The Wang Theater in downtown Boston was packed Wednesday, as seniors and community members came together to voice their strong opposition to proposed cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The historic rally and march came as the congressional Super-Committee readies its recommendations on reducing the federal deficit, drawing the more than 3,000 people, largest senior turnout of any community event in decades.
The Super-Committee – a 12 member bipartisan group that includes Senator John Kerry – is considering potential cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security that would harm today’s seniors and workers. Cuts currently under consideration include: a $112 billion cut to Social Security by changing how the Social Security cost of living adjustment (COLA) is calculated and reducing benefits; raising the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 67; and, increasing out-of-pocket costs for seniors using Medicare.
Rally participants cited serious concerns that Congress is not heeding the growing level of constituent frustration over the attacks on these hard-earned benefits that workers have paid into for years. Many felt these benefits represent an intergenerational commitment – and that cuts of the magnitude being considered by the Super-Committee would constitute a betrayal of the seniors, veterans and workers who have paid into the safety net and retirement systems.
“We’re not just numbers on some budget spreadsheet. We are real people whose lives depend on programs like Social Security and Medicare,” said Barbara Mann, a senior from Peabody, MA who attended the event. “Washington needs to understand that we rely on these services every day, and we won’t forget those who vote to cut them.”
The gathering at the Wang Theatre was immediately followed by a massive march and rolling rally to the offices of Senators John Kerry and Scott Brown, where citizens submitted thousands of constituent-signed postcards detailing their support for jobs and retirement security. Seniors and workers who gathered at the offices said the proposed cuts will jeopardize benefits and retirement security for both today’s beneficiaries and tomorrow’s seniors. Many warned the proposed cuts are job killers that will undermine the nation’s economic recovery and will immediately thrust more families and seniors into poverty.
“The politicians are counting on us to sit back and keep quiet while they dismantle jobs and retirement security,” said Carolyn Villers, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Senior Action Council. “We’re here to say that we won’t be divided, and we won’t be silenced. We will continue to fight back.”
More than 70 senior, community, labor and faith organizations came together in today’s action, including 1199 SEIU, AARP Massachusetts, Massachusetts AFL-CIO, Mass Senior Action Council, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and Social Security Works. Organizers called the march and rally an important first step, promising to ramp up pressure on Members of Congress in the coming weeks.