How the Election Impacts Social Security

Published in Woonsocket Call on July 24, 2016

On the final night of the Republican National Convention (RNC) an average of 32 million Americans tuned in to watch Donald J. Trump, a New York Real Estate Developer, author, television personality and now politician, formally accepted the GOP nomination for President of the United States.

After he delivered his July 21 speech, reporters, political commentators, and even postings trending on twitter called Trump’s hour and 15 minute speech (4,400 words) “dark” because of its stark tone and content. This GOP presidential candidate’s speech was even referred to as being the longest acceptance speech in history since 1972.

Before more than 2,400 delegates Trump, 70, pledged to be the nation’s law and order president who would crack down on crime and violence. America first would be Trump’s mantra during the negotiation of international trade deals and the existing NAFTA trade accord would be renegotiated.

Trump also called for defending the nation’s borders against illegal immigrants and giving parents more choice in choosing schools for their children. And to the forgotten men and woman across the country who were laid-off because of President Obama’s mishandling of the economy Trump promised to be their voice. Syrian refugees would be vetted and only those individuals who “will support our values and love our people” will be admitted, he said.

Trump Ignores Social Security in Speech

Aging advocates say that Trump’s acceptance speech was short on details when it can to domestic policy, specifically Social Security and Medicare. But, you won’t need tea leaves to read how a future Trump Administration will change the way the nation supports its retirees. .

According to Max Richtman, President and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM), the choice of Governor Mike Pence as Trump’s running mate should send “a very clear message to America’s seniors that their priorities will hold little weight in a Trump administration.” While Trump has promised on the campaign trail that he won’t cut Social Security and Medicare.

During his 12 years serving as a U.S. Congressman, Pence consistently voted in favor of GOP legislative efforts to cut benefits in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, says Richtman, charging that Trump’s vice presidential running mate is one of a few Congressional lawmakers that has a strong “anti-seniors voting record.”

Richtman says that “Mike Pence was one of Congress’ biggest proponents of privatization. He supports cutting Social Security benefits by raising the retirement age, reducing the COLA, means-testing and turning Medicare into “CouponCare.” As he told CNN, ‘I’m an all of the above guy. I think we need to look at everything that’s on the menu,’ and the record shows he has done just that by supporting every form of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefit cut proposed in the past decade.”

While Trump has promised not to cut Social Security benefits on his year-long campaign trail, he continues to surround himself with advisors who are “polar opposite” of his positions says Richtman. “They say actions speak louder than words — Donald Trump’s choice of Mike Pence as his Vice-Presidential running mate will speak volumes to American seniors,” he adds.

Political Experts Weigh in

Darrell M. West, Ph.D., Vice President and Director of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, says that “Trump is on record as saying he does not want to cut Social Security so that is considerably different from most Republican leaders, who support benefit reductions as a way to balance its books. This probably is the reason the [GOP] platform is vague on Social Security. The party could not reconcile Trump’s view on not cutting benefits with the party’s general view that cuts are needed. That left them with a reference to market solutions without explaining what that meant.”

“Party leaders have said they want to raise the retirement age for people under age 50. That issue certainly would be on the issue in a Trump presidency although it is not clear how he views that issue. But there would be significant support in a GOP-run Congress for doing that and cutting the benefits of future retirees,” adds West.

West believes that “Democrats have a very good chance of recapturing control of the Senate. If that happens, that will allow them to block benefit reductions or raising the retirement age, he says.

Wendy Schiller, professor and chair, Department of Political Science at Brown University, warns that talking about changing Social Security can be risky and this “involves a depth of knowledge about entitlement financing that eludes most political candidates especially those without any political experience.”

The Brown professor of politics does not see Trump tackling this issue in any meaningful way in the campaign and she does not believe it will be a priority for him or the GOP if he wins. “Recall George W. Bush tried to reform Social Security immediately after he won reelection in 2004 – by late January 2005 it was dead on arrival in Congress,” she says.

“Overall I am not sure the GOP leadership in the Congress has fully processed what a Trump presidency would look like in terms of policy or what his priorities might be. It is unclear to me that they will align closely and getting anything through Congress these days is nearly impossible, no matter who sits in the Oval Office,” she adds.

