Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Representatives of the National Gray Panthers went to Capitol Hill in November to present their position regarding Social Security. They spoke with members of the Deficit Commission and presented their counter proposals against anticipated recommendations by the Commission to cut Social Security benefits.

Susan Murany, Executive Director of the national Gray Panthers, told the Commission: "For 75 years, Social Security has remained a promise of economic protection and stability for the Americans who have paid into this program. As we now celebrate three-quarters of a century of accomplishments for this program, we must also do our part to ensure that Social Security is not weakened by those who wish to balance bailouts on the backs of Americans."


Social Security is America's most successful anti-poverty program and remains the most fiscally responsible part of our federal budget. In fact, recent polls from the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare indicate that 85% of adult Americans are opposed to cuts to Social Security to decrease the deficit. However, while many Americans remain united on this issue, Social Security continues to face threats from increased polarization in Congress and those with anti-entitlement agendas.

The 2010 Social Security Trustees report shows that Social Security is not facing an immediate threat. The surplus within the Social Security trust fund is estimated to grow to $4.3 trillion by 2023 and remain able to pay benefits in full through 2037, and 76% of benefits thereafter. Yet, the opposition continues to project "doomsday" crisis reports and myths to the American public in their efforts to garner support for cuts to the Social Security program.

Proponents of these cuts, such as House Republican Leader Joe Boehner, would rather cut Social Security in order to pay for the war in Afghanistan. Outrageously, Boehner stated that, "Ensuring there's enough money to pay for the war will require reforming the country's entitlement system." Boehner also calls for increasing the Social Security eligibility age. However, a raise in the Social Security eligibility age would result in about a 20% benefit cut for recipients, hurting lower income beneficiaries working in manual labor and those with shorter life expectancy the most.

While it is evident that our government must make tough decisions to revive our down-turned economy, it is important to remember that cuts to Social Security would not only hurt seniors, but will also detrimentally affect people with disabilities, people who are unemployed, and women and children of deceased spouses/parents. Cuts to this program stand to unfairly burden the most vulnerable populations of Americans. While Former Senator Alan Simpson, the Co-chair of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, declares that the “Gray Panthers [...] don’t care a whit about their grandchildren…", we adamantly refute his comment and we vow to continue working to ensure that Social Security remains there for them in their future.


Gray Panthers oppose any efforts to cut benefits! Instead of balancing the budget on the backs of Social Security recipients, especially those most dependent on its benefits, here are some of the proposals we support:

- Eliminate the annual cap on taxable income and raise that cap so that wealthier people are paying more to Social Security. Under current law, wages over a certain yearly total ($106,800 in 2010) are exempted from Social Security payroll taxes. This means that a worker earning $106,800 a year pays the same amount of FICA taxes as a CEO who makes millions of dollars a year.

- Let the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire. The revenues gained from these expirations are far more than enough to fill current state budget deficits for the next ten years while still leaving an additional $2.76 trillion dollars left over to promote further economic recovery. There is no place for tax cuts in a deficit reduction proposal as were suggested by the Chairmen of the Deficit committee last week!

- End the wars. Funds saved from Social Security should not be used to pay for wars; rather, we should cut funds for wars to finance Social Security. The Gray Panthers support the Chairmen’s proposed cuts to Defense spending, but more cuts can and should be made!

- Extend outreach and enrollment. Gray Panthers believes that not only should Social Security be kept intact, but that outreach should be increased and enrollment expanded to get a greater number of older adults in poverty into the program.

The retirement age increase proposed by the Commission is just a particularly cruel way of cutting benefits. The age at which the elderly can retire on full Social Security benefits is already increasing to 67 by 2027. The chairmen’s plan would “index” the retirement age to increase in longevity, meaning it would hit 68 in about 2050 and 69 in about 2075.

New York Times opinion columnist Paul Krugman has pointed out, http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/10/unserious-people-2/, that “the people who really depend on Social Security, those in the bottom half of the distribution, aren’t living much longer. So you’re going to tell janitors to work until they’re 70because lawyers are living longer than ever."

Is this how a humane society proposes to care for its less fortunate? Not if the Gray Panthers have anything to say about it!

Thursday, November 11, 2010


A remarkable Skype conference was held Tuesday, Nov. 9, at which three New York City peace grannies and a California high school peace class spoke at length with seven members of the Afghan Youth Peace Conference (AYPC) in a mutual desire to end the war in Afghanistan. The conference meant so much to the Afghan kids that they came from distant valleys and stayed overnight in a mud-house in order to participate.

