William E. Gibson of the Sun-Sentinel looks at how talk about changing Social Security have got people fretting in Florida.
All five of the House districts with the largest numbers of Social Security recipients are in Florida. The state as a whole is second only to California in the total number of retirees.
Three of the nation’s top five districts are in southern Florida. But the district with the most Social Security recipients is a fast-growing, less-affluent area along the west coast north of Tampa. In Florida’s fifth district, where spreading suburbs are lined by orange groves, one of every four residents is retired.
Their representative in Congress was seething last week about an anonymous telephone message that tells her constituents: “Hi. I am calling to alert you that your congresswoman, Ginny Brown-Waite, supports privatizing Social Security. This plan would cost taxpayers two trillion dollars. It would also decrease future benefits to retirees by 47 percent.”
The same phone message came to homes in South Florida.
Rep. Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville, quickly issued a statement denouncing the message and asserting in bold letters: “I WILL NOT VOTE TO PRIVATIZE SOCIAL SECURITY.”
“The older people who got these calls just had a stressful night,” she said, after her office received 200 calls about the phone message. “I have so many seniors for whom this is the only income they have, people who have worked hard all their lives and moved to Florida to get out of the snow. It makes me especially attuned to the need for equity and making sure the Social Security recipients are held harmless and their Social Security is not cut in any form.”
“My husband lost two-thirds of his retirement savings on Wall Street, where George Bush wants to put Social Security,” said Florence Pettinger, 62, of Sunrise, her voice shaking with emotion. ” The truth is there is nothing wrong with Social Security. We have other crises, with Medicare and Iraq, but Social Security is solvent. This is our hard-earned money, and George Bush should leave it alone.”
Many Democrats favor reversing some of the recently enacted tax cuts to help finance the program.
“For the most part, the people in my district are against the president’s plan. They are generally in favor of the notion of personal accounts if they are funded by a different source other than diverting Social Security funds,” said Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton, whose district in parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties has the nation’s second largest recipient population. “I think they overwhelmingly support rescinding the president’s tax cuts and putting money back into Social Security.”
Gee, that sounds like a great idea! Haven’t I heard that before? Oh yeah – John Kerry proposed that, and so did Al Gore. Hmmm.