Stark Differences in Platforms to Fix Social Security

On Friday, the released Democratic Platform released reveal a stark difference as how to the Democratic and Republican parties will fix the ailing Social Security program. The GOP platform. Although current retirees and those close to retirement will receive their benefits, changes are looming with a Trump administration and a Republican-controlled Congress. For younger generations all benefit cut options to be put on the table, opposing the lifting of the payroll tax cap and sees privatization of Social Security as a way for older American’s to create wealth for use in retirement. On the other hand, the Democratic Party platform calls for a strengthening and expansion of the existing Social Security program. The Democrats oppose any attempts to “cut, privatize or weaken” Social Security, and calls for lifting the payroll tax and exploring a new COLA formula.

NCPSSM’s Richtman notes “ It’s also very telling that while the GOP buried their cuts and privatization plans for Social Security under the Platform’s Government Reform heading, the Democrats addressed Social Security, as they should, as part of their plan to restore economic security for average Americans. That’s been Social Security’s fundamental role for more than 80 years — providing an economic lifeline impacting the lives of virtually every American family.”

As AARP’s John Hishta noted in his July 22 blog, even though the “political spotlight was not on Social Security” at the RNC in Cleveland, delegates, rank-and-file politicians and even political operatives that he talked with clearly understand the programs importance to retirees and younger generations.

“If political leaders fail to act, future retirees could lose up to $10,000 a year. All beneficiaries could face a nearly 25 percent cut in their benefit,” warns Hishta. .

Hishta tells his blog readers that “AARP’s Take a Stand campaign left the RNC with renewed determination to make updating Social Security a bigger part of the presidential debate.” He pledges to continue pushing for strengthening and expanding the nation’s Social Security program at next week’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia and until the November presidential elections.

To keep informed about Social Security discussion during this presidential campaign go to http://takeastand.aarp.org/,

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Pawtucket to Celebrate its Own

Published October 11, 2012, Pawtucket Times  

            Making a difference in your community can be as simple as helping a family member, neighbor or friend who are in need of a little assistance.  Those simple acts of kindness can have far reaching effects that are not always obvious  – whether it be shoveling a side walk for a neighbor, donating canned goods to feed the needy, or volunteering for a nonprofit or civic group, are some examples of giving of ones self.     

             But some Pawtucket residents (or even former one’s, too) excel in their motivation to “go the extra mile” to making a positive impact on their beloved Pawtucket community. Enhancing their home town to strengthen its social fabric becomes their life’s mission.   Founded in 1986 to commemorate the City of Pawtucket’s 100th Anniversary, today the Pawtucket Hall of Fame has recognized 98 inductees, that include 18 historical figures, who have made an extremely positive impact in the Birthplace of America’s Industrial Revolution.  In two weeks, the following five inductees will join their ranks, to be recognized by the City’s Pawtucket Hall of Committee for 2012:

 A Voice for the Voiceless

             Semi-retired businessman and philanthropist Paul Audette brings his love for the City of Pawtucket with his detailed historical knowledge of the community, combined with 50 years of work experience. “He comes to the aide of those in need”, notes Patty Zacks, who nominated this 83 year old inductee.  “He never wants or expects to be recognized for his help,” Zacks adds. 

             “His actions [to help] are led by his heart and done for the right reasons,” says Zacks,  who believes that he has oftentimes been the ‘glue” that help keeps this community working together.

             Mayor Donald R. Grebien, notes “He is a self-described ombudsman for the City and has worked in many instances to insure that a potential new business can navigate its way through the “red tape” to become a successful Pawtucket business.

             Former President of the Pawtucket Rotary Club, Colin Murray, also recognized Audette’s efforts to help others.  “Because of his determination for making Pawtucket a better place to live and work, the Pawtucket Rotary Club awarded him the prestigious Paul Harris Fellow Award, the highest civic recognition that the civic group bestows upon a individual,” he said.

              According to Murray, Audette has been an advocate for the “voiceless” and has served as a volunteer ombudsman for the Alliance for Better Long-Term Care, was Chair of the City’s Affirmative Action Committee, and worked for decades assisting the down and out in the community, providing financial assistance and helping them navigate the State’s regulatory process.  Audette, a Pawtucket Rotarian, exemplifies the Rotary International’s motto, “Service Above Self,” Murray says.

         Murray adds that since 2006, as co-founder of a nonprofit group, Helping Hands, Audette has continued assistance to local organizations that help at-risk Pawtucket youth, the homeless, and the helpless.  Organizations receiving assistance include Cross Roads, Pawtucket Boys and Girls Club, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Pawtucket Salvation Army and the American Cancer Society.

