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Congress – Hands Off Our Social Security!!

by Rick Tingling-Clemmons, Business Manager, GPMW


         Social Security was passed in 1935 to provide a form of Economic Security to address the need to support workers after the end of their work lives with resources provided in largest part by the workers themselves. The backdrop for the creation of this program was the Great Depression, which created a level of fear to which this was a response. All peoples throughout all of human history have faced the uncertainties brought on by unemployment, illness, disability, death and old age. In the realm of economics, these inevitable facets of life are said to be threats to one's economic security.


        According to the Social Security Administration history, “The original Social Security Act, signed into law on August 14, 1935, grew out of the work of the Committee on Economic Security, a cabinet-level group appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt just one year earlier. [Not surprising that this revisionist history is what is recorded, but the provisions and ideas were in fact developed by the workers who were to be served by the program.] The Act created several programs that, even today, form the basis for the government's role in providing income security, specifically, the old-age insurance, unemployment insurance, and Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) programs. The old-age program is, of course, the precursor to today's Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance, or Social Security, program. Unemployment insurance continues to this day, and AFDC is the forerunner to the current Temporary Assistance for Needy Families [TANF] program [with its distinctly anti-poor anti-family construct and provisions]. The original Act also provided federal support for means-tested old-age assistance programs run by the states, [generally a problem because ‘state-controlled’ became a euphemism for ‘white-controlled’ and a strategy to support white supremacy] which were eventually transformed into the current Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The original Act also contained provisions allowing for research on the topic of health insurance, but the Medicare program would not come into existence until 30 years later.”


          That same history reported that the original program covered workers in only about half the jobs in the country, those in commerce and industry. This meant that at its inception, this program codified the limitations of this exploitative economic system – capitalism – by defining it in a way that was racist and sexist, failing as it did to cover workers in fields of work populated primarily by people of color and women - agriculture, service, child care, home care, health care, education, and the social service industry. Some of those ‘errors’ have since been corrected through the agitation and action of the workers and their unions.


          This Social Security system, even in its initiation was opposed by the rich through their role in corporations, dominance of the country’s economic system and Congress, or control by all three branches.  


            At sometime during the 1980s, SS was taken completely out of the hands of our class when it was completely taken over by the rich through Congress – which is made up principally of the rich.  It is a shame that a program such as Social Security, which was created for the working class, is controlled by the rich, who make little to no contributions to it – other than robbing its coffers to cover the inadequacies of its failed budgeting process and inability of this rotten economic system to care for its principal resource, its people.


       As I am struggling against populism (unintelligent [unscientific] and undemocratic), globalism and tribalism, these ideas are antithetical to our core beliefs, the right to life, liberty and happiness for ALL Americans. The hero in a real democratic system is the one who stands up against the mob, not vice versa.


            Nationalism can be good in small doses, but it can go too far; by doubling down on nationalism it is antithetical to democracy and becomes populism [i.e., white supremacy]. Some people are saying they don’t know where capitalism came from, but even a brief study of history would reveal names like Adam Smith; Oliver Cromwell’s revolution; Frederick Engels; Karl Marx, all of which provide a clear historical explanation of capitalism and from whence it emerged. We as a country failed to democratize capitalism so it could truly be of the people, by the people and for the people; therefore, it only serves a few, the 1%, and has a dominant effect on all of our institutions, including Social Security. We know that a true democracy requires an educated electorate; and in a country where close to 50% cannot read and write the language that they speak (a note from their child’s teacher or a warning on a can of pesticides), democracy is impossible, and therefore a sham. What we do have and live under is thus not a democracy but a dictatorship of the rich.


          Together we can create all the necessary goods and services – including Social Security – that we need, and a world where no one has to suffer the injustice of poverty, hunger, homelessness, sickness, unemployment, or disease. Let’s build a better world together, with workers – whether unemployed, employed, semi-employed, uncompensated, laid off – at the helm. The problems that we as a class face (the 99%), will only and can only be resolved by us, the working class. To quote one of our local ancestors, the eminent publisher Calvin Rolark, “If it is to be, it is up to me!”


