Boston rally to stop entitlement cuts attracts thousands


More than two thousand seniors and disabled individuals converged on the Wang Center in Boston on Nov. 9 to stage a mass protest against proposed cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Sponsored by  Mass Senior Action, AARP, Mass Home Care and several dozen elderly rights and labor groups, the rally literally sent a “big message” to one of the members of the Congressional Supercommittee that is tasked with developing specific proposals to cut the federal deficit.

Seniors took a large envelope stuffed with postcards from elders to the Boston office of U.S. Senator John Kerry, D-Mass., the only New England lawmaker on the 12-person Deficit Reduction Committee.

“I’m still paying for my own health insurance, and am just hanging on until I turn 65 and can start Medicare.  My business was crushed by the bad economy, said Sue Rummel, 64, of Danvers  I’ve used up my savings, cashed out my IRA, and was forced to take Social Security at 62.  I paid into the system my entire working life to earn my Medicare and Social Security benefits.  I can’t afford any cuts,” said Rummel, an AARP Member who spoke at the rally.

The Nov. 9 turnout was described as historic, coming roughly two weeks before the Supercommittee is scheduled to submit its findings to the full Congress. The rally began at the Wang Theatre, and was followed by a “rolling march” and caravan through Downtown Crossing towards the offices of Sen. John Kerry and Sen. Scott Brown near City Hall Plaza in Boston.

Max Richtman, head of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare told the crowd: “The threat to programs which touch the lives of virtually every American family, has never been as serious as it is right now. In Washington these days, cutting benefits to middle-class and poor Americans is seen by too many as a sign of courage—rather than what it truly is—misplaced priorities which continue to ask average Americans to pay for fiscal policies which for more than a decade have benefited the wealthy.”

AARP Massachusetts State Director Deborah Banda noted that “Medicare and Social Security aren’t luxuries. They aren’t fat to be trimmed. They are the backbone of support that allows older Americans to live with a modest level of dignity and peace of mind in retirement.”

“We all know difficult decisions must be made to get the federal deficit under control,” Banda added, “We all love this country and we want to get the economy back on track.  But, let’s cut waste and close billions in tax loopholes; that’s what the Super Committee and Congress should be looking at, not targeting your hard earned benefits.”  AARP represents more than 800,000 members age 50 and older in the commonwealth.

At the time of the rally, the Supercommittee — a 12 member bipartisan group — is considering potential cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security that would harm today’s seniors and workers — including:  a $112 billion cut to Social Security by changing how the Social Security cost of living adjustment (COLA) is calculated and reducing benefits; raising the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 67; and, increasing out-of-pocket costs for seniors in Medicare.

Rally organizers say these benefits represent an intergenerational commitment — and that cuts of the magnitude being considered by the supercommittee would constitute a betrayal of the seniors, veterans, and workers who have paid into the safety net and retirement systems for years. Social Security has not contributed one dime to the federal deficit, and cutting Medicare alone will not address the skyrocketing costs crippling the entire health care system.

Today, about one million Massachusetts residents rely on Social Security and Medicare.  The average Social Security benefit for middle- and low- income Bay State Seniors is $13,900, while their average out-of-pocket cost for health care is $6,800.

Mark Walker, 58, of North Andover, who spoke at the rally, said, “I have Spina Bifida.  I worked for 14 years at a local hospital, and for four years after that at IBM.  My health condition got worse, and I couldn’t work as much.  But I paid into the system, and today Social Security is my only source of income.  It’s my livelihood.  It’s all I’ve got.  It allows me to function.  I couldn’t pay my bills if I didn’t have it.  I’d be basically destitute.”

Banda said, “You’re not a budget number.  You’re not a spreadsheet.  And, you’re certainly not a bunch of pushovers.  We must make the politicians in Washington see that.  We must send a simple message: No cuts to Social Security and Medicare.  Protect these programs — not just for seniors — but for all American workers, and for their children and grandchildren, too.”

Al Norman, executive director of Mass Home Care, closed the Wang Rally by asking the crowd: “Do you know who we all are? We are the 99 percent. The richest 1 percent in our county do not wait by the mailbox for their Social Security check to arrive. The richest 1 percent does not worry if they have a Medicare card in their wallet. And the richest 1 percent are the only people in America who don’t need Medicaid to pay for a nursing home bed. But Social Security matters to the 99 percent. Medicare matters to the 99 percent, and Medicaid matters to the 99 percent.”

For more information: Mass Home Care,; AARP Massachusetts,, Mass Senior Action Council,  Information for this report came from Mass Home Care and AARP Massachusetts.