Social Security Breakthrough for Honduran Informal Workers at Home & Abroad

Our friends from COMISAJUL sorting coffee samples for us to take home for roasting

Tegucigalpa     We were fortunate to get an extraordinary meeting with Hector Hernandez, sub-director of the Honduran Institute of Social Security.  His willingness to meet with us on a Saturday morning in a hotel lobby spoke volumes for both the government and ACORN International about our excitement around a brand spanking new initiative now being rolled out to give Honduran informal workers access to Social Security.  The program is so new there are no brochures and little to no publicity about its very existence even in Honduras!   Hernandez is responsible for the program and was familiar with our experience with informal workers in the United States, India, and other countries as well as Citizen Wealth, so we both thought we had much to gain from the meeting.

The broad outlines of the program are that informal workers in Honduras would mandatorily pay into a fund and by so doing after the requisite number of quarters worked would be able to qualify for social security and some level of health care on retirement.  Abroad both documented and undocumented (legal and illegal, if I need to be clearer) workers would be eligible to voluntarily pay into the fund a fixed amount per month to a correspondent bank to Banco FICHOSA where the government would receive the payments.  Importantly, quarters worked in foreign countries could be counted towards the qualifications for later benefits and coupled with quarters worked in Honduras accumulated together for full benefits.  The government’s interest was multiple here, but clear was a sophisticated effort to also repatriate Honduras back in-country at retirement by accepting responsibility for social security payments for them.

Hernandez and the Institute of Social Security recognized that they needed deep and extensive organizational partnerships in Honduras to assist in enrolling people to achieve maximum eligible participation, as I have called it repeatedly.  They also recognize that if anything they may need even more help in the United States and other countries where there are extensive numbers of Hondurans working.  There was clear recognition that no success was possible without organizational assistance.  When I asked how many, Hernandez was clear that they really had no hard numbers, but were working backwards from their tracking of remittances into the country to guess that the number was around 1,000,000 workers.

We then talked about ACORN International’s Remittance Justice Campaign and the steps necessary to get cooperation from the Honduran government in moving forward along the same lines we are discussing in Canada with proposals and legislation that would put a ceiling on the cost of remittances.  He understood our position completely.

Finding a real opportunity for income security and citizen wealth for Hondurans could establish a model program with wide applications.  We have work to do in Hondurans and when we return to the United States to figure out what it would take to make it work.  That’s exciting!

Tegucigalpa in the pre-dawn
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The Assault on Citizen Wealth Entitlements

Newcut-spending Orleans No matter how jaded we have all become about the cynicism of political experience and the hijacking of popular government, regardless of the party and people in power, by the interests of the rich and the corporations, it is still shocking to see the mean-spirited erosion of consensus that in the richest country in the world there should be at least some semblance of care and concern for the less well off in our society.  The emerging multi-party détente on the need to cripple the last of the entitlements around Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security goes is a concerted effort to flatly impoverish both communities and entire populations.

This wave of attack on citizen wealth or income security is not simply a matter of Texas governor Rick Perry being a flame throwing crazy man arguing that Social Security is a “Ponzi scheme.”  The fact that he could even hurl such a stink bomb calculating that it would move his base is undoubtedly a shrewd calculation that the last shred of “compassionate conservativism” is gone.  Exposing Perry as whack and a con artist, will not rebuild the consensus, given that the economic debate has now become stuck on the issue of debt period.

The debt attack is a scorched earth strategy by the right designed to obscure that is being burned in the name of saving some fancy houses in another block that are already getting all of the goods, services, and tax breaks.  The strategy is cynical because it focuses on the least organized constituencies politically and therefore the powerless.  Subsidies for the military, financial institutions, oil companies, and many others can still roar on, while poorer and older people will be impoverished and in some cases given the death sentence.

It is scary to think that millions will only be saved by the right’s overreaching and extremism.  Social Security may be cordoned off, while medical and feeding programs are eviscerated.  There may not be a bait-and-switch on emergency aid for communities as some of the Republicans were arguing, but that does not mean that there will not be pain and suffering for others.

The organizational and oppositional vacuum that exists at the street level rather than the internet assaults is devastating.  At what point do we come together with a new plan?   Before it’s too late!

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