About 100 senior activists will return to their hometowns from Washington DC tomorrow energized and committed to ensure our political leaders don't lose sight of the millions of Americans and their families who depend on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
These seniors have spent the past three days at policy briefings, lobbying Congress and ultimately meeting today with White House staff at the Senior Community Leaders Summit. White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew told the group "Social Security is the most successful government program we've had" while Gene Sperling, the Director of the National Economic Council said, âWe never looked at Social Security as a way to reduce the deficit."
In addition to the White House Q & A five seniors were also given the opportunity to tell their personal stories. Their words provide some real-life context to a Washington debate that all-too-often focuses on balance sheets and let's make a deal politics rather than the real-world impact these decisions will have on virtually every American family.
At the White House today, Florida's Carol Berman urged the administration to protect Social Security and Medicare, not cut benefits:
"I lived on the edge of financial disaster for a long time just because my husband needed long-term care. Social Security and Medicare were the lifelines I needed to come through that very difficult time. They are lifelines future generations will also need and they should be protected and strengthened -- not cut or privatized"Margaret Metzler, from San Jose, is among the millions of America seniors who want to work but can't find a job. She says she's found herself too old to be marketable in this economy yet too young to qualify for Social Security. She told the White House:
"That's why Iâm so tired of politicians in Washington saying with great conviction that we should all be working longer as if just "saying it" will create jobs for seniors, incentivize employers to hire or retain older workers, and create an American economy ready to handle millions of older workers like me who would need to stay on the job until 69 or 70 to get their full benefits, if the retirement age is raised. Not to mention, what will this mean to our younger workers if generations of older workers have to remain in their jobs longer?"Retired Nashua New Hampshire Police Sergeant Fred Robinson summed up how many of these Senior Community leaders feel about Washington proposals to cut benefits or privatize Social Security and Medicare:
"I am a typical American retiree. I'm not rich or living high on the hog -- I'm not looking for benefits for myself at the expense of my children and grandchildren. In fact, because I care about their futures I won't sit idly by and watch American's most successful anti-poverty programs be dismantled through benefit cuts or privatization."
As one participant said about today's White House meeting, "I think we got through to them". Now these seniors will bring that message home to their communities and to the candidates running for office nationwide.