By Clay Schuldt
MINNESOTA — DFL congressional candidate Dan Feehan held a virtual town hall Saturday on the importance of Social Security and Medicare.
Feehan said in this campaign Social Security and protecting Medicare were issues he heard about frequently.
“They are so critical to the future of people’s dignity,” Feehan said. He believed the time and effort seniors spent working guaranteed them these benefits. “I will fight any attempts to cut or weaken Social Security or Medicare.”
Feehan was joined by the President of Social Security Works PAC, Jon “Bowzer”Bauman. The mission of the group is to protect and improve the economic security of disadvantaged and at-risk populations and safeguard the economic security of those dependent on Social Security. The idea behind the PAC was, Social Security works and is a vehicle of social justice.
The PAC endorsed Feehan’s campaign, for his support of the Social Security and Medicare programs.
In addition to being president of the Social Security Works PAC, Bauman is known for playing Bowzer on the television show and musical group “Sha Na Na.”Bauman has met with campaigns across the country on the importance of Social Security.
“I love the music of the ’50s and the early ’60s; however, that does not mean I want to return to the ’50s and the early ’60s, because that was a time before Medicare,” Bauman said.
He said in the time before Medicare, over 35% of seniors had income below the poverty line. Bauman also did not want to return to a time before Social Security, which was passed in 1935. He said before Social Security, over 50% of American seniors had incomes below the poverty line.
Bauman explained that his mother was the reason he supported these programs. His mother was a librarian and after she retired, Social Security and Medicare allowed her to live a life of dignity and independence that was unknown to his grandparents.
“Social Security and Medicare are the two most successful domestic social programs in the entire history of the United States of American,” Bauman said. “We need to keep them that way.”
Bauman said these issues are fundamentally bipartisan. When voters are polled, the majority want candidates who support Social Security, Medicare and lower drug prices.
Taking questions from the virtual audience, Feehan was asked how he would fight against the influence of drug companies and what ideas he had to lower prescription drug costs.
Feehan said affordable healthcare and affordable prescription drugs can be a reality, but corporate money from insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies is the obstacle. He believes affordable prices were not possible until politicians who take drug company money were voted out of office.
Feehan committed to not taking corporate PAC money to making sure he would not be under the influence of these companies.
Bauman said Congress was the only thing standing between Medicare and the ability to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to get better prices. This is the reason the same pharmaceutical drugs are cheaper in Canada.
“Don’t be deceived into thinking research won’t get done,” Bauman said. “Research is done with your tax dollars. What pharmaceutical companies are concerned about is not research, it is their profit margin.”
Another question was, how Medicare could be improved. Feehan said he advocates for lowering the age of eligibility for Medicare. He also believes dental, vision and hearing coverage should become part of Medicare. He wants Part D benefits to be strengthened. Feehan believes this could be done by allowing direct negotiations with drug companies and preventing overcharging for necessary medications.
Bauman said a moderate bill called Social Security 2100 is designed to keep the program solvent until 2100. It adjusts the caps on wages paid into Social Security. This cap is $137,700. Workers pay 6.2% of wages to fund Social Security up to this cap. However, millionaires are paying a lower percentage of wages because of the cap.
On a question of the payroll tax cut, Feehan said it was a worry of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress that it does not give relief to working people, but disproportionately benefits mega-corporations while threatening Social Security and Medicare.
Feehan said relief should go directly to small businesses, working families and the unemployed, by protecting emergency COVID aid and targeted tax cuts and grants.
Bauman said the payroll tax is the dedicated funding of Social Security. His PAC interprets this as a backdoor attack on the program.
“Of all the solutions to the problems we’re having during this pandemic, a payroll tax cut is probably the dumbest,” he said. “It doesn’t put money in people’s pockets and it does end up threatening Social Security and Medicare.”
Feehan closed the town hall by saying these programs impact every generation alive, and his goal in supporting Social Security and Medicare is to put people first.