ADDENDUM – A glimpse of the Financial Aspects of Social Security


    Social Security was designed as a self-funded entity, and was NEVER designed to be part of the Federal government’s budgeting process. Then, it was first raided to help balance the budget by the feds, who ‘borrowed’ against it (starting with the John F. Kennedy administration and repeated by each succeeding administration) and never paid it back, either with or without interest!


          As we proceed it must be clearly understood that Social Security is NOT an Entitlement program – just like Unemployment Compensation is not an entitlement program. That term – entitlement – is used in the misinformation campaign that the government (at the urging of the 1%) has been using for a number of years to set us up to accept their scheme to privatize the system, to steal our money. But, when we hear privatize – meaning only a few folks own, we say Nationalize – meaning when we ALL own. Think about that! Why don’t we follow in the footsteps of many of our European and Scandinavian brothers and sisters who have nationalized most social services (like Britain’s health care system, Sweden’s health care, child care and parental leave systems, etc.) and other necessities. Too many of us have begun to accept the ‘going broke’ scenario that Congress, the Heritage Foundation and others of that ilk, have been touting about Social Security – drinking the Kool-Aid, as some would say, not even knowing the origin of that phrase (cult leader Rev. Jim Jones, who urged for his followers in to drink poisoned Kool-Aid at his failed 'Jonestown' encampment in Guyana towards the end). 


          For more clarity, let’s understand this on a small level like a permanent life insurance policy: when one has accumulated a certain amount of cash value, and you take out a certain percentage, it will not impact the death benefit as there is enough cash value remaining to pay the term costs for the remainder of the policy life (and with no new premium payments and no repayment of the cash value deduction). It’s a balancing act but not only can it be done but is done regularly by insurance companies. Take out too much cash value [as Congress has been doing for over the last 50 years] and the policy terminates prematurely under these same conditions. As the result, Congress wants to hide the fact that without their thefts – oops, they call it ‘borrowing’ – that they have no intention of repaying, Social Security would be prosperous today, based on the concept of compound interest over almost 85 years with newer contributions against the backdrop of payouts to beneficiaries. It’s not Ponzi, but it’s still a scheme!


          A number of our institutions are not meeting the needs of the people they are designed to serve, and it should be clear to us now that we have the intellect, ability and concern [because they are supposed to serve us] to do a much, much better job. The people currently running those offices don’t have that need or that ability, because of the design of our economic system, which is capitalism. They make decisions just like kings, queens, earls and dukes did during feudalism, to use our resources to serve themselves. We say, let’s take those resources that we created, and serve ourselves! We ARE the 99%, we created the resources, and the lack of or control of those resources by the rich, is a problem that WE must solve, for ourselves and our posterity!

Q&A with Eric Holt-Giménez on A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism

Gray Panthers Condemn White Supremacist Violence in Charlottesville and President Trump's "Both Sides" Statements


August 22, 2017; For More Information, contact Michele or Rick Tingling-Clemmons, Gray Panthers of Metropolitan Washington, 202.388.1111

     The National Council of Gray Panthers Networks condemns the violent actions of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, in the strongest possible terms. In addition, we vehemently reject President Donald Trump's statements that those who oppose Nazis, Ku Klux Klans, and other white supremacists are equally to blame for the violence that killed protester Heather Heyer and injured many others. 

     Our parents and grandparents fought Nazis in Germany in World War II and we are lifelong civil rights activists. Some of us are even descendants of or are ourselves victims of the Nazis, the Klan, and other white supremacists.  It is now the current generations' moral imperative to fight fascism in all forms today. President Trump's comparison of those who resist these groups to the groups themselves is offensive beyond measure. It is an insult to the brave men and women who fought and died in WWII that an American president would give cover for the very same types of people they risked their lives to stop in that war. As educators and seniors (some of us), we remind all that the bogus claims of honoring or “reclaiming our culture” made by these same supremacists is part of their ongoing efforts at revisionist history begun with the Tilden-Hayes compromise and end of Reconstruction, since these statues were built to honor traitors, leaders of a treasonous insurrection.  Just as we have no statues of Benedict Arnold or Adolf Hitler, those honoring Confederate generals and racists should never have been built. We praise those jurisdictions and leadership where such action has already been taken to take down those statues.

