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Activists are attacking remarks by House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) that Congress ought to consider whether women should receive lower Social Security benefits because women live longer than men. Thomas chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees Social Security.

“Shortcomings in the present retirement system already cause harm to women, many of whom are low-wage workers,” says Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. Women earn less than men and are more likely than men to live in poverty and rely solely on Social Security, Ness said. More than 85,000 people have signed an AFL-CIO online petition to strengthen Social Security and defend it against President Bush’s plans to privatize the system and drastically cut benefits in the process.

To sign the petition, visit www.aflcio.org. Working families also sent some 500,000 e-mail messages to Bush and members of Congress, urging them to protect the country’s most successful family security program. Bush’s allies are raising millions of dollars for an election-style campaign to privatize Social Security, replacing guaranteed benefits with risky private accounts. Bush’s privatization plan would saddle future generations with $2 trillion in debt.

Meanwhile, the AFL-CIO told the trade group Securities Industry Association (SIA) to stop pushing private Social Security accounts that would put workers’ retirement at risk but give SIA members a $940 billion windfall in fees. “Support for privatizing Social Security creates a conflict of interest for the member firms of the SIA like those that led to the financial industry scandals of recent years,” AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said in a letter to SIA Chairman Daniel Ludeman.


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