Hundreds of Californians traveled to Bakersfield from all over the state to express their frustration and fears surrounding Social Security cuts and cuts to Medicare. This has come after the Republican party proposed to increase the age of eligibility for social security from 65 to 70. This means that aging adults would need to remain in the workforce for five more years until they can qualify for healthcare under Medicare or Social Security benefits.
Lupe Martinez from The Delano Guardians shares, “This really matters because I am on Social Security and my brother is on Social Security. He is in a skilled nursing home and there is no way we are going to afford it if there are cuts.”
Kevin McCarthy is the current congressman for the 20th congressional district and is the speaker of the house. As one of the most powerful members of the GOP, McCarthy is influential in the proposals by the GOP specifically over cuts to programs crucial to his constituents.
The California Alliance for Retired Americans (CARA) highlighted that McCarthy has a “shameful history on Social Security.” This includes his book “Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders” in which he specifically proposes massive cuts in Social Security benefits.
According to CARA in 2010 McCarthy openly supported a plan that would have removed trillions of dollars from the Social Security Trust Fund and given it to private accounts. Then in 2011, he voted to raise the Social Security retirement age and cut benefits. CARA explained that this same year he voted in favor of a Balanced Budget Amendment. This amendment’s provisions planned on having automatic Social Security benefit cuts. Current proposals by the GOP are causing groups like CARA to mobilize and voice their concerns to GOP leaders like Kevin McCarthy.
CARA organized this gathering which took place on March 17th at Yokuts Park. Just steps away from Yokuts Park is McCarthy’s office which CARA hoped to get a meeting with. He rejected all offers for a meeting with the group to hear their testimonies and mission for Social Security and Medicare. Although the meeting with McCarthy couldn’t take place, the group decided to still march from Yokuts park to McCarthy’s office.
One of the attendees was Sandy Reding, President of the California Nurses Association and vice president of National Nurses United. Reding is also a local operating room nurse.
“I have seen way too many times what happens when people cannot afford care,” said Reding. “One time when I was pushing a child ready to go into surgery, an admitting clerk came and stopped me and said they don’t have insurance and there is a language barrier.”
Reding explained she had to take a lot of additional steps to admit the child into surgery over cost barriers.
“Nurses shouldn’t have to fight this hard to have someone have surgery… people are having to choose between paying rent or having medication and the costs are too high… if it sounds like I’m passionate it’s because I am, we need Medicare for all now!”
After the march to McCarthy’s office, local and state leaders from labor unions and organizations gave insightful speeches. Tania Salinas, the new president of Kern Inyo Mono Central Labor Council spoke at the event.
“Thank you so much for fighting for what YOU work for! This is going to be a fight. You can make sure of that. The GOP is always there to give tax cuts to the 1% and we get just cuts. We fight so that families can retire with dignity,” said Salinas.
The event had participants from all paths of life. Youth in attendance shared they are fighting for the right to retire for their grandparents, parents, and themselves. One of the young people who spoke was Andrea Benitez.
“Even though we are young this is very important because this is our future. One day we are going to be the seniors who are going to have our rights taken away from us so it’s important as a young adult to be standing up now and already fighting so that we can make progress by the time we become seniors,” said Benitez.