It’s January and the presidential primaries have begun. If you are a political junkie like me, primary nights mean staying up late watching cable news with pundits breaking down results and polling from various counties across the country, getting in-depth analyses of how swing states and counties have voted over the past 20 years and listening to victory and concession speeches that inevitably sound familiar to the stump speeches you heard the candidates deliver weeks prior. Once the dust settles, the Republican Party will nominate a candidate to run against President Joe Biden in the fall. And then, it’s a mad dash to November.
Between now and November, candidates will weigh in on every issue imaginable, including those that impact seniors. For example, candidates have already begun to share their positions on Social Security and Medicare, outlining their vision to ensure the long-term viability of these important programs. Candidates have called for raising the retirement age to make retirees eligible for Social Security. Other candidates will call for increasing revenue from wealthier Americans to ensure Social Security’s longevity. While these ideas will be debated, only increasing revenue will guarantee that seniors receive their earned benefits at the appropriate age. Increasing the retirement age could force older Americans to work longer, which would be particularly unfair to seniors who work labor-intensive jobs.
On election day in November, voters will pick who leads our country in the White House and Congress. Whoever is the president will have the bully pulpit to create a national dialogue around pressing issues that impact the health care and income security for older Americans. The president will have forums like the State of the Union, press conferences and speeches to speak with the American public and set an agenda. Consequently, it’s important that candidates running for the highest office in the land lay out a clear plan for Social Security and Medicare. Younger voters should also familiarize themselves with the candidate’s policies because these programs will impact their future.
However, it’s not just the White House which drives the agenda. Congress has the power of the purse and is responsible for writing the federal budget. This gives members of Congress the first crack at determining funding levels for government programs like Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) senior housing. As the largest national Jewish sponsor of subsidized housing in the United States, B’nai B’rith understands the important role affordable housing plays in the lives of older adults. Election Day will have a big impact in deciding who leads the committee responsible for writing the budget and whether HUD senior housing allocations will provide additional money to build more housing.
About 40 million seniors voted in the last presidential election. Seniors will have a big say in the direction of our country post-election day. As President Barack Obama said, “Elections have consequences.” Conversations surrounding senior programs will only increase, and the next election will help decide the directions of those discussions.
Evan Carmen, Esq. is the Legislative Director for Aging Policy at the B’nai B’rith International Center for Senior Services. Click here to read more from Evan Carmen.