay out 77 percent of promised benefits if nothing is done. Though not ideal, this is far from bankruptcy.

Another mistaken belief is that Social Security is paying out more money in benefits than it is collecting in income. The Social Security trust fund will continue to grow, and, in 2014, income into the program will exceed what is paid out by $19 billion. The system has three dedicated sources of income: payroll taxes, interest on Social Security’s U.S. bonds and income tax on Social Security benefits.

There are a number of bills in Congress that solve the modest shortfall Social Security faces in 2033. Sen. Tom Harkin’s bill, the Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013, has proposed a solution that not only addresses the shortfall but also expands benefits by $70 dollars per month for the average retiree. It does both by lifting the payroll tax cap currently in place.

Many Americans are unaware that Social Security contributions are capped at $117,000 of income so that any money made after that is not subject to the payroll tax. This causes Americans to pay different rates into the program.

By lifting the cap and making sure everyone pays the same rate on earned income, Social Security would have even more solid footing for generations to come.

There has been much talk about putting all options on the table when discussing Social Security’s modest shortfall. Joni Ernst has gone on record saying that privatizing the program should be on the table. After the Great Recession when Americans saw their home values plummet, investments lost and Wall Street bailed out by Main Street, they remember that Social Security stood strong and continued to provide earned benefits during the crisis.

What Iowans want — and deserve — to know is where both Bruce Braley and Joni Ernst stand on expanding Social Security. Iowans want to hear about actual policy proposals, not hollow statements about whose values protect Social Security more.

Social Security has helped many Americans maintain their standard of living in retirement. It is only right that the candidates share their views on the future of the program.

But it is important that all parties involved understand that Social Security is an affordable program that is not in crisis and that can, and should, be expanded.

THE AUTHORS:

ALEX LAWSON is the executive director of Social Security Works, part of the Strengthen Social Security Coalition, which is made up of over 320 national and state organizations representing 50 million Americans. HUGH ESPEY is the executive director of the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund, a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to building social, economic, and environmental justice through community organizing, education and advocacy. Contact: hugh@iowacci.org.

Iowa Ambassadors pressure Braley to become Social Security champion

Iowa Ambassadors pressure Braley to become Social Security champion

imageA group of 6 CCI Action members/Grassroots Ambassadors delivered nearly 1,000 petition signatures to Rep. Bruce Braley’s office in Dubuque, Iowa.  They met with his Deputy District Director who took the petitions and heard testimony.  They were encouraged that after months of discussions and elevating this issue, Rep. Braley will soon sign on to be a cosponsor of Linda Sanchez’ Strengthening Social Security bill in Congress.

Candidate engagement in Iowa

Candidate engagement in Iowa

Grassroots Ambassadors from Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund met with Iowa Congressional candidate Staci Appel who heard personal stories from various Grassroots Ambassadors.  Like other groups, the Iowa CCI Action Fund is working to push federal candidate like Appel to become champions of Social Security expansion in the mid-term elections.

Representatives Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack – Strengthen Social Security!

Representatives Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack – Strengthen Social Security!

From Iowa CCI Action Fund

Have YOU taken action yet?!

Representative Bruce Braley has long been considered a champion for everyday Iowans in the House, so co-sponsoring the Strengthening Social Security Act should be a no-brainer.

TAKE ACTION! Go here to sign a petition urging Representatives Braley and Loebsack to co-sponsor the Strengthening Social Security Act: http://bit.ly/strenghtenSS

Groups from across US participate in successful Retirement Security convening

Groups from across US participate in successful Retirement Security convening

From December 9-11 nearly 90 people — primarily grassroots leaders but also staff from CCC and partner organizations — came together in Washington DC to advance our retirement security campaign.  Approximately 20 organizations from 16 states took part in the national convening which included some dynamic panel discussions, multiple protest actions, a press conference with the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and a meeting with one of our biggest Social Security champions, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio.  In addition to the many state-based organizations — from Washington CAN in the Northwest to the Federation of Child Care Centers of Alabama in the Southeast — seven leaders from the Manufactured Homeowner project also participated in the training, coming from Utah, Pennsylvania and Florida.

RS Meeting 1The gathering kicked off on Monday night with an exercise led by Akiba Bird, director of North Carolina Fair Share, that included drumming and chants and allowed participants to get to know each other and our shared values.  We were then joined by Sarita Gupta, the ED of Jobs with Justice and a leader of the Caring Across Generations campaign, who talked about ways to better connect our respective struggles.

The next morning, it was the Grassroots Ambassadors themselves who took center stage, speaking at two separate panels about the successes and challenges over the course of the 2013 campaign to strengthen Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  IMG_20131210_094144We were also joined by various leaders from national partner organizations: Alex Lawson of Social Security Works; Terry O’Neil of the National Organization of Women; Maya Rockeymoore of Global Policy Solutions; and John Adler of SEIU.  We wrapped up the day by digging into our 2014 program and strategy and preparing ourselves for the next year of battle.

December 11 was our day to hit the streets. The full group arrived early to the Capital Visitors Center for a meeting with Senator Sherrod Brown from Ohio.  It was an opportunity to thank one of the emerging Social Security champions as well as share stories and strategies.  Next up was a protest action outside the office of the think tank Third Way which has been on the attack against Social Security and progressive Democrats like Brown and Elizabeth Warren who have called for expanding the system (watch video of the action here.)

IMG_20131211_145959Throughout the afternoon leaders met with their respective Representatives and Senators on Capital Hill, and the gathering culminated with a successful press conference organized by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.  Members Raul Grijalva, Keith Ellison and Jan Schakowsky stood alongside leaders from Illinois, Washington, North Carolina and Montana to talk about the need to hold the line against cuts to social programs and continue the fight for a better budget deal.  Check out pictures of the press conference as well as the rest of the convening here.

Senator Brown with leaders from Ohio
Senator Brown with leaders from Ohio

 

Open Letter to Sen. Grassley (signed by Iowa Ambassadors)

Open Letter to Sen. Grassley (signed by Iowa Ambassadors)

From the Ames Tribune

Letter: Open Letter to Grassley

To U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley:

Over its 78 years, Social Security has kept millions of Americans out of the throes of poverty. Instead of talking about ways to cut Social Security, Congress should come together and talk about ways to strengthen a program that enjoys strong bipartisan support among everyday Americans. One such bill that would go a long way in strengthening and expanding Social Security without adding a penny to the deficit is S. 567, Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin’s Social Security Act of 2013. We urge you to do right by Iowans and the American people and join Harkin in ensuring Social Security’s solvency for generations to come.

Some of the key points of S. 567 are:

1. Improve the long-term financial condition of the Trust Fund. Social Security is not in crisis but does face a long-term deficit. To help extend the life of the trust fund, the Act phases out the current taxable cap of $113,700 so that payroll taxes apply fairly to every dollar of wages.

2. Ensure that cost-of-living adjustments adequately reflect the living expenses of retirees. Future adjustments would be based on the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly.

3. Change the method by which benefits are calculated. It would boost benefits for all beneficiaries by approximately $70 a month but is targeted to help those in low and middle of the income distribution.

Bernadette Siebert, Keith Schrag, Kathy Hanson, Frances Anderson, Joshua Dobbs, Suzie Dobbs, Carolyn Bishop, Jan Cook, Tracy Stuart, Denise Griffith, Ken Siebert, Ames; and David Sahr, Boone