Vile, vulgar and sexist

“We’ve reached a point now where it’s like a milk cow with 310 million tits! Call when you get honest work!”

This quote:
1. comes from an appointee of President Obama
2. was written by a former Republican senator
3. is actually referring to seniors “milking” Social Security
4. is from a sexist, vulgar and insulting letter to a women’s rights leader
5. suggests that advocating for women and seniors is not “honest work”
6. all of the above

Yep, all of the above!

Outrageously, this vulgar former senator holds an important position, and I hope you will join me in urging President Obama to act immediately to remove former Senator Alan K. Simpson as co-chair of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (aka the “deficit commission”) before his cynical attitudes influence policy that could be harmful to women, seniors, and social security.

Tell President Obama: “Send Simpson Back to Wyoming”

I’ll admit that I was worried when he was first appointed. I was concerned that he would put Social Security recipients at risk, instead of the real causes of the deficit. I also knew he could be condescending to women. Personally, I’ll never forget a confirmation hearing for a Supreme Court justice when Simpson, then a member of the Senate Judiciary committee, lectured a panel of women’s rights leaders, including myself, as though we were children.

You can hear some of that tone in Simpson’s email message to Ashley Carson, Executive Director of OWL, the Voice of Mid-Life and Older Women. The fact that Ashley has testified on behalf of OWL before the Commission in June did not deter him from disparaging her, the organization, their commitment and hard work. His so-called “smart cracks” reveal his own limited knowledge of women’s organizations. But most importantly, a man with this lack of respect for women and women’s organizations should not be in a powerful position to influence cuts to Social Security – the lifeline for millions of older women who are living below the poverty line even with their social security check – under the guise of deficit reduction.

Yesterday Simpson apologized for insulting Ashley personally – but not for his attack on advocates for women and his underlying conviction that seniors who need social security are milking the system.

Please join me in sending a message to President Obama – ask him to protect the social security safety net, and send the sexist senator back to Wyoming.

For Equality,
Ellie Smeal
NOW President

Nikki Haley’s 10 Dirty Words

By Phil Noble
President, SC New Democrats
Charleston, SC

SC Rep. Nikki Haley just released her jobs plan. These 10 words do not appear in it:

1.    Agriculture – our largest industry.
2.    Tourism – our second largest industry.
3.    Technology – the largest driver of economic growth in the past 20 years.
4.    Computer (or Internet) – nifty little thing that is used for most every phase of economic activity.
5.    Capital – as in venture capital that’s needed for start-ups, the creator of small business jobs.
6.    Global – everything and everyone else in the world.
7.    Exports – the stuff we sell in the global marketplace to make money.
8.    International – as in international business, the way we make the money from the world.
9.    Green – as in green jobs, 21st century jobs that save money and can’t be shipped overseas.
10.    Rural – as in rural development, what 1 million of us (23.4 percent of South Carolinians) desperately need.

It’s a great 19th century jobs plan.

Keeping the promise between generations

By Becci Robbins
SC Alliance for Retired Americnas

Seventy-five years ago this week, FDR signed the Social Security Act into law. As senior and retiree groups threw parties across the country to mark the occasion, opponents of Social Security continued their multimillion dollar campaign to fool the public into believing that benefits for seniors must be cut to reduce the deficit.

It is a cruel message that puts the burden of fixing the country’s financial problems on the backs of seniors and people with disabilities. It is also dishonest.

They don’t blame our economic problems on Wall Street bailouts, tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans or funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And they won’t tell you that Social Security’s solvency can be resolved with small adjustments, such as raising the payroll tax cap on Social Security taxes for the wealthy or by freezing the estate tax and applying that money to the program.

Those who depend on Social Security — or love someone who does — would do well to pay attention to what’s going on. The next couple of months are critical.

In December, President Obama’s Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform will offer to Congress its recommendations on how to reduce the deficit. Given the make-up of the body, it’s likely that Social Security and Medicare will be targets.

The Commission’s co-chair, for one, famously described older Americans as “greedy geezers” and supported efforts to privatize Social Security. If he’d had his way, those investment accounts by now would have lost 20 percent of their value.

While the Commission has several other known foes of entitlement programs, it also includes US Rep. John Spratt, who promises to continue to work to keep Social Security strong for future generations. South Carolina voters have a unique opportunity to engage their family, their neighbors and the congressman on this matter to make sure he stays true to his commitment.

Social Security, funded with taxes paid by workers and their employers, is a promise between generations that belongs to the people who have worked hard their whole lives to provide for their families.