For over an hour, the grannies, the U.S. students and Afghan youthful peacemakers all exchanged ideas and expressions of solidarity and affection in what they hope will be a step toward ending the unjustified hostilities in that besieged country. The seven Afghan kids spoke over and over of their desire for Americans to recognize that they are human beings just like us; they spoke of the losses they have suffered because of the war and their fervent wish for it to end. "Tell your government to stop bombing and killing our people," pleaded one of the boys.

The grandmothers were extremely impressed with the intelligence and grasp of issues demonstrated by the youngsters. Two of the grannies, Miriam Poser and Barbara Walker, told the kids they would like to visit them in their small village in the Bamiyam province 100 miles NW of Kabul, and are now making plans to go in April of 2011 "with bags of healthy treats and all kinds of school supplies."

A member of New York City's Grandmothers Against the War conceived the idea of "adopting" the Afghan youths after reading a stirring article on an online blog written by members of Voices for Creative Nonviolence (VFCN) who had spent a week with them.

She contacted as many peace associates as she could find and got an overwhelmingly positive response of support from people and groups as diverse as the Atlanta (GA) Grandmothers for Peace and the New York City chapter of the Gray Panthers, plus many individuals such as Gold Star Families activist Dede Miller and her sister, Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan; Lorraine Krofchok, President of Grandmothers for Peace International; Barbara Harris of the Granny Peace Brigade, and so many more.

Dede Miller suggested organizing for a Peace Summit through Skype between the Afghan kids and U.S. high school peace groups and arranged for the peace club of Tracy High School in Cerritos, led by teacher and Military Families Speak Out member, Pat Alviso, to join in the dialogue.

One Afghan kid made the startling statement, "Please tell them (the U.S. government) to stop sending money to our country" in answer to a California student's question, "What should our governments do to bring about peace?" The Afghan boy explained that he had heard of widespread corruption and the result that money never reaches its target, the people in need, but instead is gobbled up by the powerful and rich.

He urged instead that we reach out with their message of peace. The children never asked for any material aid, partly because they are skeptical about their postal service, but mostly out of the purity and urgency of their desire to stop the conflict raging around them. The grandmothers promised to reach out in every way possible, and one of the California students said "We'll do our best to open the eyes of America."

Their admirable leader, Hakim, a young doctor from Singapore who has been mentoring the Afghan group for several years and acted as interpreter for the Skype meeting, stated that they don't believe either government is listening to the people's voices and we must change that. We grannies and our Tracy High School compatriots ardently hope that we can in some small measure be an effective part of that change.

As one boy said, quoting an Afghan proverb, "Mountains can't reach mountains, but man can reach man."

(If any of you reading this article are interested in lending your support to this project, even if only to endorse it, please contact me at joanwile@grandmothersagainstthewar.org)

Monday, November 1, 2010


Glenn Beck recently attacked the National Gray Panthers in his Fox TV broadcast Sept. 28, implying they, along with other organizations supporting the One Nation Working Together March in Washington DC on Oct. 2, were "dangerous revolutionaries, communists, and socialists." The evidence he offered for this off-the-wall and completely false characterization of the Panthers was the their slogan, "People Over Profits." He sneeringly repeated it twice as if it were an evil phrase akin to someone saying, for instance, "Let's invade Canada."

Nasty as this was intended to be, the Panthers really are grateful to Mr. Beck for stressing (though contemptuously) a vision they are so proud of. Yes, they put people before profits. They fight for more affordable health care, which would cut into the obscene profits of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. They fight to end the catastrophic wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which would reduce the profits of the arms manufacturers and potential profits of the oil companies while keeping people alive. They fight to keep Social Security from being privatized, thereby slashing the profits Wall Street would hope to make at people's expense. These are just a few of the many battles the Panthers wage on behalf of citizens young and old.

Watching Beck's broadcast was a truly bizarre experience. To attempt to prove his contention that the slogan, "People Over Profits," was indicative of a Communist stance, he dragged out before the camera a tiny pamphlet dating back to 1981 which also stated the phrase, and which was printed by the U.S. Communist Party. One wonders how many thousands of times that phrase has been written and shouted over the years by thousands of people representing many different organizations -- middle-of-the-road groups, very likely, or even occasionally, dare it be said, conservative ones?

Beck's broadcast was crazy in other respects, too -- no surprise, of course. He followed his diatribe against the Gray Panthers by disdainfully emphasizing the word ALL in their mission statement, "Working for social and economic justice and peace for ALL people," implying that justice and peace should only be an option for some. Who would Glenn Beck leave out? This is indeed a dangerous man!

Despite poisonous right-wing fanatics like Glenn Beck, however, the Panthers are resolute in their dedication to the very principles he disparages, "working to create a society that puts the needs of people over profit, responsibility over power and democracy over institutions."