Published in the Woonsocket Call on January 26, 2020
Just before the upcoming 2020 Iowa Democratic Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3, 2020, six of the twelve remaining Democrats presidential candidates came to Drake University in Des Moines on Jan. 14, 2020 to debate. While these candidates touted their positions on foreign policy,health care and rising drug costs at the Iowa Democratic Debate, not a single question was asked by the moderators about Social Security, the nation’s social insurance program, penned Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM), in a blog article published on Jan. 15, 2020.
Seventy-three million viewers watched the two-hour Iowa Democratic Debate, the seventh Democratic presidential debate-hosted by The Des Moines Register and CNN.
Silence on Social Security
In this blog article, Richtman wondered why the Democratic candidate frontrunners in this debate never mentioned Social Security, a federal program that provides income to 64 million Americans during their retirement years. With prominent GOP lawmakers including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, and Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, calling for slashing Social Security entitlements, the need to expand and strengthen Social Security could have had a very visible platform for millions of viewers, he said. A discussion would have shined a light on the GOP’s continued efforts to slash retirement benefits that seniors rely on.
For the last seven months, NCPSSM had called upon media moderators at the various debates to ask the Democratic candidates to give their strategy on strengthening and expanding Social Security, says Richtman, noting “the appeals have fallen on deaf ears.”
While many of Democratic presidential candidates have touted their Social Security fixes on the campaign trail, those watching the Iowa debate had no clue about their positions, charged Richtman. He warned that a growing number of retirees will require a Social Security check to financially survive their later years, but this important domestic policy issue was never brought up in Iowa.
“Just one day before the Iowa debate [on Jan. 14,2020], the National Institute on Retirement Security released a new report which found that 40 percent of older Americans rely entirely on Social Security for retirement income. (Only 7 percent receive income from Social Security, a pension, and a defined contribution account like a 401K.) The average monthly benefit of $1,500 is barely sufficient to keep many seniors out of poverty,” penned Richtman to reinforce his point about the importance of Social Security to the nation’s seniors.
Health Care Tops Issue for Iowa Women Over 50
Although the Democratic presidential candidates were silent on Social Security during the Iowa Democratic Debate, the moderators allocated time to talk about access to health care. A recently released AARP poll found that health care is a top issue for Iowa women voters age 50 and up. As the Iowa Caucuses approach, the poll’s findings indicated that 48 percent of older women voters, including 57 percent of Democrats, rank health care as the most important issue facing the nation. And, 41 percent of women 50-plus give elected officials a failing grade on dealing with the cost of health care and prescription drugs.
“In 2020, older women plan to turn out in force, making them a key group that could decide this year’s elections,” said Nancy LeaMond, AARP EVP and Chief Advocacy & Engagement Officer in a Jan. 24 statement. “Candidates would be wise to listen to their concerns about issues like the cost of health care. It is by far the most important issue and has a real impact on older women’s day-to-day lives. Not being able to afford the care they need is putting their health and their financial security at risk,” she said.
The AARP survey was conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of AARP from December 5 to December 25, 2019 among 1,001 age 50-plus, self-identified registered women voters in Iowa.
According to the AARP survey, among Democratic 50-plus women voters in Iowa, 60 percent say they will definitely or probably attend a caucus. More than one-third (37 percent) of the respondents say they can’t afford to pay for their health care, and 28 percent report skipping medical care because it was too expensive.
The poll’s findings indicate that more than half (53 percent) believe that drug companies charge too much for medication, and 45 percent say that health insurance companies prioritize profit over patient health. Close to half (43 percent) are not confident that they will have enough money to comfortably retire and 42 percent say it’s because their health care costs are too expensive.
Finally, almost all (87 percent) believe that health care is a right and not a privilege and that older people (89 percent) and those with pre-existing conditions (86 percent) should not have to pay more, says the researchers.
The Iowa poll is the second in AARP’s “She’s the Difference” series, which will run throughout the 2020 election cycle. The series explores the priorities and concerns of women voters ages 50 and older – a key demographic that will likely determine the outcome of races across the country.
Before you Pull the Lever
In an interview, CNBC’s Joe Kernen recently asked President Donald Trump whether “entitlements” would ever be on your plate. He replied “At some point they will be…. And at the right time, we will take a look at that.”
When Kernen followed up, asking Trump about his “inclination to “do some of the things that you said you wouldn’t do in the past…in terms of Medicare,” the Republican president stated, “We’re going to look.”
Later, Trump would attempt to walk back on that politically charged comments on entitlements. Democrats quickly reminded the Republican president of a 2016 presidential campaign pledge he made not to touch Social Security and Medicare.
Combine Trump’s comments on CNBC with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and other GOP Congressional lawmakers who have not hidden their intent on cutting Social Security and Medicare to rein in a skyrocketing federal deficit that has resulted from a massive GOP tax break given to corporations, look for these programs to be put on the budgetary chopping block if an emboldened Trump takes control of the White House next November and the GOP becomes the majority in both chambers in Congress.
For those receiving a monthly Social Security check or enrolled in Medicare, voting becomes even more important than ever. Think carefully before you pull that lever in the voting booth.