PDT Staff Writer
The Shawnee Labor Council, AFL-CIO held a gathering and press conference to generate a discussion about the need to preserve the Social Security and Medicare programs at the U.S.S.A Senior Center Monday.
A group of 15 people, composed of community members, senior citizens and the working class, as well as one city official— First Ward City Councilman Kevin Johnson—came together to discuss the preservation of the Social Security and Medicare, and Medicaid.
The meeting opened with a welcome from Cherice Keyser, of the Shawnee Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and Ohio AFL-CIO.
“We are gathered here today to talk about an issue that touches everyone in our community, I guarantee you it does,” Keyser said.
Keyser told the group that the purpose of the discussion is to look at the federal budget discussions and the upcoming fiscal cliff crisis.
According to the Shawnee Labor Council, AFL-CIO, its mission is to improve the lives of working families, and to bring economic justice to the workplace and social justice.
“We just wanted to gather and do a press conference and have a few speakers to talk about this current issue with the fiscal cliff, and what could possibly happen with the budget in respect to tax breaks for the few percent, versus cuts for some of these important programs for the middle class and working families,” Keyser said.
Keyser distributed two sources of literature to the group with one stating that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid combined deliver $61.3 billion per year into Ohio’s economy.
Speakers for the meeting and press conference included Dr. Chip Poirot, Economics Professor, President of Shawnee Education Association, Renee Ellis, who is the U.S.S.A Center director and Becky Ratliff a local community member.
Poirot prefaced his speech with the disclaimer that he was there to speak as a private citizen.
“The fiscal cliff imposes an austerity program on us, at a time when people have lost their houses, have trouble finding jobs, and the economy still isn’t doing well and when Wall Street has not completely paid us back for bailing them out,” Poirot said.
Poirot said the original fiscal cliff was the financial crisis, which was brought on by reckless and irresponsible behavior.
“And now we are being told that those of us who have suffered the most, those people who have lost their homes, who were on the verge of retirement, who haven’t had jobs, that they need to tighten their belt, not the ones who have caused the crisis need to tighten their belts, but those most in need, need to tighten their belts” Poirot said.
Poirot said programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and education are the programs that are ear-marked to undergo cuts.
Poirot said the solution is not to cut these programs, but to expand them for everyone.
He also encouraged the group that it is important to hold President Barack Obama accountable for promises made concerning governmental programs during his election.
Ellis also addressed the group.
“I don’t see our problems as a Democratic or Republican problem. I see it as human issues,” Ratliff said. “I am an advocate for senior citizens, and I’ve watched the Federal and state dollars shrink and shrink.”
Ellis said the majority of the funding for her programs come from projects and tax payer dollars.
“I don’t feel that it is fair for me to keep coming back to the tax payers in this county and ask them for more money to provide services for older adults. Something has to be done from Washington completely down to Portsmouth,” Ellis said.
Ratliff, a retired, disable community member shared her personal story of how programs such have been beneficial to she and her husband who is now deceased.
“We are here to defend against cuts against Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and all of these other programs that everyone has mentioned,” Ratliff said. “I think this important for a lot of reasons, because I depend on these programs, as well as a lot of other people like me, depend on these programs.”
Ratliff said she and her husband, who is now deceased, worked, and paid their taxes, and conducted their lives as responsible citizens. She said Social Security and Medicare have sustained her and enabled her to deal with the circumstances of becoming disabled, and the death of her husband.
Ratliff also said men and women in the military deserve to be cared for as well.
“If you don’t take anything with you that I say today, remember that there is no way that we should be discussing taking away veterans benefits, just to save a buck,” Ratliff said.
Keyser closed the meeting by encouraging attendees to be proactive with information they have been given by contacting politicians and by signing the petition to push politicians into action.
A brief question and answer session was entertained for attendees to pose any further questions or thoughts they had in regard to the information revealed during the meeting.
For more information, or to sign the petition visit www.aflcio.org.
Portia Williams may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 286 or email@example.com