Wellstone opposes privatizing Social Security

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Senator Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) lashed out at Bush administration plans to privatize Social Security at a July 15 press conference here.

“After all that we have seen over the last weeks on Wall Street – the accounting scandals, the inflated earnings statements, CEOs making off with ordinary workers’ pensions – how in the world can we talk about taking Americans’ money of last resort and socking it into the stock market?” Wellstone asked as he announced his support of the pledge not to privatize Social Security, initiated by the Campaign for America’s Future.

Speaking to an audience of retirees and trade unionists, Wellstone outlined what’s at stake for the 740,000 Minnesotans who receive Social Security benefits. “Social Security needs to be protected and strengthened, not taken apart,” Wellstone said. “That is exactly what all of these privatizations schemes would accomplish, and I think it will be an important issue in this race.”

The White House and the ultra right have targeted Wellstone, who is running for re-election for a third term in a closely watched race. Wellstone’s positions on issues – from opposing privatizing Social Security, to writing legislation to curb corporate agribusiness and support for family farms; from his readiness to fight Big Oil plans to drill in the Alaska National Wildlife refuge to his positions challenging the drug and medical insurance companies – have made his re-election a testing ground for the Bush administration policies.

The Republican Party’s hand-picked challenger, former St. Paul mayor Norm Coleman, has said he is willing to look at a range of options for Social Security. The Bush administration has been pushing for diverting Social Security revenues into the stock market through establishment of private investment accounts. Last week President Bush was in the Twin Cities for a fundraiser for Coleman’s campaign continuing the White House drive to use politcal appearances to support key Congressional candidates.

Undaunted by the targeting of Wellstone, the Minnesota AFL-CIO will kick off its Labor 2002 Campaign on July 22 at a rally with AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. The 400,000 members of the Minnesota AFL-CIO, nearly 20 percent of all Minnesotans, are organizing massive voter registration and mobilization in the 2002 elections. They gave Wellstone an early endorsement based on his 100 percent pro-working families voting record this year.

The Minnesota AFL-CIO asked both Wellstone and Coleman to pledge not to privatize Social Security, calling it “our nation’s most important safety net.” Only Wellstone agreed.

“Social Security is not in crisis. It is not broken. It is not facing bankruptcy,” Wellstone said. “But Social Security is threatened today by proposals to replace the system with individual investment accounts. Let’s keep the security in social security.”

The author can be reached at jleblanc@pww.org