IAM Retiree Hits Airwaves to Push Social Security Expansion

In a Progressive Leaders Forum that aired on Sirius XM 127’s “The Agenda” radio show, IAM Retiree Diane Fleming joined Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and other Social Security advocates to discuss new ways to strengthen the country’s social safety net.

Republicans in Congress have relentlessly targeted Social Security for cuts, even though the program doesn’t contribute to the national deficit – in fact; it has a $2.7 trillion surplus.

“I just think it would be so devastating to our economy if Social Security was cut,” said Fleming, a 39-year United Airlines employee who had her pension slashed after the airline went bankrupt. “We would have more homeless people. People would not even be able to eat, let alone be healthy. Why would we create such havoc when it’s not necessary?”

Without the pension she was once promised, Fleming now relies on Social Security, along with a part-time job, to make ends meet. When Fleming’s father died when she was 3 years old, her mother collected Social Security to help raise her and her younger sister. Her mother, now 92, relies on Social Security for almost all of her living expenses.

When Sen. Harkin’s father became ill with black lung disease and could no longer work in the mines, his family also needed the benefits.

“Social Security enabled us to stay together as a family,” Harkin says. “Without Social Security, I don’t know what we would have done.”

Harkin, who is Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, is proposing legislation that would raise monthly Social Security payments by about $65 and tie cost-of living adjustments not to the benefit-cutting chained-CPI but to the more accurate CPI-E. Using the CPI-E formula would result in greater payouts for beneficiaries.

The Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013 would also raise the Social Security tax cap so the wealthiest people pay the same rate as the rest of us. Social Security would be able to pay out full benefits to the year 2049.

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