Bringing Winter Wonders to Pawtucket

            Janice McHale and her good friend, Jean Stipek, of Pawtucket, will also become 2012 inductees into the Pawtucket Hall of Fame.

            Pawtucket resident Dawn P. Goff, who chairs the Winter Wonderland Committee, recognizes McHale and Stipek, for creating Pawtucket’s premier winter event. After experiencing a winter festival in California, McHale and Stipek presented their idea to Mayor James E. Doyle, who gave them the “green light” to organize a “Winter Wonderland” in Pawtucket. 

            For over a decade these two Pawtucket residents directed the efforts of a dedicated group of volunteers.  Goff noted that last year, Winter Wonderland turned 13-years-old, showcasing 425 lighted Christmas trees, along with 20 Victorian Houses sponsored by local businesses along with a number of lighted displays.  The two December weekends were jam-packed with festive holiday entertainment, Goff says.

            Winter Wonderland, drawing thousands of Rhode Islanders into Slater Park each December,  began with “two people who had a vision in 1999”,  Goff adds.

            Besides her activities with Winter Wonderland, McHale has served on the Pawtucket Riverfront Commission, the City’s Parks and Recreation Commission, in addition to the Grand Marshall of the St. Patrick Day Parade in 2000.    

America’s Legendary Jockey

            John “Red” Pollard rode into American history while overcoming physical disabilities, such as partial blindness in one eye and worked with intense physical pain caused by severe riding injuries that fractured his bones.  The man who rode Seabiscuit, humbly accepted his role in racing history.   As noted by local horse trainer, Nino Calabro “Red had a way with the horses..”. And Seabiscut was considered to be one of  America’s most recognized thoroughbred racehorses in the nation’s history.

             Attorney John J. Partridge who nominated the late Pollard, says “It is not often we can honor someone who lived a relatively quiet life while as a resident of Pawtucket, but was internationally acclaimed and twice memorialized in motion pictures, and more recently in a best-selling book [on the Times bestsellers list for a total of 42 weeks].”  Pollard, who in his later years resided at 249 Vine Street in Darlington with his wife Agnes, raised their two children, Norah and John in Pawtucket and worked at the Narragansett Race Track.  Today, Red and his wife Agnes’ final resting place is in the City’s Notre DameCemetery.

             Supporting this nomination, Mayor Grebien noted, “Between August 1936 and March 1940, Pollard rode Seabiscuit 30 times, winning 18 races including his final start in March 1940, the year the horse and rider won the San Anita Handicap and Seabiscuit was the nation’s top money-winning thoroughbred.”

             According to Mayor Grebien, Pollard was “an outstanding athlete himself in a very demanding sport, and mentored countless young jockeys who rode at Narragansett Race Track.”  He often provided shelter and a hot meal to many of the young jockey’s who needed a hand as they aspired to what Pollard had achieved as one of horse racing’s all-time best jockeys.”

          A  native of Alberta, Canada, Pollard was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1982, says Tom Cosgrove, Archivist. “His name will be forever linked to the days when thoroughbred racing, boxing, and baseball were the only sports in America that truly mattered,” states Cosgrove.  

             Terence J. Meyocks, of the Nicholasville, Kentucky-based Jockeys Guild, says that Pollard “holds a special place in Jockey’s Guild history because he was one of the founding fathers of the Guild in 1940.  He joined other leading jockey’s at the time including Eddie Arcaro, John Longden and Charles Kurtsinger, to create the Guild, which represents the health and safety interests of jockeys everywhere.”

 Unsung Civil War Hero

             Finally, Pawtucket resident, Dale Rogers, nominated Lt. Colonel Henry Harrison Young, who becomes this years’ Historical Inductee.  “Young distinguished himself and his unit throughout the war by furnishing excellent intelligence on Confederate troop movements and by oftentimes even donning Confederate uniforms to either kidnap southern soldiers or gather valuable information for General Sheridan. 

             According to Roger’s,  the Civil War veteran was dispatched at the war’s end to the Texas border to round up Confederate renegades who were making raids, where he lost his life in an ambush while crossing the Rio Grande River.  A statute was dedicated to this Pawtucket resident at BurnsidePark in Providence, (across from the Biltmore, near the skating rink), for his heroics.

             The Pawtucket Hall of Fame Dinner and Induction Ceremony will take place on Friday, October 26th at 7:00pm. at the LeFoyer Club on 151 Fountain Street.  To purchase tickets ($30 each)  please call Rick Goldstein, at (401) 728-0500, Ext. 348. 

             Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues.  He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.