Democrats had headliners like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland bemoan the GOP approach to Social Security and Medicare. But it was Rep. John Larson of Connecticut who brought the Democratic National Convention crowd to its feet with his story of how the two programs have kept his mother cared for in her old age.
She had multiple sclerosis and congestive heart failure, but Larson's father, as he told the story, figured that his pension from Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, along with Social Security and Medicare, would provide for a dignified and secure retirement. "For years, paycheck after paycheck, my dad did his part, and - through his Social Security and Medicare contributions - paid it forward," Larson said. "Sadly, he didn't live long enough to retire."
"Now my mother - facing dementia - requires round-the-clock care. Every cent of my father's pension, every penny of those Social Security benefits, goes to help pay her bills. Don't ever tell me that's a handout! That's the insurance they paid for!" Larson said, drawing cheers from the crowd.
"My family's not alone," he added. "Millions of Americans rely on Social Security and Medicare. In fact, for half our nation's seniors, it's the only thing standing between them and poverty. What Republicans don't get is that for so many people like my family, this is personal," Larson said, touching his hand to his heart.
Medicare has been a recurring theme in both conventions, with each party blaming the other for failing to adequately protect the program. But until last night, speakers haven't offered much in the way of specifics about either Medicare or Social Security. Larson may have done just that, however, by making the issues intensely personal. -Susan Milligan
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