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By Paul Hill
LA MARQUE - On 6/11/05, about 200 progressive Texans met in this small community adjacent to Texas City (location of the recent BP refinery explosion) to express their opposition to the Bush Administration plan to privatize Social Security. Participants were treated to rousing speeches by Congressperson Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston), Nick Lampson (former Congressperson from Houston), Emmett Sheppard (Texas AFL-CIO President) and others.
Sheila Jackson Lee pointed out that Social Security represents 41.1% of aggregate income for persons aged 65 and over in 2005. She noted that $1.7 trillion will go to Wall Street as a result of Bush's plan. She said that President Bush just completed a 60 day campaign for his Social Security plan across the country at taxpayer's expense. She declared that it would have been better if he had spent the time working on an exit strategy from Iraq. She quoted the Washington Post on the Bush plan as follows: "If you pay $1000 for 40 years, you will earn $95,000 of which you will return $79,000 to the government which will leave you $20,000 to live on for the rest of your life."
Nick Lampson lost his congressional seat in the last election due to the redistricting plan of Tom DeLay. He has announced his candidacy to challenge DeLay in the next election. Other speakers noted that Lampson has an excellent voting record and has been a great supporter of labor. Lampson talked about how Social Security had enabled his family to survive after his father's death and made it possible for him to be successful. He noted that this death benefit has been cut and children of deceased parents now do not have the same opportunity that he had.
Emmett Sheppard spoke about the failure of the recent Texas legislature to pass a bill on school finance or a teacher's raise. He noted there was also a failed effort to "do away with federal unemployment." He stated there was also a failed attempt to "take away voting rights." He talked about how Enron was not union organized before it collapsed, but the AFL-CIO helped some of the victimized employees. He gave the example that one man had $700,000 in a retirement account at the time of the collapse. It is now worth $10,000. This individual now has Social Security, although he lost the retirement plan promised by Enron.
These speakers gave excellent examples of why Social Security is so important to working people. They pointed out the folly of relying on private investment accounts for retirement. As Sheila Jackson Lee so eloquently said "A policy fight is not personal, but a Social Security fight is personal!"