En español | I will never forget attending my first political debate. It was in Philadelphia, way back in the 1980s, and the two major candidates for vice president were squaring off. I was a college Republican attending Penn State University and was lucky to get a seat.
While I don’t remember much of what was said, I recall it was a real exchange of ideas. Yes, there were personal attacks and some personal questions. But the moderators pushed the candidates on the key issues, and the candidates gave serious answers. All of us in the audience listened with great interest.
Times have really changed. The 2016 debates have been a contest of who can speak the loudest — and debate moderators have let them off the hook time after time. What’s most disappointing is these shouting matches are neglecting one of the most important issues to our children and grandchildren — updating Social Security.
That’s why AARP’s Take a Stand campaign is calling on the major networks to ask every candidate for their plan to address the future of Social Security and to push them for specifics, not soundbites. On March 2, Take a Stand volunteers will deliver more than 100,000 petitions to Fox and CNN, urging them to make sure Social Security gets its fair share of time in the debates.
Since last November, Take a Stand has been pressing presidential candidates to lay out their plans to update Social Security for future generations. And we’ve had some success. Due in large part to our hardworking volunteers in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, who have questioned the candidates about Social Security at nearly every event, all but one has laid out a plan. (We’re still waiting for Donald Trump.)
But it’s like a tree falling in a forest. Most voters have heard nothing about these plans and have no idea what they would mean for them and their families. Yet proposals now on the table could have real consequences. They raise important questions that debate moderators should be asking.
For example, to Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, moderators should ask: Your plan includes raising the retirement age. If we do that, what happens to people with physically demanding jobs who can’t work longer? And, to Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, moderators should ask: How would you pay for benefit increases given all the budget realities?
Voters need to hear a real debate about these proposals. Americans pay into Social Security throughout their working lives, and they deserve to know in detail how every presidential candidate would keep the promise of Social Security for future generations.
Nationally televised debates are the only forum during a presidential campaign where candidates have the opportunity to really explain what their proposals would mean for real people. Voters want to hear about this. Polling shows that the public considers Social Security an extremely important issue.
John Hishta is the AARP senior vice president of campaigns. Follow him on Twitter @jhishta.
Also of Interest
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- Social Security changes in 2016
- Help hungry seniors – add your name in support!
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