On Wednesday, President Obama made huge news by saying for the first time that we must expand Social Security benefits — not cut them. This represents a sea change from 2012 when the White House was pushing to cut benefits as part of a “grand bargain” with Republicans.
THIS IS A GIANT WIN FOR PROGRESSIVES.
And it didn’t happen in a vacuum. Three years of activism by PCCC members and progressive allies led to 7 senators, then nearly all Democratic senators, then the majority of House Democrats, and then both Democratic candidates for president supporting expanding — not cutting — Social Security. And now, a sitting president. Activism matters. Together, we made history.
In 2 weeks, we have an opportunity to etch this victory in stone. That’s when a small committee of 15 Democrats will start writing the 2016 Democratic Platform.
Sign the petition to the platform drafting committee. Tell them to make sure it reflects big progressive ideas that have risen to the forefront in recent years — starting with expanding Social Security, and also including debt-free college, breaking up too-big-to-fail banks and monopolies, paid family leave, a $15 min wage, banning for-profit prisons, ending fracking, a carbon tax to fight climate change, restoring voting rights, grand jury reform, public financing of congressional elections, overturning Citizens United, massive infrastructure investment, and ending the revolving door between Wall Street and government.
In 2013, PCCC co-founders Stephanie Taylor and Adam Green met with Elizabeth Warren shortly after her victory. In the course of a wide-ranging conversation, they brought up how hard PCCC members and progressive allies had been fighting against proposed Social Security cuts.
Elizabeth Warren informed the PCCC for the first time that two of her colleagues had bills to expand Social Security benefits. Stephanie and Adam stared at each other in disbelief.
This idea had been written about by progressive thinkers, ranging from Duncan Black to Heather Parton. But now, with legislation from a red-state senator and a senator from the first presidential state of Iowa, there was an opportunity to fundamentally shift the debate.
A few months later, a group of progressive leaders met in a side room at the Netroots Nation conference in San Jose. We made a joint decision to shift our advocacy from merely fighting cuts to calling for expanding Social Security benefits to meet seniors’ true needs.
Represented in that room were the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Social Security Works, Democracy for America, MoveOn, Progressives United, CREDO Action, Daily Kos, Netroots Nation, Color of Change, the AFL-CIO, and the Working Families Party. Dozens of other organizations, ranging from the National Organization for Women to Latinos for a Secure Retirement, would later mobilize on this issue.
The following month, the PCCC joined with allies to poll states such as Iowa, Texas, Kentucky, Colorado, and Hawaii. Expanding Social Security was popular by 2-to-1 or 3-to-1 margins everywhere, while cuts were supported by no more than 15% of voters anywhere.
A progressive platform is popular with the public. Sign the petition to the platform drafting committee telling them to ensure it reflects big progressive ideas that have risen to the forefront in recent years — starting with expanding Social Security.
In late 2013, corporate-funded think tank Third Way attacked Elizabeth Warren on the pages of Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal for her endorsement of expanding Social Security. PCCC members fought back, leading to many of Third Way’s own co-chairs resigning!
In 2014, the momentum continued. PCCC members were the #1 grassroots supporters of Senator Brian Schatz (Hawaii) as he fended off a conservative primary challenge by running on expanding Social Security. Congressman Mike Honda (California) and now-Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (New Jersey) also won competitive primaries after running on this issue.
In January 2015, the Progressive Change Institute’s “Big Ideas” polling showed that likely 2016 voters supported expanding Social Security benefits by 70% to 15% — a landslide. It also showed other big ideas like debt-free college and massive infrastructure investment enormously popular.
In March 2013, as we and our grassroots allies kept the volume high, Elizabeth Warren’s leadership got us from 7 senators to 42 senators in support of expansion. (It’s now 43 of 46 Democrats.) Our allies in the Congressional Progressive Caucus got a majority of House Democrats on the record supporting expansion.
In the past year, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have both said they will not cut Social Security — and each have plans to expand benefits. And we’ve come full circle with President Obama now saying, “It is time we finally made Social Security more generous and increase the benefits so that today’s retirees and future generations get the dignified retirement that they have earned.”
After signing, you can Tweet at the members of the platform committee, and we will deliver this petition to them before they start work on June 17.
This can totally happen. The committee drafting the Democratic Platform includes progressive members of Congress like Barbara Lee, Elijah Cummings, and Keith Ellison and environmental hero Bill McKibben. This is potentially a once in a lifetime opportunity. Sign the petition today.