At a political rally/pizza party for residents of St Germain Manor Thursday, Democratic congressional candidate David Cicilline pledged to "fight with every fiber of my being" to prevent the privatization of Social Security.
Privatization, which Cicilline contends his Republican opponent, John Loughlin, has said might be appropriate for younger workers, would "eliminate Social Security the way we know it and make seniors take their savings, go into the stock market, and gamble your future.
Given the losses the stock market has suffered in recent years, Cicilline noted, "this will put so many of our seniors and people who rely on Social Security at terrible, terrible risk.
When one of the assembled seniors shouted out "It's like going to Foxwoods," Cicilline added "at about the same odds."
The Providence mayor was at the Pawtucket elderly housing complex to kick off what he calls his "Fighting for Social Security Tour." He was joined by Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts and General Treasurer candidate Gina Raimondo, both Democrats. Cicilline campaign signs were taped on virtually every flat surface, carrying the mottos, "Fighting for Social Security" and "Standing Up for Seniors."
Right now, Cicilline said in an interview after the event, Social Security "is working exactly the way it was intended to" when the Social Security Trust Fund was established in 1983 to deal with the demands of the Baby Boom generation. "If we did nothing," he pointed out, "Social Security would start running into challenges in 2037, in about 25 years."
Given the current rate of growth, he said, the trust fund could likely go on "indefinitely.
"This notion that somehow there is a crisis in Social Security is just not true," Cicilline told The Times.
He said there are some "modest steps" that might become necessary to guarantee the stability of Social Security.
One he mentioned is lifting the cap on how much of a person's salary is subject to the Social Security payroll tax, currently set at about $106,000. But he said even that might not be necessary.
The tax used to cover about 90 percent of wages, he said, that is now down to 85 percent.
"We made a promise to seniors in this country," the Providence Democrat said. "We created Social Security 75 years ago. We did that as a country because we wanted to be an America that took care of our seniors. At the last part of their lives, after they had worked hard and played by the rules, that they were entitled to retire and live with dignity and not worry about their retirement security."
Cicilline said that when a resolution came before the General Assembly asking Congress not to privatize Social Security, his opponent Loughlin was one of seven representatives to oppose it.
"We have to do everything we can to protect Social Security and fight privatization," Cicilline declared before he Roberts and Raimondo began distributing pizza slices to the seniors in the St Germain community room.
In an attempt to knock Cicilline off the Social Security message, a Loughlin campaign functionary distributed a letter from Loughlin to Cicilline that said under Cicilline's leadership "Providence has been run as a "sanctuary city'" that did not cooperate with Gov. Donald Carcieri's executive order to crack down on illegal immigrants.
"I am for upholding the rule of law," Loughlin wrote. I believe we should shut off taxpayer benefits to illegal immigrants, particularly given our budget crisis. I believe local law enforcement should cooperate with federal authorities in identifying and deporting people who are in the country illegally.
Loughlin also challenged Cicilline to "join with me in promising to vote against the DREAM Act, which allows illegal immigrants who were brought into this country as children to become documented if they meet certain requirements, such as serving in the armed forces.
"It's time we focus our efforts on shutting off the magnets that encourage people to come here illegally.
Cicilline said he supports the DREAM Act. "It's about making sure we as a country honor the values of young people who come here, study hard, play by the rules and work."
He said America needs a national immigration policy. Separate immigration policies in individual states or individual cities and towns "won't work," he said.