The program is critical to many of South Carolina’s retirees and their spouses. Don Thacker, 80, says Social Security and Medicare allow him to live at home and get medical care as an outpatient. “Many people live on very limited incomes in South Carolina and have to make choices between food and medicine,” he said. “These programs make a difference.”

Columbia resident Ruby James says, “I worked for many years and then became disabled. I’m able to live now off of my Social Security.” Her daughter’s husband died at a young age, leaving her with three children, one with a disability. Social Security benefits helped two of those children finish college.

Without Social Security, 19.8 million more Americans would be poor, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Without Social Security, 45.2 percent of elderly Americans would live below the poverty line.

But Social Security doesn’t just benefit seniors; children and people with disabilities also depend on the program. The program lifts more than 1 million children out of poverty. And it is is the most important source of income for the 112,000 children living in South Carolina’s grandfamilies, households headed by a grandparent or other relative.

Sue Berkowitz says that her husband and a former roommate would not have been able to attend college if not for Social Security benefits. “So even though we were prior to retirement age, I know two people who are dear to me who it helped.”

While the debate rages about how to manage our national deficit, the loudest voices are spreading fear and misinformation. The rest of us need to make our own voices heard at the polls in November.

Becci Robbins is an organizer with the SC Alliance for Retired Americans. For details about the organization, email scalliance@mindspring.com.

SC AFL-CIO President Donna Dewitt and SC Progressive Network Director Brett Bursey honor US Congressman John Spratt with a plaque at a SC Allilance for Retired Americans party celebrating Social Security’s birthday in Rock Hill on Aug. 13. See more photos here.

On Social Security’s 75th birthday, let’s party with US Congressman John Spratt

To celebrate Social Security’s 75th birthday and honor US Congressman John Spratt for his long service to the Palmetto State, the SC Alliance for Retired Americans invites the public to a party on Friday, Aug. 13, in Rock Hill.

Spratt serves on the President’s Fiscal Reform Commission, which will offer its recommendations to Congress in December that likely will affect programs critical to seniors. Given the make-up of the Commission, the Alliance fears it may vote to cut Social Security benefits or raise the retirement age to reduce the deficit.

Spratt and other guests will talk about the history and current threats to Social Security, and will remind us that the program did not create the deficit and should not be cut to solve it. Social Security has enough money to cover full benefits for nearly 30 years, and has not added a penny to the nation’s budget crisis. In fact, the program is one of America’s greatest success stories, but misinformation has twisted the public debate.

With a $2.6 trillion dollar surplus, Social Security is not bankrupt. The federal government has borrowed most of that to pay for bailouts, two wars, and tax cuts for the wealthy. The government must pay back the loan, as that money belongs to American workers.

Part of Friday’s program will be the release of a new study detailing how much Social Security benefits residents of South Carolina.

The party kicks off at 5:30pm with music by the TransGenerational Jazz Band and free refreshments. Congressman Spratt will speak shortly after 6pm. He will receive a giant card signed by constituents asking him to protect and preserve Social Security and a plaque from the Alliance thanking him for his service.

Someone will get whacking rights to a large “Fat Cat” piñata.

The SC Alliance for Retired Americans thanks our event cosponsors: SC AFL-CIO, SC New Democrats, SC Progressive Network, Rock Hill NAACP, Catawba Central Labor Council, Greater Columbia Central Labor Council.

For details about the event or the SC Alliance for Retired Americans, email scalliance@mindspring.com or call 803-808-3384. Or join us on Facebook.

On 75th anniversary of Social Security, where does Wilson stand?

This weekend on Meet the Press, Republican Leader John Boehner reiterated his support for making deep cuts in Social Security.  South Carolina Democrats met the assertions with criticism, calling on Second District Congressman Joe Wilson to denounce Boehner’s plan to take away the benefits seniors have earned.  Wilson’s silence on this issue and refusal to protest the GOP plan to raise the retirement age to 70 shows just how out of touch with South Carolina he is.

“It’s time for Joe Wilson to show that he’s willing to fight for South Carolina’s seniors,” said South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Carol Fowler.  “He’s made a career out of voting the way his party leadership tells him to, but cutting the benefits that people have worked a lifetime to earn is taking partisanship too far.  It’s time for Joe to stand up for his constituents, not Wall Street Banks and the GOP’s privatization schemes.”

