Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
A distant crash came from the upper floors of Parrish. “That sound you hear is Bush shredding the safety net,” said a voice from the crowd. The Swarthmore College Young Democrats and the DelCo Action Seniors held a rally yesterday on the steps of Parrish to fight President Bush’s Society Security plan. Speakers included former senatorial candidate Joe Hoeffel, 2006 senatorial candidate Chuck Pannachio, and former congressional candidate Paul Scoles. The speakers portrayed Bush’s plan as an attempt to dismantle a vital program that keeps many seniors out of poverty.
Bree Bang-Jensen ’07, the president of the Swarthmore Democrats, introduced the rally, saying “The only way Bush can win is by dividing us….the strongest moral values come from caring about each other.” The next speaker was Cy Kornblum, the co-chair of the DelCo Action Seniors and immediate evidence of the inter-generational cooperation of the event. He gave general background on Social Security’s current state, concluding that Bush has “deliberately built up debt because it gives him a wonderful opportunity to cut programs that benefit low and middle income people.” He referred to Social Security as “the most dependable retirement program in the US,” and said that without its benefits, the poverty rate among seniors would rise from 10% to 48%.
Pennachio, a history professor at the University of the Arts who hopes to challenge Senator Rick Santorum in 2006 (he is currently the only officially declared Democratic candidate), said that Social Security is “not a pension program, it is a contract with all Americans…[Bush’s plans are] part of a systematic campaign to dismantle the positive role of government in our lives,” a point which he reinforced while speaking with the Gazette. He said Bush and his political allies are merely “looking out for their own interests” in this reform.
Hoeffel, who did unexpectedly well in his attempt to unseat Arlen Specter from the Senate last November, said that the proposal would “put all of us further in debt,” including both individuals and the government. This proposal, he said “does not address the solvency issue…Social Security does have a problem, but the real problem is in about ten years,” referring to a coming health care crisis. Like Pennachio, he argued that the proposal aims to destroy the trust Americans feel in their government.
Alice Hoffman, the co-chairman of the DelCo Action Seniors pointed out the cooperation inherent in both Social Security and the rally. “All ages are united in recognizing that Social Security is an intergenerational insurance transfer…we mutually care, grandparents about their grandchildren, children about their parents…”
Next, John Briscoe, the Director of Development at the National Congress of Churches, spoke briefly on Social Security’s health, arguing that a declining number of dependents make the shortfall small and “relatively easy to solve.” He also noted his faith in Swarthmore students, saying “Give me 20 Swarthmore students and a bus and we can take over the world.”
Scoles, a failed candidate for Curt Weldon’s congressional seat, touched much of the same ground as the other speakers. “It’s necessary for each generation to care for others; that’s true American values,” he said. He accused Republicans of manufacturing a crisis. In a popular note, he proposed that a living wage would solve many of the problems by raising the quality of living and revenue from payroll taxes.
Swarthmore College Young Democrats Vice President Jon Petkun concluded the rally with an energetic speech arguing that Social Security is, in fact, sexy, and managed a Screw metaphor, referring to the plan as Screw the Needy. He didn’t cut the gravity, though. “This discussion is about charting a course for the future of this nation.”
Micaela Baranello is an occasional member of the Swarthmore College Young Democrats but did not participate in the planning of this rally.