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Some stats on Social Security and the South

Some facts about Social Security and folks in my part of the world, from the Durham, NC-based Institute for Southern Studies

* Percentage of current Social Security beneficiaries that reside in the South: 33

* Of 9 states with the highest percentage of children receiving Social Security benefits, number in the South: 8

* Of 11 states with highest percent of elderly poor, number in the South: 8

* Year that George W. Bush predicted Social Security would “go broke” when running for Congress in Texas in 1978: 1988

* Amount per dollar that goes towards administrative costs under current Social Security system, in cents: 1

* Amount per dollar that President Bush says would go towards these costs under his proposal: 5

* Average amount that has gone towards administrative costs in other countries that have privatized Social Security: 15

* Amount that finance industry stands to gain from privatized retirement accounts, in billions: $940

Sources on file at the The Institute for Southern Studies.

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I’m putting in a plug here on the Blend for the work of The Institute for Southern Studies because it’s another voice out there dispelling the myth held by the media (and many Democrats) that all of the South is hopeless wingnut country.

Yeah, we had Jesse Helms, but we also have our freshly-minted, out lesbian State Senator Julia Boseman, the first openly-gay mayor in this state, Mike Nelson of Carrboro; Rep. Mel Watt is head of the Congressional Black Caucus, and on the local level, Dems won control of the legislature, despite the national party virtually ignoring the state in the general election. There is a future for progressive politics here, dammit, and I’m tired of being ignored. It’s not like NC is Alabama, for crying out loud.

We are, however, fighting off a freaking state marriage amendment, introduced last week, which I blogged about.

Institutions like ISS and publications like its Southern Exposure are proof that progressive organizations can and do thrive in the region. Plus it’s based in my hometown, in the bubble of tolerance that is the Triangle area.

Southern Exposure, incidentally, was the recipient of the 2003 George Polk Award for magazine reporting on for “Banking On Misery: Citigroup, Wall Street, and the Fleecing of the South.” It profiled how the country’s biggest financial institutions prey on the economically vulnerable and make a killing while doing so. That issue also took the 2003 Green Eyeshade Award of the Society for Professional Journalists.

You can learn more about ISS on its web site. Here’s a snippet:

The Institute draws attention to the national importance of the South and offers an exciting vision of the region-a place brimming with a capacity for progressive change that challenges its reputation as a monolithic, conservative stronghold.

Throughout our history, the Institute has maintained a strong commitment to developing research and publication projects that directly support grassroots organizing, especially efforts for corporate and government accountability. It has also led the Institute to be involved in the launching of such organizations as the Brown Lung Association, Southerners for Economic justice, the Georgia Power Project, and the Gulf Tenants Leadership Development Project. The Institute has also examined the southern contribution to culture and social change, from gospel music and the blues to the civil rights movement and community organizing.

Since 1973, the Institute’s journal, Southern Exposure, has gained critical praise for its thorough investigations, unsentimental portraits of Southern life, and resources for change. From our first issue on the military in the South through our special book-length issue on the Klan, economic development, the nuclear industry, and regional theater, the magazine has remained in high demand among organizers and trainers.

The Institute for Southern Studies

P.O. Box 531

Durham, NC 27702

Email: info@southernstudies.org.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding