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Educators rally for Social Security, Medicare–foundation of retirement security

By Brian Washington

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In Tennessee educator Earl Wiman’s mind, protecting Social Security and Medicare is about securing what’s good for all of us. That’s why Wiman—along with hundreds of others—rallied at the base of the U.S. Capitol to send lawmakers a strong message—protect Social Security and Medicare!

“We are the only ones left with the power and influence to stop those who want to privatize and profit from our Social Security, Medicare, and other forms of retirement security,” Wiman told the crowd. “We stand here today with those who have important titles, but more importantly, we stand with those who have the testimony of standing up and showing out for our nation’s seniors.”

Thursday’s rally not only drew a big crowd but some big names as well—including U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

“Social Security is not charity,” said Warren. “Social Security is what people worked a lifetime for. Social Security keeps people independent. Social Security is about eating. Social Security is about dignity, and that’s why we are here to protect it today.”

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TN educator Earl Wiman addresses crowd at Capitol Hill rally Thursday.

Social Security is the foundation of retirement security for tens of millions of seniors across the country. For those 65 or older, it provides 85 percent of the income for families at the bottom of the income distribution scale—or about $6,000 per year.

The rally also aimed to call out those who want to gut programs like Medicare and Social Security in exchange for huge tax breaks for wealthy individuals who can more than afford to pay their fair share. For example, industrial billionaires Charles and David Koch, known to many as the infamous Koch Brothers, want to use their power and influence to buy off politicians and privatize Social Security. The Koch Brothers want their wealthy buddies on Wall Street to make a profit by putting the retirement savings of millions of Americans at risk on the stock market.

However, the Koch Brothers are not the only “Kochs” lawmakers are hearing from on this issue. Joyce Koch, a retired social worker from New Jersey, and Karen Koch, a Michigan community college educator, are known as “The Koch Sisters.” They share the same last name as the Koch Brothers but are not related. While they are not biological sisters, they are linked by a strong commitment to stop the agenda of those like the Koch Brothers, who seek to privatize Social Security and Medicare.

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Education Votes interviews MI educator Karen Koch of “The Koch Sisters” while Joyce Koch looks on.

“The Koch Sisters have a message for anyone who thinks about cutting Social Security or Medicare,” said Joyce Koch. “Don’t even try it!”

“It’s wrong to break promises by privatizing Social Security and cutting Medicare,” Karen Koch told the crowd. “These programs work. They provide support, care and dignity in the years that we need it most. Our seniors deserve much more.”

Wiman, who is a board member with the National Education Association (NEA), which represents 3 million educators nationwide, told the crowd the NEA is honored to stand with those who are fighting to protect the retirement security of seniors and the economic future of this nation.

“My mama taught me that we are all going to make it or none of us will,” said Wiman. “Those with us today understand when the plane goes down, it doesn’t make any difference if you are in economy, business or first class.”

One response to “Educators rally for Social Security, Medicare–foundation of retirement security

  1. Below is a response I received from US Senator Dianne Feinstein when I sent her an e.mail about the WEP and the GPO. I was particularly pleased that she explained the history of both provisions and her hopes for the future. In my communications with Social Security I have been given contradictory, erroneous information, or sometimes, nothing at all!.
    J. Slabaugh

    Dear Ms. Slabaugh:

    Thank you for writing to share your support for repealing the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provisions of the Social Security Act. I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue and welcome the opportunity to respond.

    As you know, the WEP and GPO provisions affect individuals who work for an employer that does not withhold Social Security payroll taxes from salaries. Before enactment of these provisions, employees of many government agencies, foreign companies, and other employers that do not deduct Social Security payroll taxes had their Social Security benefits calculated as if they were long-term, low-wage workers. This resulted in these employees receiving a Social Security benefit representing a higher percentage of their earnings.

    This practice ended in 1983 when President Ronald Reagan signed the Social Security Amendments Act (Public Law 98-21), which reduced the Social Security benefit received by those employees through the implementation of the WEP and GOP policies. Repealing these provisions would allow many public sector and some private sector retirees to collect the full amount of their expected Social Security benefits rather than the reduced benefit they receive now.

    I share your belief that the federal government should not discourage people from pursuing careers in public service. For this reason, in past Congresses, I supported legislation called the “Social Security Fairness Act” that would have repealed the WEP and GPO. While these bills failed to become law, I remain committed to finding a solution that addresses concerns about the GPO and WEP while being mindful of our nation’s fiscal situation.

    On June 23, 2015, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) reintroduced the “Social Security Fairness Act” (S.1651), which would repeal the WEP and GPO provisions of the Social Security Act. This legislation has been referred to the Committee on Finance, of which I am not a member.

    Please know that I appreciate learning of your views on this important issue. I will be sure to keep your thoughts in mind should the “Social Security Fairness Act” be considered by the full Senate.

    Again, thank you for your letter. If you have any additional comments or questions, please feel free to contact my Washington, D.C., office at (202) 224-3841 or visit my website at http://feinstein.senate.gov. Best regards.

    Sincerely yours,

    Dianne Feinstein
    United States Senator

    Further information about my position on issues of concern to California and the nation are available at my website, feinstein.senate.gov. And please visit my YouTube, Facebook and Twitter for more ways to co

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