     This is not a partisan issue; this is a moral issue. As Americans, we should all reject the rise of fascism in our country and the unacceptable violence and provocations from Nazis, Ku Klux Klans, and other fascist groups. We urge our fellow Americans in State and County Republican and Democratic Party organizations, and all others to join us in public condemnation of this un-American rhetoric and violence against our fellow citizens. If there is one thing Democrats and Republicans alike should be able to come together on, it is this: Violent bigotry and racism have no place in the United States of America.

Water is a Human Right – Fighting for Water Affordability and Control 

DC Consumer Utility Board (CUB) Member Michele Tingling-Clemmons, 07/31/2017  

      From June 8 – 11, 2017, my husband Rick Tingling-Clemmons and I participated in the 2nd International Gathering of Social Movements on Water in Detroit, Michigan, representing Gray Panthers of Metropolitan Washington (GPMW).  


Convened by the Peoples Water Board Coalition and the National Coalition for Legislation on Affordable Water and hosted by the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization (MWRO), this seminal event brought together nearly 400 representatives from 35 states, 5 other nations (Canada, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Liberia), and Sovereign Tribes. 


Against the backdrop of lead contamination in the Flint, MI water supply and a history of water shutoffs in Detroit, this “Legal & Legislative Summit on Water” highlighted water issues affecting all demographic groups nationwide and globally – a broad and diverse array of the working class, we who make and produce everything. These included social workers, attorneys, health professionals, water shut-off victims, legislators, educators, seniors, cultural workers, environmentalists, tribal activists, students, religious and peace activists, civil rights and labor activists, welfare rights activists, and an impressive panel of youth victims turned activists.


Victims turned Water Warriors and other ratepayer activists educated us about the realities of water shut-offs and community efforts to deal with them. We discussed strategic responses to unconscionable policies by states and legislatures that put their own citizens at risk, for example: approving the distribution and sale of lead-contaminated public drinking water; deliberately poisoning the children and people of Flint (a formerly prosperous town of now unemployed auto workers, deemed ‘disposable’ per capitalist tenets) under the guise of “saving money”; the state telling Flint residents their water was safe (while simultaneously – providing state employees with bottled water, demonizing doctors for warning young children’s parents & others not to drink the water, and switching it for the nearby General Motors Plant after GM complained about the water causing their car parts to corrode); and pro-active strategies to control both our access to water and to mandate water safety and affordability.


    Rick and I presented our analysis for “Grassroots Water Reports & Analyses” on day three. We noted D.C.’s colonial status, lack of Congressional representation and experience with a Congressional Control board, contrasting it with Michigan’s current Emergency Manager Laws that strip power from local elected officials, passing it to politically connected, unqualified government appointees. Native American groups and other Water Warriors from the Standing Rock resistance (they oppose the Dakota Access pipeline, a clear threat to tribal and other citizens’ aquifers and water supplies) joined the conference in stressing that:

    • Water access and affordability are human rights and should be treated as such;

    • The fight for Water as a Human Right must be linked to similar struggles, a key Welfare Rights slogan and organizing Principle; and

    • Tactics should include education, organizing, and civil disobience. 


Lawyer/Activist Roger Colton circulated a draft Water Affordability Act, attached, for all to take back home to be introduced and implemented as law. 


We gathered for a demonstration at dusk, featuring 40 or more of us lined-up along a main boulevard holding signs with LED lights spelling out the slogan “Water is Life – No More Water Shutoffs in Detroit and Flint!” that was simultaneously projected onto the walls of the historic Central United Methodist Church and on the building facing it. As passing motorists (including police and first responders) read the message, they responded with a chorus of supportive honks.


    What I heard this past June showed that threats to local and national water supplies I’d first learned about almost fifteen years ago in Japan were proliferating here at home. 


