N.J. Protesters Sound Off Against Bush's Plan — Wednesday, April 27, 2005



PARAMUS — About 40 people stood on the sidewalk outside Rep. Scott Garrett's office on Route 4 during afternoon rush hour Tuesday, holding signs announcing their opposition to President Bush's proposal for private Social Security accounts.

"Bush says privatize; we say no!" they chanted. "Bush says raw deal; we say no deal."

Cars and trucks honked their horns in support. Some drivers gave the thumbs-up sign or waved.

The 90-minute rally was one of more than 35 events held in 35 states Tuesday, termed "National Day of Unity to Protect Social Security and Stop Privatization." The Route 4 event was organized by New Jersey Citizen Action and Americans United to Protect Social Security.

Protesters said they couldn't stomach the thought of private Social Security accounts.

"I think what's happening in the country with this government is frightening," said Paul Meyers of Jersey City. "It is just one more big step that they want to get their hands on."

Bush's plan won't happen because "people are very wary of tapping into this, even Republicans," Meyers said.

Seniors at the rally said they were protesting Bush's plan because they were concerned that younger generations wouldn't have what they have - a retirement safety net.

"If this continues, my children and grandchildren will spend their old age in poverty," said Sandy Miller of Glen Rock.

Harriet Gardner came from Tappan, N.Y., to hold a sign on the highway.

"I don't have to fight for it for myself," said Gardner, who receives Social Security. "I'm fighting for this country's ideals and for the future generations."

If the amount of money that Republicans would spend to create the privatization program was plowed back into Social Security, it "would be solvent forever," Garner said.

Garrett, R–Wantage, said Tuesday that not doing anything to Social Security is "shortsighted."

"I believe it is shortsighted to pretend this problem will go away on its own," Garrett said in a statement. "We should address the problem now, before it becomes a crisis for tomorrow's seniors. I believe all options should be debated and discussed, and am not ruling out any ideas at this very early stage of debate."

Members of several organizations participated in the rally, including the Bergen County chapter of the grass-roots organization Democracy for America; Health Professionals and Allied Employees, the state's largest union of registered nurses; the Bergen County Central Trades and Labor Council; and various local and county officials.

"Privatization is not just an idea to reform Social Security, it is the destruction of Social Security," said Matt Shapiro, president of the New Jersey Tenants Organization. "Tell Scott Garrett to take away the plan of privatization."

Bush is nearing the end of a 60-day campaign throughout the country to bring his message to the public.

A Record Poll last week found that just 31 percent of New Jersey adults support his plan to shift some Social Security funds into private accounts that individuals can control.

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