BACKGROUND

Wilson votes with GOP 96.7% of the time. [Washington Post Votes Database, Accessed 8/9/10]

Meet the Press exchange between host David Gregory and Republican Leader John Boehner:

GREGORY: All right. One of the ways you talk about getting your arms around spending was something you suggested back in June. That is that social security, the retirement age, ought to be raised to the age of 70. Is that something that the GOP will campaign on in the fall?

BOEHNER: David, I think it’s time for the American people to have an adult conversation about the problems that we face. These entitlement programs serve tens of millions of Americans and are critically important. We know that these programs are unsustainable in their current form, and I really do think it’s time we sit down and talk to the American people together about how we solve this. I think we need to bring Democrats and Republicans together in order to solve this problem.

GREGORY: You favor raising the retirement age?

BOEHNER: David, there are a lot of options about how you solve these, but I don’t want to get the cart before the horse. I think it’s important to have this conversation. It’s going to be a difficult conversation, but it’s time to have it and come up with solutions done in a bipartisan way to address the problems. [Meet the Press, 8/8/10]

Boehner Said he’d favor raising the Social Security retirement age to 70. Earlier this summer, Boehner outlined his support for raising the Social Security retirement age to 70, tying cost-of-living increases to the consumer price index rather than wage inflation, and limiting payments to those who need them. [Pittsburgh Tribune Review, 6/29/10]

Described support for existing Social Security system as “nostalgia.” Boehner said, “We need the courage to strengthen Social Security for our children and grandchildren. We can’t be blinded by nostalgia for a broken system or casual about the problems it’ll cause our families down the road…” [US Fed News, Boehner Answers Community's Questions, 4/29/05]

Boehner promised agenda of privatizing Social Security if he took Ccarge. In 2006, Boehner said he’d push to privatize Social Security if he was in charge. “If I’m around in a leadership role come January, we’re going to get serious about it.” [Washington Times, 7/31/06]

Ethics Act: Misplaced Trust

By Candy Waites and John Crangle
Common Cause of South Carolina (a member of the SC Progressive Network)

Twenty years after we learned the details of Operation Lost Trust, a federal sting operation that caught legislators, lobbyists and state employees in a net of bribery and drugs, we have a new scandal: Operation Misplaced Trust.

The intense media attention and public outrage that grew out of Lost Trust led to the passage of the State Ethics Act, which banned lobbyists’ gifts to public officials, limited campaign contributions by amount, sources and uses, and attempted to prevent the use of public office for personal gain. Both of us worked hard to pass the act and, as advocates for governmental reform, regarded it as an important accomplishment.

We knew even then that the reforms fell far short of what was needed, but we did not foresee the many nefarious schemes that big-money interests and political opportunists would concoct — or how lax enforcement and lenient interpretations of the act would render it less effective.

Though it was a first step in the critical need for reform, the act was fundamentally flawed. The contribution limits were too high — $1,000 per donor for non-statewide and $3,500 for statewide offices. Corporations were allowed to donate (a practice banned for federal candidates since 1907). Political action committees were allowed to contribute, and the number of PACs was unlimited. Enforcement of the act concerning legislators was left in the hands of the Legislature rather than the State Ethics Commission. Disclosure requirements contained loopholes. Even with restrictions, campaign funds were allowed to be used for non-campaign purposes. Finally, no plan for public financing of elections was considered.

In short, the Ethics Act has created a false confidence in officials and enforcement — a Misplaced Trust.

After 20 years, big corporations and PACs remain the dominant source of campaign money. In fact, some candidates get almost all of their money from big business — telecommunications, banks, insurance, trade associations, real estate, auditors, drug companies, hospitals, doctors and lawyers. PACs have proliferated; even the speaker of the House has a PAC, pumping hundreds of thousands from big donors to receptive legislators. Some candidates for governor receive millions from special interests, much of it from outside the state where dozens of companies all owned by the same person deliver large sums of money to candidates.

Disclosure provisions of the act are dodged. Money is often sent to candidates a few hours before or even after the election to prevent voters from knowing the sources, amounts and uses. Legislative caucuses take in millions but don’t disclose who gave the money or how it was used. Independent expenditures by out-of-state interests buy campaign ads backing candidates without disclosing where the money is coming from.

And of course, enforcement has been lenient and ineffective. The House and Senate Ethics committees have never publicly disciplined a member for violation of the act since it took effect in 1992. The State Ethics Commission determined that Gov. Mark Sanford could use more than $500,000 of his campaign funds to pay his legal costs in fighting ethics charges and impeachment, even allowing him to spend nearly $150,000 to settle some three dozen charges with the commission. All this under a clause in the act that says it is OK to use campaign funds for “ordinary and necessary” expenses relating to office.

