CEA President Kate Dias and other labor leaders joined Connecticut’s congressional delegation this morning in denouncing a plan to cut Medicare and Social Security benefits for millions of Americans.
By freezing the debt ceiling, the plan—announced yesterday by House Republicans—threatens to cut off payments received by troops, veterans, federal employees, retirees, those who receive food assistance, and many others. The plan will likely become a reality if Republicans win control of the House in the November midterm elections.
“They will hold the nation hostage to extract cuts from Social Security and Medicare, and we are here together today, united, because we are a firewall that will make sure on our watch that never happens,” said Congressman John Larson, who has introduced key legislation—Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust—to protect and expand Social Security benefits for the first time in more than 50 years.
Characterizing the plan to undercut Social Security as a dangerous proposition, Congresswoman Jahana Hayes said, “This is really personal for me. I think people look at Social Security just as a retirement plan as you’re aging, but young people—teachers—pay very close attention to this because they make decisions about when to retire, when to start a job, where to live, and where to work based on their retirement and their insurance.”
Senator Richard Blumenthal criticized efforts to undermine Social Security, calling it “a pillar of our economic stability,” and called on Connecticut voters to re-elect their incumbent U.S. senators and representatives, who have championed both the protection and strengthening of the program.
“Jahana Hayes is radically different from her opponent in her commitment to uphold Social Security,” Blumenthal said, adding that the same is true of every Congressional incumbent on the ballot.
Describing how fortunate Connecticut is to have a congressional delegation that fully supports active and retired educators and the middle class, CEA’s Dias said, “It pleases me to no end to have a teacher as part of this delegation.”
She noted that Hayes, who has been honored as both Connecticut Teacher of the Year and National Teacher of the Year, “is someone who has worked in a classroom, who knows the power of that work, and who upholds it, and we stand strongly behind our friend Jahana Hayes in her efforts on Social Security.”
Earned benefit, not entitlement
Emphasizing CEA’s ongoing work on the GPO-WEP repeal as central to teachers’ agenda, Dias said, “I sit here representing over 40,000 educators in the state of Connecticut. To jeopardize their retirement and the opportunity to live above the poverty level as some sort of entitlement instead of something they have earned is a gross misrepresentation and a tremendous disservice. We have to stand up for what we know to be the right and true thing, which is to defend these benefits. That is the sacred trust. This is not an entitlement; it is a payment that we’ve made, something we’ve contributed to, and this is a promise that we have an obligation to keep. We will continue to be vocal advocates of a system that uplifts our middle class and strongly supports our educators and public servants.”
She added, “It is genuinely my pleasure—and my dismay—to have to be here this morning having this conversation. It troubles me that people running for office are putting in jeopardy a program geared toward protecting and preserving the middle class and providing the opportunity for retirement—not as a luxury, but as an earned benefit.”
Noting the Department of Health and Human Services’ announcement last week of an upcoming 8.7% increase in the cost of living—and the fact that veterans’ benefits and disability benefits are closely tied to Social Security COLA adjustments—Congressman Joe Courtney underscored the value of Social Security and called for it to be not just protected and preserved but also strengthened. “This is not something you fool around with. It’s economic nitroglycerin.”
Referencing a Bloomberg article published yesterday, Senator Chris Murphy said Congressional Republican leaders are telegraphing their message to supporters that in order to finance more tax cuts for the wealthy—both corporations and billionaires—they are planning cuts to Medicare and Social Security if they win control of the House and Senate.
He added, “Let’s be clear. If Connecticut elects a Republican to Congress, that individual could be the deciding vote to strip benefits out of Social Security and Medicare.”
Also speaking out against the plan to undermine Social Security were Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, Connecticut Alliance for Retired Americans President Bette Marafino, and American Federation of Government Employees Council 220 Vice President Sherry Jackson.