Iowa seniors have tremendous political clout this election year. Today more than 500,000 people in Iowa are age 65 or older, and that figure is only expected to grow as the Baby Boom Generation ages.
Nationally 72% of citizens age 65 and older voted in the November 2012 election, the best turnout of any age group. In Iowa that number was 85%! People under age 45 are much less likely to vote.
There are several reasons for this, including the voter registration process. Every time a person moves to a new address or even changes their name, they must re-register to vote. Older voters tend to be more stable.
Working-age voters must often squeeze in a visit to their voting location early in the morning on their way to work or late in the evening. Retirees don’t face the same time crunch. Also, more and more seniors vote by absentee ballot – so getting to the polls is less of an issue.
Senior citizens have a vested interest in protecting the valuable Social Security and Medicare benefits they receive from the federal government. For many, these benefits are the only way they are able to live with some measure of independence and dignity.
Yet there are seniors who repeatedly vote against their own interests, due to lack of information, being more isolated and often getting their information from television, radio, and misleading mailers funded by big corporations and rich individuals.
When we look at the voting records of our Iowa Delegation, the choice is clear.
In January of 2015 a new Congress went to Washington DC and was sworn in. Unfortunately, the unproductive legacy of the last several Congresses was continued. In issues that affect retirees, the Iowa delegation, for the most part, had an abysmal voting record.
As America ages, issues like retirement security, the declining availability of guaranteed pensions and threats to the Social Security and Medicare systems continue.
Our own Iowa delegation, with the exception of Congressman Dave Loebsack, continued their assaults on our core retiree programs of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid as well as the pro-retiree provisions of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
We deserve better.
Many in Congress voted to privatize Medicare and create a voucher-like system in its place. Many, too, voted to turn Medicaid into a block grant system, which would undercut its ability to provide care for millions of older Americans. In contrast, while attacks on core retiree programs continued, income inequality grows larger. Proposals to raise the minimum wage failed. For more than a decade, the wealthiest Americans have received trillions in tax breaks while older Americans have seen rising drug, health care, food, and energy costs.
It is up to us to advocate for those issues on which older Americans depend for a respectable quality of life in retirement. The 2015 Voting Record reflects how committed our elected representatives are to retirees and older Americans. Use it to educate yourself on where your elected representatives stand. You can see the online record at: https://retiredamericans.org/voting-record/
In this age of growing inequality, shrinking savings, and small or non-existent pensions, Social Security is more important than ever. The Alliance for Retired Americans is working to ensure that seniors are educated about the need to protect and expand Social Security. Seniors need to vote to make sure that our benefits are not cut or privatized. We must make sure that our guaranteed benefits are not gambled away on the stock market, and that the retirement age is not raised for future generations.
Similarly Medicare remains one of the most popular government programs ever – but there are many who wish to change it. That’s why seniors are speaking out against those who want to privatize it, or shift more costs to seniors, or raise the age for Medicare eligibility.
Seniors have a lot at stake. Our pensions and our retirement security are being challenged and threatened state-by-state. Politicians, corporations, and even our courts are all chipping away at retirement benefits and promised healthcare that workers earned throughout their careers.
In the presidential race, there are sharp, clear contrasts between Hillary Clinton and other candidates on senior issues and retirees.
Secretary Clinton had a 100% pro-retiree voting record from the Alliance for Retired Americans as a U.S. Senator. She has pledged to protect and expand Social Security. Her Republican opponent once called Social Security a “Ponzi Scheme,” and the Republican Party platform calls for privatizing it.
Only Hillary Clinton will strengthen and expand Social Security by lifting the Social Security payroll tax cap, protecting the program for future generations by making millionaires pay their fair share. She will expand Social Security for those who are treated unfairly by the current system –including women who are widows and those who took significant time out of the paid workforce to take care of their children, aging parents, or ailing family members.
She will defend health care for seniors. She has and will oppose Republican efforts to privatize Medicare, raise the eligibility age or shift costs to seniors.
In the race for Senate, voters will also be able to determine if Sen. Chuck Grassley truly speaks for Iowa’s retirees. Since Senator Chuck Grassley took office in 1981, he has consistently supported efforts to weaken Social Security and Medicare and cut benefits. Despite his assertion that “Grassley works for Iowa,” he does not work for Iowa’s seniors.
Retirees cannot afford to be complacent this November. It is clear which candidates are pro-worker and pro-senior. Please keep these differences in mind and vote for the candidates who always put your interests first.
Midge Slater is the president of the Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans. She has been active in the union movement for years, notably as a local officer of CWA. She was staff for the Alliance for Retired Americans and was voted in as president in 2015.
Robert Roach, Jr. is president of the Alliance for Retired Americans. He was previously General Secretary‐Treasurer of the IAMAW. For more information, visit www.retiredamericans.org.