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February 20, 2005 -- New York -- Leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) today said that privatizing Social Security would cause a disproportionate and irreparable harm to African American retirees and others who depend on disability and survivor benefits.

“Privatization is another effort to reward wealthy Americans at the expense of working Americans, particularly black working Americans, asking them to play the lottery with their future,” Julian Bond, Chairman, NAACP Board of Directors, told about 300 NAACP members who attended the 96th Annual Meeting in New York’s Hilton Hotel.

In addition to Social Security, NAACP Interim President & CEO Dennis Hayes said the investigation of the NAACP’s tax exempt status continues to be a matter of serious concern. Hayes said: “The IRS challenge is one we have to take seriously because it is something that could affect our ability to carry out our mission. At the same time, I am sure we will be vindicated.”

Commenting on President Bush’s claim that privatizing Social Security would benefit African Americans because their average lifespan is shorter than whites, Bond said: “It isn’t Social Security that’s a bad deal for blacks – dying too early is the real bad deal! They would rather play the race card than actually address blacks’ shorter life expectancy. Using shorter black life expectancy as an excuse for privatizing Social Security isn’t just offensive; it is also misleading.”

Bond continued: “The black-white disparity in life expectancies practically disappears at retirement age. If they really cared about black life expectancy, they’d fix health care, which is really broken. They’d fix the black-white unemployment gap – joblessness for blacks is always twice the rate for whites.” He added: “They’d find ways to end the numerous threats to long life and to extend our lives. Instead, they want to turn Social Security into broker security. This argument isn’t about Main Street; it’s about Wall Street.”

Social Security is the only source of income for 1 in 3 African Americans over the age of 65. Moreover, nearly 80% of African Americans over age 65 depend on Social Security for more than half of their income.

Hilary Shelton, Director, NAACP Washington Bureau, said, “All three Social Security programs, retirement, disability and survivor’s benefits, are disproportionately important to the economic survival of African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities.” In addition, Shelton said, “African American children are almost four times more likely to be lifted out of poverty by Social Security benefits than our white counterparts.”

The NAACP National Board of Directors unanimously voted to oppose any change in the Social Security system “that would decrease or in any way jeopardize the guaranteed benefits that America’s seniors, disabled or survivors currently receive.”

The Board, holding its first quarterly meeting of 2005, also voted approval of the following resolutions:

* Support for the Healthy Families Act that would provide seven days of paid sick leave a year for full-time workers and a pro rata share of paid sick leave for part-time employees who work at least 20 hours per week or 1000 hours annually. An estimated 41 percent of working parents with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level have no paid leave of any kind.
* Support for the Health Empowerment Zone Act of 2005 that would establish health empowerment zones in communities that disproportionately experience disparities in health care.
* Opposition to the re-nomination of 20 federal judge candidates. These candidates, who were rejected by the Senate in 2004, include William Pryor, Janice Rogers Brown, Brett Kavanaugh, William Myers, Terrence Boyle, Thomas Griffith and Priscilla Owen.
* Research the availability of funding through the Homeland Security Agency for HIV testing in prisons to significantly reduce HIV in the prison population and the black community.
* Creation of a task force to increase black faculty in teaching medical hospitals and black medical students.
* Call on Chicago’s largest healthcare provider to end a pattern and practice of discriminatory investment and support workers’ right to collective bargaining.
* Support private security workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively.
* Urge Congress to posthumously award the Congressional Gold Medal to Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress and the first African American to seek the nomination of a major party for President of the United States.
* Support of continued election reform outlined in the Voting Opportunity and Technology Enhancement Rights Act that would establish a national federal write-in absentee ballot; require same-day voter registration; allow voters to verify their vote prior to casting a ballot either through written, pictorial, audio or electronic verification; lead to establishment of standards for a minimum number of voting machines and trained poll workers for each polling place; set minimum standards to ensure that all eligible provisional ballots are counted and that no one is erroneously purged from the voting rolls without prior notification.
* Continued effort to remove Confederate flag from all public properties.

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its half-million adult and youth members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.
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