The beginning of state primaries/caucuses kicks off in Iowa on Monday. As the Democratic candidates continue to tout their agendas and seek votes, what influence are aging considerations having on these presidential campaigns?
One of the interesting aspects of the 2020 presidential race is the ages of the remaining candidates. President Donald Trump is the oldest person ever elected to a first term as a U.S. president, being age 70 years and 220 days when he took office. If victorious, any one of three current Democratic candidates seeking to unseat him could take away this distinction. Also in the mix are a couple of candidates who would, if elected, achieve the noteworthiness of being the youngest person to hold this office.
On the other side of the election fence is the impact of voter age. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, since 1980 Americans in the 65 and older and the 45-64 age groups have consistently had the highest voter turnouts. Not only do the older age groups have a higher percentage of people who visit the polls, but they also have growing population numbers.
Since several of our presidential candidates are older adults themselves, and the influence of older voters is significant, it makes sense that aging considerations should be attracting attention in this election. Some of the issues that are important to older voters include Social Security, Medicare and long-term care. Following are some of the highlights of the current top Democratic candidates’ views about these topics, presented in alphabetical order.
Let’s start with Social Security. The Social Security Act was signed in 1935 to combat financial instability among older adults. In 1972, an amendment was passed to provide for COLAs, or automatic cost-of-living-adjustments to annual benefits. The sustainability of Social Security has been in question for some time. Current candidates have various plans regarding this benefit program.
- Preserve it by asking those with higher wages to pay the same taxes as middle class earners
- Avoid privatization and keep it available for all income levels
- Provide higher monthly checks to the oldest beneficiaries who are likely to have lower savings
- Provide a minimum benefit of at least 125% of the federal poverty level for those who spent at least 30 years working
- Allow surviving spouses to keep a higher share of benefits
- Eliminate current penalties for teachers and public sector workers who have earned benefits from several sources
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- Provide a minimum benefit similar to Mr. Biden’s plan, but include time spent caregiving toward the work requirement
- Increase benefits to keep the vulnerable out of poverty
- Create a “Public Option 401K” to help workers increase retirement savings with employer support and increase savings for emergencies which occur prior to retirement
- Avoid privatization
- Allow SS payroll taxes on incomes above $250,000 (currently capped at $133,000)
- Improve benefits for widows and caregivers
- Create new personal accounts to increase retirement savings, funded with a minimum employer contribution of at least $.50/hour
- Remove the cap from the SS payroll tax so higher earners are taxed on all earnings
- “Expand benefits across-the-board” including a $1,300/year increase for older adults with annual incomes of $16,000/year or less
- Increase minimum benefits for low-income workers at retirement
- Increase cost-of-living-adjustments
- Immediately increase benefits by $200/month for all current and future recipients
- Update regulations to provide additional increases for “ lower income families, women, people with disabilities, public-sector workers, and people of color”
- Preserve the program and fund the increases through contributions by the top 2% of families
Additional information about each candidate’s position and plans can be found on their campaign websites. Next week we’ll highlight their views about Medicare and (space-permitting) long-term care.
Are you wondering what benefits are available now through the government? Join Attorney Dave Nesbit on Thursday, Feb. 6 for a free seminar, “What Will the Government Pay For?” The seminar will be at 555 Gettysburg Pike, Suite B-300, Mechanicsburg. Call 717-697-3223 to register.
Disclaimer: Keystone Elder Law P.C. does not endorse any particular candidate. This column is an attempt to summarize each candidate’s position regarding topics of interest to older adults.
Information was obtained from each candidate’s campaign website. Additional candidates seeking the Democratic nomination are not listed due to space restrictions.