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Progressives draw their line on Social Security

From NBC's Lea Sutton
Progressive leaders from a coalition of 60 organizations today announced the launch of "Strengthen Social Security," a campaign to fight any proposed cuts to Social Security that President Obama's debt commission might recommend.

In a press conference, leaders from groups including organized labor, the National Education Association, the National Organization for Women, the NAACP, and the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, vowed to block benefit changes in Social Security -- particularly raising the retirement age. They said that Social Security is a successful and stable program paid for by the people it supports, and they threatened that members of Congress who support cutting benefits will pay the price in upcoming elections.

Justin Ruben of MoveOn.org said his message for "the Republicans and some Democrats who want to cut taxes for the rich and then balance the budget on the backs of our parents and grandparents" is that "our members will be watching elected officials and those running for office very closely this summer and fall."

Gerald McEntee, President of American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, echoed other speakers, saying that proposed changes would be a major blow to women, minority groups, and Americans whose jobs require physical labor. "Can you just imagine looking out this window: All the 70-year-old brick layers, trash collectors, fire fighters, nurses out there? 70 years old. What kind of society do we want?" McEntee said Social Security should not be "the scapegoat for the deficit," and that "some may be surprised to learn that Social Security currently has a 2.6 trillion dollar surplus."

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said his father spent 44 years working in a coal mine and retired as soon as he was eligible for Social Security. Trumka said that those born after 1960 are "already hit with a 13 percent benefit cut" because they have to be 67 to receive benefits instead of 65. He called increasing the age requirement for Social Security benefits "disastrous."

The campaign plans to hold hundreds of community events around the country starting in August to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Social Security.