In the good ol’ days of Operation Lost Trust, lobbyists and big-money interests could ply legislators and executives with unlimited free liquor, drugs, food, golf trips and cash. Campaign money could be used for any purpose and, in fact, was often pocketed. Bribes were handed out in cash, sometimes $100 to a small-time legislative flunky, sometimes as much as $75,000 to a big-time fixer.

The days of do-it-yourself, every-person-for-himself bribery and extortion are gone forever, free-lancing corruption a thing of the past. Since Lost Trust, our politicians have institutionalized the ways in which big money buys legislation. In place of the pay-off to legislators and individuals, we now have lump-sum payments to leadership PACs and caucuses, which in turn pay the money down from legislative bosses to those who do the voting on command.

And worst of all, today big money often determines who runs for office, who gets elected and what officials do when they take office. We know that change is constant, and if we are to have ethical and financial accountability, it is time for the Legislature to overhaul the Ethics Act of 1991.

Waites was a member of the House-Senate conference committee that drafted the final version of the Ethics Act in 1991. Crangle, executive director of Common Cause/South Carolina since 1986, was the only lobbyist who lobbied for the act.

Remembering Dr. Betty Glad

By Becci Robbins
SC Progressive Network Communications Director

It was with real sadness that I learned this morning that Dr. Betty Glad has died. She was, to flip the aphorism, a woman’s woman. Although I didn’t know her well, I knew well the work she did and admired her moxie. Her obituary tracks a distinguished career that included breaking many gender barriers in academia.

The last time I saw Betty was at a House subcommittee hearing last session at which legislators heard testimony regarding a bill that would require women to view an ultrasound before receiving an abortion. The packed room was thick with tension. When the committee chairman began calling people to the microphone, it became clear that he was giving preference to anti-choice activists, allowing them to go first.

While pro-choice activists shifted in our chairs and exchanged exasperated glances, Betty stood — with her oxygen tank at her side — to say what the rest of us were thinking. She protested the process, demanding that both sides be given equal time. The chairman relented, and called her to the microphone. For the rest of the hearing, the speakers alternated between the two sides.

It was a small victory, but an example of how one woman can make a difference. And she did.

Thank you, Dr. Glad.

Dr. Betty Glad

COLUMBIA – Dr. Betty Glad, 82, died August 2, 2010. She enjoyed a truly distinguished career as a scholar of American politics and foreign policy. She was the Olin D. Johnston Professor of Political Science and Distinguished Professor Emerita at the University of South Carolina. She was an exemplary scholar, an expert on the American Presidency, United States foreign policy, and political psychology. She was the author of Jimmy Carter: In Search of the Great White House; Charles Evans Hughes and the Illusions of Innocence; Key Pittman: The Tragedy of a Senate Insider, and most recently, An Outsider in the White House: Jimmy Carter, His Advisors, and the Making of American Foreign Policy (Cornell University Press, 2009). She was editor or co-editor of The Psychological Dimensions of War; The Russian Transformation, and other books. In addition, she published dozens of articles, book chapters and commentary. Her first book Charles Evans Hughes was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Dr. Glad received a distinguished alumna award from the University of Utah in 2009.

She earned her B.S. degree magna cum laude, and Phi Beta Kappa, from the University of Utah. She received her doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1962. She taught at Mt. Holyoke College, and Brooklyn College, then taught for many years at the University of Illinois “”" Urbana – Champaign. She was also a visiting professor at New York University, 1986-1988. She was one of the first women to earn a Ph.D. in Political Science and then teach at a Ph.D. granting institution. She served as the first woman chair of the University of Illinois Department of Political Science. Dr. Glad joined the University of South Carolina in 1989. She was a dedicated teacher and exemplary mentor to untold numbers of graduate students whose careers were enhanced with her care and guidance. As a pioneer and role model for women throughout the Political Science profession, she also was one of the first women to challenge prevailing conventions and gender discrimination in the discipline, and one of the first to attain national and international stature. As a result, she won many awards for both scholarship and leadership throughout her long career, including the Frank D. Goodnow Award from the American Political Science Association for a lifetime of contributions and service to the discipline, and the Harold Lasswell Award from the International Society for Political Psychology for a lifetime of outstanding contributions to political psychology. She served as President of the International Society for Political Psychology, President of the Presidency Research Section of the American Political Science Association, and Vice-President of the American Political Science Association.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Harluf Glad Anderson and Edna Jeannette Geersten Glad and her niece, Cheryl Jensen, of Salt Lake City, Utah. She is survived by her brother and sister-in-law, Jay and Edris Glad and by her great-nephew and niece, Christine and Jason Stout.

