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Jane Addams Senior Caucus rallies, joins forces with Occupy Chicago

Tue, Nov 29, 2011

Potential cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid led the Jane Addams Senior Caucus (JASC) to join forces with Occupy Chicago and 15 other community groups November 7 in a rally at Federal Plaza that led to civil disobedience.

Jane Addams Senior Caucus at November 7 rally. Photo: www.seniorcaucus.org

Police had been forewarned of the morning rally, but not that 40 seniors would link arms, chanting, “the people, united, will never be defeated,” as they blocked the intersection of Jackson and Clark Streets. The group included at least four people with mobility devices and one centenarian, according to Occupy Chicago officials. Police held them at the scene, threatened them with arrest, then cited them for blocking traffic and released them.

“Organizations across our state are raising concerns about benefits for seniors,” said Katie Jordan of the Illinois Alliance of Retired Americans. “The Democrats, hear me — the Democrats — and Republicans on the super committee each released proposals with devastating cuts…that reach directly into the pockets of the 99 percent and the programs we depend on. The real solution is good jobs and to make the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share.”

Flora Johnson of SEIU Healthcare Illinois drew cheers when she told the story of her son, who has cerebral palsy and who depends on Medicaid for around-the-clock care. If his wheelchair broke, she could not afford to fix it, she said.

“Health care is a safety net,” Johnson said. “We have to demonstrate that we as a nation help those who cannot help themselves. I’ve worked hard all my life and done everything I am supposed to do. I am just an ordinary citizen like millions and millions of Americans. Don’t cut Medicaid. Make the rich pay their fair share.”

Sister Patricia Crowley, prioress for the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago since 2007, said the order of nuns also depends on Social Security and Medicare. The sisters taught for many years in parochial schools and received only small stipends, not retirement benefits, Sister Crowley said.

JASC officials led planning for the rally because of what they said were closed door meetings by the Congressional super committee to determine $1.5 trillion cuts in federal spending by November 23. Meanwhile, Bush-era tax cuts were extended, they said.

“What are they going to cut? Our social security checks? Our Medicare and Medicaid? Many older women, especially older women of color, would suffer the brunt of these cuts,” said Mary Burns, a retired nurse’s assistant and JASC leader. “Senator Durbin and Senator Kirk need to hear that seniors are members of the 99 percent and have something to say about this issue and these critical programs.”

“I depend on Social Security for half my monthly income,” said JASC member Pat Drennan, who also lives in federally subsidized housing.

“We want to tell these senators and congresspersons that it’s not a deficit crisis, it’s a revenue crisis,” Drennan added. “We want these senators to hear from us and to take a stand. Durbin is second in command in the Senate. He has the President’s ear.”

Durbin addressed the rally, alongside U.S. Reps. Danny K. Davis, Jan Schakowsky and Mike Quigley – all Chicago Democrats. Durbin said that the Tea Party and Republican Party believe that “we are all in this alone.

“I am on the other side of that story that believes we are all in this together, all part of an American family,” Durbin said. “This American family stands behind President Obama, who wants to put America back to work.” The President’s plan would pay for this program with a 5 percent surtax on annual salaries of more than $1 million, he said.

ABC News said November 8 that the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, or super committee comprised of six Democrats and six Republicans, has until Thanksgiving to agree on $1.5 trillion in deficit cuts over the next decade. Otherwise, Medicare and defense spending would split $1.2 trillion in cuts over the next decade, as agreed in debt ceiling negotiations earlier this year.

The legislators continue to disagree over new revenue from taxes. Democrats want $1.3 trillion in new taxes as part of a $3 trillion plan and tax code overhaul; Republicans say no.
Other organizations at the November 7 Chicago rally were Access Living, Bickerdike, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Community Renewal Society, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, Lakeview Action Coalition, Metropolitan Tenants Organization, Northside P.O.W.E.R, Organization of the Northeast, Southside Together Organizing for Power and Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation.

Visit the Jane Addams Senior Caucus website for more information on their organization. Also, visit their facebook to see more photos of the November 7 rally.

Written by Suzanne Hanney
StreetWise Editor-In-Chief

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