In today's press conference at the Trenton Statehouse, Senator Robert Menendez issued a clear warning: inspite of the beatdown the President took on Social Security last year, Bush plans to reintroduce his privatization scheme right after the November election.
Last month (Whitehouse chief of staff Bolton) said the President intends to again put privatization front and center on the agenda when a new Congress convenes next year. The sad reality is that Social Security is still under siege. George Bush is trying to privatize it and Tom Kean Jr. wants to go to Washington to help him finish the job. And I'm not gonna let him."
Sen. Lautenberg was also on hand, as were Congressmen Andrews, Pallone, Pascrell, Payne and Rothman.
We shouldn't be risking people's money when, for many, Social Security is their primary source of independence. Since 2000, the stock market is down 4%. It's too much of a gamble.
Then he quipped that the press conference should have been in Atlantic City since the Bush/Kean plan is like "rolling the dice."
So the idea of tying up Social Security into the stock market seems like a curious plan. Who would stand to gain the most? Wallstreet perhaps?
Rep. Pallone was up next and pointed out that,
For the year or two of that debate (to defeat Bush's plan) Bob Menendez was the chairman of our democratic caucus. He organized the democrats in the House to try to stop the President's plan. It was Bob who took the lead and we succeeded in killing the Bush plan under Bob's leadership.
Pallone also suggested that "Social Security, in my opinion, should be the center point in this campaign as it illuminated the stark differences between Menendez -- who stands up for the little guy -- and Kean, who stands up for Wall Street."
Up next, Rep. Payne also thanked Menendez for his leadership on this issue in the House Caucus. Payne wondered whether, after working all your life, would you want a "defined benefit or a risky scheme?"
The Republicans march in lock step with the President no matter how harmful his policies are to constituents. The American people spoke loud and clear about their opposition to privatizing Social Security, so why would the the President bring this issue up again?
Payne, who's the only black person on the NJ delegation, also pointed out that privatization would be especially hard on women and minorities "because of the disparities in their annual earnings compared to other workers."
Rep. Andrews reminds us all that Junior has had many opportunities to express opposition to the Bush plan to privatize and so far refused to do so.
Said Andrews, "Social Security will be on the ballot in November and it will be on the Senate floor next year."
Rep. Pascrell questions the money we'd need to borrow to finance privatization reminding us "it'll add 3/4 trillion to the debt in this country."
Wow, that's more expensive than Iraq.
As if the debt weren't high enough already. Oy.
Pascrell also mentioned that if Medicaid Plan D (which enriches the biggie pharmaceuticals) is any indication, then we need to fight privatization of Social Security, which would benefit Wall Street.
Last (but not least) Rep. Rothmann reminds us that "the people have spoken," and they reject Bush's plan because it puts "ideology over the best interest of our seniors."
Amen to that.
Afterwards Senator Menendez opened up the floor to reporters, and bloggers alike.
Eugene Sonn, who covers the NJ beat for Philly NPR, pressed the Senator for the Democratic alternative to Bush's plan reminding us all that demographic realities will require a solution at some point.
True enough. And when the time comes to make the solutions happen, I want there to be a Democratic majority in Congress. As Menendez pointed out in his reply, a solution to fix Social Security starts with resisting the President's plan.
Fact is, I'm not super-rich enough to benefit from the Bush policies. As a member of the middle class, I trust Menendez and the Democrats will do everything possible to help me from falling into abject poverty in my old age.
Such is the nature of this fight.
Now I hate to say it, but one of the day's best lines had nothing to do with Social Security.
When asked whether Zulima Farber should be fired, Menendez said that an investigation is pending and that such a call is Gov. Corzine's to make.
"She worked with her heart," Menendez replied, "and not her head."