For Missourians United to Protect Social Security, a well-known piece of advice was proven true. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
After six months and three previous attempts, members of the organization comprising various liberal interest groups sat down with U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof, R-Mo., Tuesday to discuss concerns about Social Security reform, most notably President Bush’s efforts to privatize America’s oldest social welfare program.
“I’m pleased we could have a pleasant and civil discussion about the issues,” said Dennis Wright, a Missourians United representative.
The road to the meeting was rough because each side disputed the other’s rationale for wanting to either arrange or avoid it. Earlier this month, members of the group marched into Hulshof’s Columbia office to present him with a study asserting that privatization of Social Security would cause reduced benefits. They encountered instead Scott Baker, Hulshof’s spokesman.
Despite that episode, Baker said Tuesday’s discussion was “open, productive and respectful.” He said any past resistance to such a meeting stemmed from a desire to prevent a game of political football.
“We’ve always been interested in the kind of meeting we had today,” Baker said. “What we’re not interested in is some sort of political stunt.”
Missourians United spokeswoman Rachel Wright said the group had no such motivation. “We’re not out there to attack the congressman,” Wright said.
Group members continue to push Hulshof to call a town hall meeting, perhaps as soon as August, where constituents could share their thoughts about the future of Social Security.
“I don’t (know) that the congressman rejected that out of hand, but he also didn’t agree to that issue,” Wright said.
Hulshof noted at the meeting that he participated in a similar forum two years ago. But Scott McLuckie, president of the United Working People of Mid-Missouri, said the Social Security situation has changed dramatically.
Hulshof has said he would support private investment accounts that allow younger workers to invest some of their benefits. Missourians United members believe that would ultimately harm beneficiaries. Both sides managed to find common ground, agreeing that assuring the program’s long-term solvency should have priority.
“All options ought to be on the table because this is such an important program, and such a successful program,” Baker said.