BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Members of the California Alliance for Retired Americans, joined by supporters and advocates from around the state, hosted a protest at House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's Bakersfield office on Friday to demand that the federal government leave their Medicare and Social Security benefits alone.
Many seniors and people with disabilities rely on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits for health care and financial and retirement security. The protesters took to the streets, chanting "Hands off Social Security," and Bakersfield senior resident Mary Helen Barro says they're there to fight for their quality of life.
"We paid for Social Security and Medicare all those years we been working. It's not a freebie, it's our money, and they're trying to take it away from us," said Barro. "Come on man, nah."
Barro says this fight is not just for older Americans, but for all citizens.
"A lot of people don't know this. They think Social Security is just for old people. No, a lot of young people with disabilities rely on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to pay for their health care," said Barro.
This is also true for the people of United Domestic Workers. Sydney O'Connor, an in-home supportive services provider, says these benefits are important to more people than just her client.
"If my client did not have Social Security, he wouldn't be able to hire me as his IHSS provider, and I would be out of a job, and he wouldn't have the care he needs to get by in the world," said O'Connor.
Bill Monroe with the California Alliance for Retired Americans agrees with Barro and O'Connor, saying that for some retired Americans, these funds are all they have, and not having it can lead to catastrophic results.
"It's something that is kind of a life-or-death situation for folks, and they could find themselves making the decision between 'Well, do I pay for this $500 a month medication or do I pay for rent?'" said Monroe.
23ABC reached out to McCarthy's office for the speaker's response to the protest. A representative told us that the speaker has consistently said in previous speeches that any cuts to Social Security and Medicaid benefits are a no-go.
"Cuts to Medicare and Social Security - they are off the table. Defaulting on our debt is not an option, but neither is a future of higher taxes," McCarthy said in February 2023.
But without a firm decision having been made yet, Barro says the ongoing battle will not end until what the protesters call justice is served.
"And now they want to take it away," said Barro. "No way. Ain't gonna happen. We're not gonna give up without a big fight."
Lawmakers are continuing to address the ongoing debt ceiling issue after that limit was reached earlier this year.
IN-DEPTH: IS SOCIAL SECURITY SUSTAINABLE?
According to a report by the Congressional Budget Office, the balance of the Social Security trust funds could decline to zero in 2033. If that happens, the Social Security Administration won't be able to pay people's full benefit amounts every month.
The federal government could maintain the necessary trust fund balances through 2096 if it raises payroll tax rates by about 4.9 percent.
After 2096, however, the gap between revenues and outlays would widen, and shortfalls would continue to increase.