Legislative Update: August 2016

Legislative Update: August 2016

Questions To Ask The Candidates At Your Next Town Hall

By Jessie Gibbons, Senior Policy Analyst

Congress has adjourned for a month-long recess and, with the November elections looming, many lawmakers will be holding town hall meetings in their home states and districts.  TSCL encourages you to attend these events, since they present excellent opportunities to make your voice heard and to learn more about the candidates.  To best be prepared, jot down a few questions that you would like to ask your elected officials.  Below are ten examples – feel free to take them with you and share them with others.

  • During last fall’s debt limit deal, Members of Congress passed legislation containing un-debated, secret provisions that made two major changes to Social Security benefit claiming strategies. The changes cut the expected retirement income of some married couples already at full entitlement age. Do you believe entitlement cuts are necessary in exchange for your vote to lift the debt limit in the future?
  • Older Americans have lost more than 22% of their purchasing power since 2000, and this year Social Security beneficiaries received no COLA despite a national survey indicating a majority reported higher costs. Do you support legislation that would give seniors an emergency COLA before the end of this year?
  • This year, more than 50 percent of Social Security beneficiaries paid taxes on their benefits, even though many of them only made little more than twice the federal poverty level in income. Do you believe this is fair and, if not, what should be done about it?
  • Most Americans contribute 6.2 percent of every paycheck to Social Security, but due to the taxable maximum wage cap, people earning more than $118,500 pay nothing over that amount. Do you support increasing or eliminating the taxable maximum wage limit to make the program more solvent?
  • Nearly 1.5 million teachers and other public servants see their earned Social Security benefits reduced by as much as 40 percent due to the Windfall Elimination Provision. What do you feel should be done about this?
  • Two years ago, President Obama bypassed Congress to halt the deportations of almost 5 million unauthorized immigrants. The Supreme Court recently tied on a ruling that allowed a lower court’s ruling to stand, barring Obama’s executive action. Do you believe President Obama overstepped his constitutional limits?
  • Under current law, noncitizens who gain temporary work authorization can qualify for long-term Social Security benefits based on work that was done, prior to gaining authorization, under invalid Social Security numbers. Once they receive green cards, they become entitled to benefits based on prior “illegal” work. If elected, would you support legislation to modify this policy?
  • The federal government negotiates prescription drug prices for Medicaid and for veterans, but it is not allowed to negotiate lower prices for Medicare beneficiaries. Do you support that policy?
  • Last year, prescription drug prices grew by 12% nationwide. A rate that high hasn’t occurred since 2001. What do you believe should be done to manage the growing cost increases of prescription drugs?
  • Experts estimate that fraud, waste, and abuse within Medicare costs more than $60 billion each year. What efforts do you support to ramp up prevention?