As a founding member of the National Welfare Rights Union (NWRU), I attended the 4th World Water Forum in Kyoto Japan in 2003 to bring word of the growing water shut-offs then happening in Detroit as the result of privatization of its public water system. It is where I first heard activists from the Global South articulating the tenet that water is a human right and how communities globally must organize to protect this right against the onslaught of massive corporate commodification of our collective, critical resource that corporations neither created, developed nor produced, and have no right to demand we the people feed their obscene profiteering scheme.

     It was in Japan I learned of the worldwide challenges posed by corporate commodification of water, and the privatization of water supplies in developed and developing nations, for example:

    • Nestle has an $89 permit to pump unlimited volumes of water from Lake Michigan to sell to us in non-renewable plastic bottles, while disturbing water tables in the surrounding communities.

    • French government opposition forced Coca Cola to suspend distribution of its Dasani bottled water, exposing it as plain tap water misrepresented as ‘better than public water’ then sold to all at $1 per non-renewable bottle. 

    • Privatization of the Detroit water system led to 42,000 shutoffs in that city and mass agency seizures of children from the homes, their poverty deemed signs of parental neglect. 


In Japan I joined now-President Evo Morales of Bolivia, Environmentalist and author Vandana Shiva of India, Canadian water activist and author Maude Barlow, a founder of Food & Water Watch Wenonah Hauter; and, along with activists from Liberia, South Africa, and New Zealand, formed human billboards, mine reading: “42,000 water shut-offs in Detroit due to Privatization”.


DC Water & Sewer Authority (WASA), DC’s water-and-sewer authority, whose slogan is “Water is Life,” is not a public utility regulated by the DC Public Service Commission. Many DC ratepayers must pay rates for water-and-sewer services that are no longer affordable. DC WASA’s programs to help low- and fixed-income families pay their bills provide, at best, temporary relief, for a resource and services that should be affordable and accessible to all. We must take steps now to protect our citizens.


This is why I urge the CUB to consider asking members of the Council to introduce Roger Colton’s draft Water Affordability Act. 


    While all Americans could enjoy the health care that we pay for Congress to have with our taxes, providing Universal Health for All with our same taxes is rarely spoken of. Were it not for the insistence of ensuring
insurance company health care profits, there would be more than enough money to insure all of us. We have been hearing as a nation numerous discussions about the House of Representatives version of Trumpcare – the first of the Republican efforts to “repeal and replace” [read dismantle] the Affordable Care Act (ACA) more popularly known as Obamacare – with little discussion on the truth about health care in this determinedly capitalist system. This scenario is being repeated with the latest proposal by the Senate – surprisingly characterized as “mean” by the 45 th President, known for his bombast and incessant capacity to lie –some Senators refusing to sign on because it does not go far enough in repealing the ACA, though none claim credit for its massive transfer of $800 million from health care benefits to tax cuts for the rich.


The US is the only country in the industrialized world that fails to provide all its citizens with health care, and its governing body, the U.S. Congress, has many members who complain about the government paying for people’s health care and feigning great concern for the national interest (yet not even being the least bit embarrassed about transferring money from health care to give the rich tax cuts – which is truly class warfare). Yet, with numerous 24-hour news channels, we of the Gray Panthers who have advocated for universal health care during our entire nearly half-century of existence, rarely hear any mention of the health care we provide Congress with our taxes, or how the problems with the ACA are a direct result of
Republicans’ refusal to make the required tweaks and adjustments that it requires to keep it solvent. Yet, the Congress that cannot see its way clear to endorsing and passing Universal Health Care – not even being willing to consider a public option – enjoys this benefit and exposes their hypocrisy with their every interview and vote. Worse yet, the media demonstrates its complicity by not reporting this hypocrisy with its deliberate failure to even question legislators about this fact.

Gray Panthers of Metropolitan Washington, though based in the nation’s capitol, a colony that is denied representation in the body that makes and passes the laws we must live under, is clear – what we want is
the same health care we provide our legislators and leaders, and we are unwilling to accept one iota less!

We urge all Americans to take their blinders off! Join us in demanding that our elected officials demonstrate the same level of compassion and support that we the citizens provide them with our taxes by supporting,
introducing and passing Universal Health Care, starting with Medicare for All!

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