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Official vows to fight efforts to privatize Social Security

March 21, 1999|By JULIE E. GREENE

MAUGANSVILLE - Local AFL-CIO members gathered Saturday morning for a workshop on Social Security as the union organization prepares to lobby against privatization.

"We want to strengthen Social Security and we want to fight any efforts to privatize it," said Tom Bradley Jr., the AFL-CIO's education coordinator for the Northeast Region.

"Privatization is a scheme of Wall Street brokers to get their hands on about $240 billion over 10 to 12 years. Privatization would not guarantee anybody benefits," Bradley said.

Bradley led the three-hour workshop, which about 50 people attended at the United Auto Workers Local 171 Hall on Maugans Avenue.

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Robert Cunningham, 80, of Hagerstown, said before the workshop that if the federal government had left Social Security alone, there wouldn't be so many worries today.

"They've taken billions of dollars out of it," said Cunningham, a Mack Trucks retiree who began contributing to Social Security in 1937.

Bradley told local union members that the federal government can help save Social Security and listed three proposals the AFL-CIO is supporting.

Social Security can pay out 100 percent of benefits to its participants until 2032, Bradley said.

If Congress approves President Clinton's proposal to contribute most of the budget surplus to Social Security and Medicare, then Social Security will be able to pay 100 percent of benefits until 2049, he said.

Second, the union group wants the federal government to raise the salary cap on the Social Security tax.

U.S. residents pay Social Security taxes on the first $72,000 of their income and none after that, Bradley said.

"If you make $72,000 a year, you pay as much into Social Security as Bill Gates does," Bradley said.

The union group wants to raise the cap to $100,000, which would extend Social Security's ability to pay 100 percent of its benefits until 2072, he said.

Finally, the union group wants the minimum wage raised to boost the Social Security fund, Bradley said.

Just because Social Security has some flaws doesn't mean the program should be gutted and privatized, Bradley said.

Under privatization, citizens could direct their own investments through individual accounts.

The only guarantee with a privatized system is that stockbrokers will get paid their fees, Bradley said.

The Central Maryland chapter of the AFL-CIO has 12,000 members in Washington County, said Woody McNemar, president. The group includes members from every union in the area except the Teamsters, he said.

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