Weiss: Democrats Listening to Calls to Strengthen & Expand Social Security, Medicare

Monday, September 24, 2018
Herb Weiss, GoLocalWorcester Guest MINDSETTERâ„¢

The political clock is ticking…The midterm elections are less than 50 days away and just days ago, the Washington, D.C.-based AARP released a poll of age 50 and older Ohio voters who say they are especially concerned about their healthcare and personal financial issues. 
 
The Politico-AARP poll, conducted by Morning Consult, surveyed 1,592 registered voters in Ohio from September 2 to 11, 2018 with a margin of error of +/- 2 percentage points. For voters 50 and older, the poll surveyed 841 registered voters and has a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points.
 
Don’t Touch Our Social Security, Medicare
 
According to the newly released AARP-Politico poll findings, the older voters identified key issues that will influence how they will cast their vote in November at the polls.  The respondents viewed health care (81 percent) the most important campaign issue followed by Social Security (80 percent) and Medicare (76 percent) and prescription drugs (65 percent).  But, a strong majority (74 percent) support preserving the state’s Medicaid expansion, say the pollsters.
 
“With less than 50 days to go before Election Day, candidates in Ohio would be wise to listen to the state’s most powerful voting group: 50-plus voters,” said Nancy LeaMond, AARP’s Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy & Engagement Officer in a statement releasing the poll's findings. “History shows older voters turn out in force in every election, and AARP is making sure they are energized and know where candidates stand on the issues.”
 
AARP is partnering with Politico to create a series titled “The Deciders,” that integrates original polling focused on 50-plus voters, reporting, data analysis, and cutting-edge data visualization tools built by Politico’s specialized interactive team. The third edition in the series is focused on Ohio, a key election battleground state. Other recent polls surveyed voters in Arizona and Florida.
 
The AARP-Political Ohio poll findings say that 74 percent of age 50-plus voters “strongly support” (42 percent) or “somewhat support” (32 percent) preserving Ohio’s Medicaid expansion which extended Medicaid eligibility for low-income residents under the Affordable Care Act.
 
Ninety-one percent of the older voter respondents say they are “very concerned” (55 percent) or “somewhat concerned” (36 percent) about their utility bills increasing.  In addition, 69 percent of these respondents “strongly support” (27 percent) or “somewhat support” (42 percent) creating an Ohio retirement savings plan.
 
The AARP-Political poll also noted that 74 percent of 50-plus voters say opioid addiction is “a very serious problem” in the state right now, and 61 percent say the government is not doing enough to address it.  And, 70 percent of the older voters “strongly agree” that jobs and the economy are major issues this election season. Only one in five (23 percent) feel “well-prepared” to get and keep a job, say the researchers.
 
Finally, nearly half (46 percent) of 50-plus voters think the government is unprepared to prevent a cyber-attack on public infrastructure.
 
Democrats Zero in on Senior Issues
 
While poll after poll of older voters sends the message “Don’t touch my Social Security or Medicare” the GOP turns a deaf ear, but the Democrats listen.  Following President Donald Trump's claim that Democrats are trying to cut Social Security at a campaign rally in Montana, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Reps. John Larson (D-Conn.), Terri A. Sewell (D-Ala.) and Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) on September 13, announced the bicameral Expand Social Security Caucus, over 150 members, including 18 Senators. 
 
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) David Cicilline (D-RI) James Langevin (D-RI) are members of the newly formed Expand Social Security Caucus.
 
Alex Lawson, Executive Director of Social Security Works, an advocacy nonprofit group pushing for expanding Social Security, emceed the press conference and co-
authored an opinion piece in The Hill celebrating the caucus launch.  
 
Lawson noted, “We have members in the caucus from all corners of the country, from all parts of the Democratic Party. We’re waiting on some Republicans who might join, but they’ll be welcome when they realize that the American people are united in calling for an expansion of Social Security.” 
 
The mission of this new congressional caucus is to push for the expansion of Social Security, one of the most popular and successful government programs. Last year alone, Social Security lifted 22 million Americans, including more than 15 million seniors, out of poverty. Before Social Security, nearly half of the nation’s seniors were living in poverty, says a caucus press release.
 
The caucus will ensure that expanding Social Security is a key part of the Democratic agenda before the midterm elections and next year and beyond. Over a dozen bills have already been introduced in the Senate and House to expand Social Security.  With the caucus now playing a key role in expanding and strengthening Social Security, look for more bills to be introduced next Congress.
 
At the official unveiling of the new Congressional caucus, Sanders said, "We are here today to say very loudly and very clearly that at a time when millions of seniors are trying to survive on $12,000 or $13,000 a year, our job is not to cut Social Security. Our job is to expand Social Security so that everyone in America can retire with dignity and respect.”  T
 
"Social Security is a lifeline for seniors and Americans with disabilities. We won't let it be cut by one cent – and instead we will fight to expand it," Co-chair Warren said. "The rich and powerful have rigged our economy to make themselves richer, while working families face a massive retirement crisis. If this government really works for the people, it should protect and expand Social Security." 
 
“A number of bills have been introduced in the Senate and House to expand Social Security, including legislation written by Sanders last year to lift the cap on taxable income that goes into Social Security, requiring the wealthiest Americans – those who make over $250,000 a year – to pay their fair share of Social Security taxes. That bill would increase Social Security benefits and extend the program’s solvency for the next 60 years.
 
Joining the caucus leadership Thursday were Social Security Works, the Alliance for Retired Americans, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, Latinos for a Secure Retirement, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, the American Federation of Government Employees, the Arc of the United States, the Center for Responsible Lending and Global Policy Solutions.
 
With the midterm elections looming, the progressive and centralists of the Democratic party must put aside their differences to work together to support Democratic Congressional candidates who can win.  One unifying political issue may well be supporting the expansion and strengthening of Social Security, Medicare and ensuring that Americans can be covered by affordable health insurance.  Stay tuned. 
 
Herb Weiss, LRI’12, is a Pawtucket writer covering aging, healthcare, and medical issues. To purchase Taking Charge: Collected Stories on Aging Boldly, a collection of 79 of his weekly commentaries, go to herbweiss.com.
 

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