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Protesters urge Illinois senators to fight proposed Social Security cuts

A woman protests against cuts to Social Security during an event Thursday in downtown Chicago. (Photo by Madeline Reynolds)
A woman protests against cuts to Social Security during an event Thursday in downtown Chicago. (Photo by Madeline Reynolds) Click for slideshow.

With chants of, “It’s our money, not theirs,” several dozen people gathered Thursday at Federal Plaza to protest President Obama’s proposed cuts to veteran and Social Security benefits,

“I was hoping to retire at 62,” said Bill Preston, an Illinois resident who is now 60. “I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

The protest and a petition drive was sponsored by MoveOn.Org. The organization is urging Illinois senators not to support Obama’s proposal to make cuts to Social Security and veteran benefits.

“If I paid for something, I’m entitled to it,” Preston said. “The crazy thing is they’re protecting banks. They’ll bend over backward to bail them out but when it comes to the working people who have paid into it, they make cuts, they raise the retirement age, and make everything positive geared toward the 1 percent of ultra wealthy.”

Other protesters were equally outraged. “There should be no cuts to Social Security ad veterans’ benefits,” said Barbara Murphy, a retired citizen. “How horrendous! To think of cutting for the people who need the benefits the most.”

The petition that the group was advocating for proposes the Government cut the defense budget instead of  Social Security.  It was authored by Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy and currently has 37,377 signatures, with a goal of 40,00.

The petition statement reads: “Instead of cutting Social Security and veterans’ benefits, Congress should cut the bloated Pentagon budget.”

Meg Welch, 50, one of the organizers, works for the Social Security Administration. “For many people, this is their only source of income,” Welch said. “It is a safety net and we just want to remind our senators that their constituents do not support cuts to Social Security. That’s why we’re here today.”

As two representatives brought the petition to the offices of Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), the rest of the group remained out  in the plaza, reciting various call and response chants such as “Social Security! No cuts!” and “Social Security works for me!”

Meredith West, an activist, said her husband suffered from a stroke and is no longer able to work. She said her husband’s company provides them with disability benefits through what he paid into Social Security.

“My husband, myself, and all off us here paid for that program,” West said, “and how dare they reduce that program because they started wars they could not afford?”

Mary Zurkal, another speaker at the protest, talked about how much the government spends on military and government funded programs as opposed to social benefits.

“We just have a crisis of priorities,” Zurkal said. “We’re not putting the money in the right places. Invest in people not the pentagon.”

Citizens who are currently are in retirement and receiving money from these programs are feeling anxious about Obama’s proposal.

“’I’m just starting to get Social Security,” said Judy Bloom, 66, a retiree, “and I’m not going to make it if they start cutting it…And I don’t like cat food.”

Kacy Hintz, Megan Ammer, and Hannah Cole contributed to this story.

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