By Dr. Kermit Jones
Candidate for Congress in California’s 3rd Congressional District
In medicine we are taught to look for clues that someone needs help, even if they may be too proud or embarrassed to admit it. Years ago, I had a patient whose clothes fit more loosely with each visit. His old belt had several homemade holes so that it could be drawn tighter. None of his family lived nearby. His sons rarely checked on him and with only his social security check and his wife dying years before, he couldn’t afford many things and often skipped meals. Our social workers connected him with meal services and tried to help, but one day one law enforcement found him dead in his home during a wellness check. He died alone and forgotten, which was something he didn’t deserve and, in our country, should never happen.
For many retired Americans who work their entire lives, social security benefits have not kept up with the ever-increasing cost of living. These retirees have paid into and depend on Medicare to survive. Most social security beneficiaries are women who took care of us when we were young and unable to take care of ourselves. They walked us to school, taught us math and English. The problem is that some of our political leaders aren’t keeping that generational promise to our parents and grandparents. Today’s politicians have allowed companies to hide trillions of dollars overseas and take advantage of loopholes that take money away from promised and earned retirement benefits. This must change.
Social Security retirement income and Medicare are part of our country’s great promise that separates us from many other countries in the world. When I worked in India over a decade ago and saw people sleeping on the streets or the elderly dying because they couldn’t afford medical care, I was disheartened. But I also felt assured that such sadness wouldn’t occur in the U.S. because I thought our members of Congress would ensure that those who cared for us would be cared for later in life, and not shoved aside. Now I am not so sure.
Republican Senators Rick Scott and Ron Johnson and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy recently suggested they would “handle” the growing U.S. debt burden by privatizing Social Security, raising the age for benefits to 70 years old and ending Medicare as it is currently designed. Privatization and deregulation didn’t work well for the housing market in 2008 so I doubt it would work well for our parents and grandparents’ social security benefits. Our current debt problem isn’t their fault. Microsoft, Apple and Google have been allowed to stash nearly $2 trillion in tax havens overseas. We can’t fix this by cutting the Greatest Generations’ benefits and going back on our promises to them. Rather, we must elect leaders to congress who are willing to put American workers and middle-class retirees ahead of multinational corporations.
When I’m elected to Congress, I’ll show the same commitment to our families and communities as when I deployed to Iraq twice with a Marine Helicopter squadron to get our injured servicemembers back home to their loved ones. I’ll work to cut the estimated $100 billion in fraud, waste and abuse that is threatening Medicare. I’ll work to hold companies that are taking record profits straight to their CEO’s pocketbooks and hiding tax revenue that could support Social Security and Medicare. I’ll also hold pharmaceutical companies accountable that cheat and jack up the cost of medicines our seniors need by paying generic drug companies to stay off the market.
Politicians of both parties have been failing us for far too long by focusing on special interests and try to balance the budget on the backs of our most vulnerable. With your help, we can send them a message on November 8th that enough is enough.