NORTH HAVEN, Conn. -- Chanting "Social Security - for every generation - not just me," angry retirees lined the street outside the headquarters of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon on Monday, protesting her call for a "sunset provision" for Social Security and Medicare. Passing motorists honked in approval of the "Hands off my Social Security" signs, as guitarist Bill Collins taught the crowd his new song, "Pushing back against Linda's lies."
Ending Social Security and privatizing Medicare would push more than 150,000 Connecticut seniors into poverty and increase retirement health care costs by more than $50,000 for over 500,000 adults nearing retirement across the state.
Monday's lively rally was prompted by a video released on Huffington Post last week of the speech by McMahon at a tea party gathering in April. In the video McMahon states, "We cannot continue doing things the way we are doing with Social Security. We're just simply going to be bankrupt. And I do believe that, that there are ways to look at, you know, what we're trying to do when we put Social Security in place? We didn't go back and review it. In other words, I believe in sunset provisions when we pass this kind of legislation, so that you take a look at it 10, 15 years down the road to make sure that it's still going to fund itself."
Asked for clarification while visiting a Bridgeport senior center, McMahon said she does not favor ending Social Security or Medicare for those currently receiving benefits, but wants to "re-look" at the programs. She endorsed the idea of turning Medicare into a voucher program, which is being promoted by Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.
"I find Linda McMahon's statements extremely troubling," said former Connecticut Congresswoman Barbara Kennelly, who directed the Campaign to Save Social Security and Medicare. "I'm sure as a candidate running for the United States Senate, Mrs. McMahon must realize that Social Security, along with Medicare, are evaluated not every decade, but every single year by a Board of Trustees," said Kennelly.
Referring to the report issued this year on April 23 which found sufficient funds through 2033 and projects enough revenue beyond that date for 75% of benefits, Kennelly said, "That hardly seems like a program teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, as Mrs. McMahon claims. It also belies her claim that when she called for programs such as Social Security to be 'sunset,' she was merely referring to a review, not a termination of the program. Connecticut's workers, who have Social Security taxes taken out of every single payroll check, have a right to expect their Senators to share their commitment to Social Security, our nation's most popular and effective program."
The retirees at Monday's rally, mostly teachers and clerical workers, were joined by active union members and youth, some of whom had been part of a "Billionaires for Ryan" protest of Ryan's visit the day before in West Hartford.
McMahon has steered away from any specifics in her program. But her connections to extreme tea party policies are becoming clear. Ryan and John McCain, who was stumping for McMahon, in Danbury, are both on record in favor of privatizing Social Security and Medicare.
Meeting with seniors in Hartford, Chris Murphy, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate and currently congressman from the 5th District, emphasized his ongoing support for Social Security and Medicare. "I have been fighting to preserve and protect Social Security and Medicare against the right-wing Republican attempts to privatize and dismantle them because I know how important these programs are for local seniors," he said.
"But Linda McMahon not only supports the Ryan plan to dismantle Medicare, she proposed an even more extreme plan to end Social Security," Murphy said. "This is not what Connecticut seniors want, and I am going to keep talking to voters about my record fighting for them, and my opponent's record and her plans that would be devastating for Connecticut seniors and middle class families.
Photo: Seniors line the street in front of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon's North Haven, Conn. office to protest her comment that she would "sunset" Social Security and Medicare. Mary Ellen Crawford.