Meeting Minutes from InspireSeattle Social on January 22, 2011

Dave Gamrath would like to invite Inspire members to a brainstorming meeting on how best to create an Inspire web-based (and possibly a true hardcopy) handbook of progressive issues. At this point the meeting is looking at the viability of the idea and how it might come about.
      When: Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 7:00pm
      Where: At Dave's house in West Seattle
If you are interested, Dave can be reached by email at:

About our speaker, Robby Stern:
Robby Stern began attending the University of Washington Law School in 1966, was suspended in 1968 for his protest of the Vietnam War and American imperialist activity, but returned to graduate in 1974. Over the next 11 years he was a pipefitter/welder and was elected to various positions within the Plumbers & Pipefitters Union. He has served as Special Assistant to the President and Chief Lobbyist for the Washington State Labor for Council, AFL/CIO for 15 years. For three years Robby chaired the Healthy Washington Coalition. In 2008 he stepped down from his chair position to become President of the Puget Sound Alliance for Retired Americans where he presently serves. Robby remains on the steering committee of the Healthy Washington Coalition and also serves as the Chair of Social Security Works Washington, a very large coalition working to protect, preserve and improve Social Security for the generations to come. He was also recently elected to the Executive Board of the Washington State Labor Council.

Click here to watch the video of Robby Stern's presentation to InspireSeattle
[Courtesy of Todd Boyle]

January 22, 2011 Discussion:

With a request for a show of hands, Robby demonstrated that virtually all of us know someone directly who is supported by Social Security. Elderly Americans are threatened by the possibility of new restrictions on Social Security. Young people have become skeptical that a Social Security program will still be available to support them in retirement. That is why it is imperative to people of all ages that we preserve Social Security in its present form and even consider new areas of expansion.

Social Security was signed into law by Franklin Roosevelt in 1935. Prior to that time, 50% of elderly Americans lived in poverty. Now only 10% of elderly Americans live in poverty. Initially it was a program of limited scope that neglected the needs of African-Americans, the disabled and orphans but (as of 2009) the needs of 53 million Americans are served by Social Security (36M Seniors, 8M Disabled, 4M surviving spouses and 4M children) and >1 million Washingtonians (making up 25% of Washington households). Currently Social Security provides income for 2/3 of all elderly Americans and for 1/3, it is their only source of income.

Contrary to popular perception, Social Security is not a drain on the federal budget but is a fully funded program with $2.7 trillion in trust. Because of the 75-year success of this program, for years the federal government has borrowed money against this trust to help balance the budget and to fund programs. Often these programs have been justifiable (e.g., education, infrastructure) but often they are not (e.g., wars, tax-cuts). The argument that an increase in the lifespan of Americans threatens Social Security is false. In fact, the only demographic that shows a significant increase in longevity is well-educated white males. Left its funding, Social Security can provide full benefits through 2039. Using pay-as-you-go (where the current generation pays the previous generation�s benefits) will provide 78% benefits beyond 2039. Furthermore, there is currently a �cap� that stops collection of the withholding tax that supports Social Security on personal income above $106,000. If this cap were removed the Social Security program could provide full benefits for 100 years and could even be expanded to give widows the benefits of their deceased spouse, include domestic partners in the program and exempt those under the poverty line from having to pay into the program. There truly is no need to restrict benefits or privatize Social Security.

Social Security remains a very popular program. George W. Bush's administration failed in its initiative to privatize Social Security. In a recent New York Times / CBS poll a majority of Americans showed a preference for reducing government spending rather than raise taxes to reduce the federal deficit. But rather than cut Social Security, nearly two-thirds of Americans would instead opt for an increase in the payroll tax. In spite of this, Social Security continues to have its opponents who have learned that they will never be able to dismantle such a popular program all at once. Instead they will take the tact of killing Social Security through a thousand cuts.

We should remain wary of the newly appointed Deficit Commission. The following measures are already under consideration:

  • Raising the age to receive benefits
    This will add to the perception that Social Security will disappear before today�s young people can benefit and older Americans will be competing with younger Americans in the job market.
  • Reduce the cost-of-living increases
    This will reduce the value of Social Security to Americans over time.
  • Reduce the worker premium from 6.5% to 4.5% this year and take the additional funding from the general budget
    This measure truly will tie Social Security to the federal deficit and so it will now be perceived as part of the problem.

Robby urges everyone to get involved:

  • Join Puget Sound Alliance for Retired Americans -
  • Contact President Obama and urge him to reiterate his pledge to protect Social Security and his promise not to cut benefits or raise the retirement age:
          Phone: (202) 456-1111
  • Contact Senator Patty Murray:
          Phone: (202) 224-2621 (DC office) or (206) 553-5545 (Seattle office)
  • Contact Senator Maria Cantwell:
          Phone: (202) 224-3441 (DC office) or (206) 220-6400 (Seattle office)

The outcome will likely affect each of us or is already affecting someone we know.


Previous meeting minutes


Previous IAN Events


Thank you to
Carrie Bogner for hosting (standing)
and speaker, Robby Stern (sitting)



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