by Connie Entrekin
I hope all of you have been watching the roller-coaster event commonly referred to as the Republican Presidential primary. Every week a new front runner, but slowly the field is starting to work its way to its eventual conclusion and a candidate will emerge. One thing I must say, it’s been entertaining as each candidate fights for the nomination of their party.
One thing I noticed is the lack of meaningful conversation about what our presidential candidates have planned for Social Security and Medicare. Even in Florida, a state with a large retiree population, details about the candidates' Social Security and Medicare proposals were largely missing as the candidates travel across the state to garner support. Even in the primary debates the silence has been deafening. Why?
I believe plans to privatize or cut Social Security and Medicare under the guise of deficit reduction represent a larger political disconnect between politicians and the average American voter than any other single issue facing candidates in this presidential campaign. These candidates know it and that is why they are avoiding it.
In poll after poll it’s clear voters of all ages and political persuasions don't support cutting benefits to middle-class Americans who depend on Social Security and Medicare (now or in the future) to repair our ailing economy. Yet, cutting middle-class benefits remains at the heart of every deficit discussion.
Over the years, some politicians have promised Americans they'll “preserve” and “strengthen” these vital programs ― while actually proposing benefit cuts, Social Security private accounts or vouchers for seniors in Medicare. Recently, candidates like Mitt Romney promised Florida seniors he'd “never go after Medicare.” However, Mr. Romney supports proposals like House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's plan, which turns Medicare into a voucher program, destroying traditional Medicare as we know it and sending the bill to seniors.
Americans deserve economic security in their retirement years. They know Social Security and Medicare are vital parts of that security. We expect more than the double-speak offered by political candidates who say “reform” when they mean “cut” and “preserve” when they mean “privatize.”
Connie Entrekin is the President of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees