Rally timed to Social Security talks
Seattle Times Eastside bureau
A rally coinciding with the start of Social Security talks in the U.S. Senate drew about 30 people to Republican Congressman Dave Reichert's Mercer Island office yesterday to protest privatization.
Wearing blue T-shirts and carrying signs with slogans such as "I love Social Security," members of the statewide group Washington Citizen Action criticized President Bush's drive to create private investment accounts to prop up the federal retirement program.
They argued that the plan would hurt millions of widows, seniors and those with low incomes and disabilities.
Under the proposal, younger Americans could divert a portion of their income, subject to Social Security taxes, into personal accounts in exchange for a reduction in their guaranteed benefit.
The plan would overhaul the Social Security system, which is expected to become severely strained in coming decades as the massive baby-boomer generation reaches retirement and draws benefits.
But so far there has been substantial opposition to the privatization idea, especially among Democrats and seniors.
"I'm not going to have enough money in my account to support privatization," said Anne Kim, a Kent resident and single mother. "I barely make enough to pay for rent, utilities and day care."
A couple of months after Bush started touting the privatization idea, the Senate Finance Committee yesterday began hearings on four Social Security plans, three of which include individual or private accounts.
Reichert has not taken a position, and constituents at the rally urged him to oppose privatization.
"It hurts my generation, but it would be disastrous for the future generation," said Kathleen Unmuth, 79, of Bellevue. "I hope he'll listen to us."
"He's continuing to look at all the options on the table," said Heather Janik, Reichert's press secretary. "He's open to hearing everyone's opinion."
"Those who want to privatize Social Security cannot explain how workers and their families will survive" in the case of a disability or death, said Steve Kofahl, a clerk for the Social Security Administration who has been speaking against the plan on behalf of the American Federation of Government Employees. "Families and Washington state taxpayers will be left to pick up the tab."
The Senate Finance Committee has said it plans to vote on a Social Security plan by June or July.
Natalie Singer: 206-464-2704
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