LAS VEGAS – Corporate welfare kings and extremist ideologues are threatening working families, senior citizens, government employees and the labor movement, American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. told the Alliance for Retired Americans.
“Today, in our new gilded age, corporate profits are the largest share of our gross domestic product in history, while wages are the smallest share ever. And income for the typical American family is down 9 percent, adjusted for inflation, since 1999,” Cox said in a speech Monday afternoon at the Alliance’s National Membership Convention.
“People are working harder for less money, while those who have retired struggle more than ever to keep their heads above water with the vanishing of the defined benefit pension – all while big business grabs more money than it knows what to do with.”
Instead of slashing government programs and services that benefit the neediest Americans, policy makers should be focused on creating American jobs, raising the minimum wage and ensuring a secure retirement for working men and women, Cox said.
Years of austerity policies have taken a severe toll on the nation’s ability to govern effectively, he said. Nowhere is this more evident than at the Social Security Administration, where senior citizens and individuals with disabilities are encountering longer wait times for assistance as a result of staffing vacancies and office closings brought about by severe budget cuts.
“The SSA is saying ‘forget the field offices, just go to the Internet.’ They want to turn the SSA into Amazon.com. There’s a heck of an idea – after all, the government has such a great track record at building user-friendly websites,” Cox said. “Do these administrators have even a hint of a clue who they’re serving? Do they have the slightest notion that this is the segment of the population least likely to use a computer and go online? Are they remotely aware that 40 percent of seniors – 17 million people – do not use the Internet?”
Legislation introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York would restore SSA services that have been decimated and keep more field offices open. AFGE supports the bill, and Cox urged members of the Alliance for Retired Americans to show their support as well.
“By working together, representing two vital constituencies, we have a far greater chance of success than any of us do on our own,” he said.