Meriden Record-Journal: Murphy opposes Medicare, Social Security changes

May 17 2011

For the original article, please visit the Meriden Record-Journal.

MERIDEN - The senior center's bingo room filled to capacity Monday as U.S. Rep. Christopher S. Murphy, D-5th District, spoke against proposed changes to Medicare and Social Security. "They're trying to privatize Medicare while also handing Social Security over to Wall Street," Murphy said. "It's all under assault today."

Also speaking against the changes was former U.S. Rep. Barbara Kennelly, D-1st District, who also has served as president of a national committee to preserve Social Security and Medicare. John Hogarth, senior center director, said the forum was intended to inform seniors about the proposed changes, which also will affect those who are not yet retired.

"It's a new concept and something they might not be aware of," he said. "But I don't think that the proposed changes will be too different for seniors, but more for the middle-aged."

Murphy and Kennelly, who is now with Social Security Works, an advocacy group, spoke against Republican plans to privatize Medicare and Social Security as a way of reducing the nation's budget deficit.

Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who is chairman of the House Budget Committee, recently proposed shifting Medicare to insurance companies and having seniors use vouchers as a way to pay for medical care. Republicans have majority control in the House.

Members of moveon.org, a left-leaning political action organization that focuses on national issues, came in support of Murphy and Kennelly, distributing flyers that read: "Take Medicare off the table."

"We'll have to support our seniors because we'll all be one, one day," said Jeff Thomas, a Danbury resident and moveon.org member.

Kennelly and Murphy said Republican plans to raise the retirement age by five years because people are living longer would only increase the ranks of the unemployed. Congress instead should look to raise the wage base cap, the upper limit on the amount of earnings taxed for Social Security, they said.

"Raising the retirement age for some jobs just wouldn't work," Murphy said. "You just can't ask a guy in a mine to put in another five years."

The speakers also said the two programs aren't adding to the nation's enormous deficit. Medicare has low administration costs and is funded through money set aside from paychecks, they said. "It's a myth that people on Social Security are living high on the hog," Murphy said. "There's no extravagance there."

Ana Gonzalez, a Meriden senior, came to the forum to find out more about the plan to change the two programs.

"They should keep it the way it is," she said after the meeting. "I just don't think it's right." Kennelly asked the seniors to tell legislators that they need these programs to help not only them, but their children and grandchildren.

"The citizens of the United States of America have to speak up," she said.

Following his talk with seniors, Murphy said he doesn't think the proposed changes to the programs will pass through Congress.

"They're trying to destroy Medicare and they won't be successful at it," he said. "There are thousands of meetings that people are going to all over the country."

Not everyone who attended the forum agreed with Murphy and Kennelly, however.

"That's full of baloney," said Arline Dunlop, a Meriden Libertarian, who said the retirement age should be raised.