Dr. Glad enjoyed music, ballroom dancing, reading, and good conversation. Among the many virtues contributing to Betty’s success were courage, strength and tenaciousness. She was a democrat and a Democrat (both little and big D) and loved justice.

Dr. Glad will be buried next to her parents in Salt Lake City, Utah. A memorial service will be held in The Rutledge College Chapel on the historic Horseshoe of the University of South Carolina, Columbia, on Sunday, August 8, 2010, at 2 p.m. Dunbar Funeral Home, Devine Street Chapel, is assisting. In lieu of flowers, tax deductable memorials may be sent to: The Betty Glad Legal Defense Fund of the Women’s Caucus for Political Science, c/o Dr. Laura R. Woliver, 425 Dean Hall Lane, Columbia, SC 29209.

Federal voting machine case clears first hurdle

On July 28, Federal Judge Cameron Currie ruled that the SC Election Commission had until Aug. 20 to defend itself against a complaint that the voting machines in South Carolina do not meet federal requirements for record keeping. (For background on the case, see earlier post.)

SC Progressive Network Director Brett Bursey filed the complaint June 17, and the judge gave the parties a month to try and resolve the matter. On July 19, Bursey filed a report that concluded there could be no agreement between the parties regarding an independent audit of the entire voting system.

“I believe that the Election Commission doesn’t want a full system audit for fear that it would conclude — like a recent audit in Iowa did — that these machines should be scrapped.” Bursey said. “We warned the SCEC in 2004 not to buy these machines, and their continued defense of a voting system that cannot reliably tell us who won an election is regrettable.”

Only six states now use a statewide, paper-less system like we have in South Carolina. (Maryland outlawed the paper-less machines last year, but have not funded a replacement.) According to the Verified Voting Foundation, ballots in 38 states are cast on “voter verifiable paper records.”

Email network@scpronet.com to receive regular updates on the lawsuit.

Please consider making a secure donation now to help cover court costs. Indicate in the gift information “verified voting.” Or make a check to SC Progressive Network and mail to PO Box 8325, Columbia SC 29202. We appreciate your support.

NOW Participates in Launch of Campaign to Protect and Strengthen Social Security

By Terry O’Neill
National Organization for Women President

The National Organization for Women is glad to be a part of this large and diverse coalition to strengthen our country’s most important and successful social insurance program–Social Security. Speaking on behalf of NOW’s 500,000 members and contributing supporters, my message is simple: Social Security is especially vital to women, who would be disproportionately harmed by cuts in benefits.

The “three-legged stool of retirement” is meant to consist of a pension, personal savings, and Social Security. But all too often, women have neither a pension nor savings. In fact, fewer than one in three women has income from a pension. Moreover, after a lifetime of wage discrimination, women are far more likely than men to have little in the way of personal savings. The situation for women of color is particularly dire. According to a recent report by the Insight Center, women of color often have no personal savings, or even negative net worth, as they head into retirement.

As a result, Social Security is the mainstay for millions of older women. Every year, a major share of the nearly 24 million women age 62 and older who receive benefits are kept out of poverty because of Social Security. Often that monthly Social Security check is their only income.

We call upon the members of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to act responsibly and reject any effort to reduce entitlement program benefits — now or in the future. Raising the retirement age to 70 would be an especially cruel benefit cut, forcing a hardship on millions of women (and men) who have physically demanding jobs, as our sister organization the Older Women’s League (OWL) has found.

If anything, Social Security benefits should be improved — especially for elderly women, because many exhaust their savings as they grow older, and for disabled, divorced and never-married women who have had modest incomes and have been unable to save and invest for retirement. Reducing benefits for these women would be calamitous.

Rather than cutting Social Security and putting millions of women’s financial security at risk, the Fiscal Commission should address the real causes of the deficit — unfunded wars, irresponsible tax breaks for the wealthiest, and an economic crisis caused by financial regulatory failures. Women are watching the commissioners, but will we be invisible to them?

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If you live in South Carolina, find out how you can help protect Social Security by contacting the SC Alliance for Retired Americans at scalliance@mindspring.com.