Issue Position: Older Americans
Older Americans built this nation and made it what it is today and for that we owe them our gratitude, respect, and honor. Anything less is simply unacceptable. The best way to show them the respect they deserve is by ensuring that they are financially secure and have the ability to live their lives with dignity. For too long, hard-working Americans and their families have taken a back seat to corporations and policies that are driven by profit margins and not the ideals that built this great nation. Each day in Congress, I push back against this culture and advocate for my constituents and their concerns.
There is no more reliable way to provide retirement security for our older Americans than through the ever-reliable and necessary Social Security program. I believe we must ensure this safety net prospers long into the future and fight against failed and risky attempts to put Social Security in the hands of Wall Street tycoons to gamble with. For the first time in 35 years, 41 million older Americans did not receive a cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, in their 2010 Social Security checks. To help ease the pain caused by the lack of a COLA, I was glad to support giving every recipient a one-time $250 payment -- equivalent to a 2 percent increase in benefits. Furthermore, I voted to block any 2010 or 2011 pay raises for Members of Congress, because I could not in good conscience take a pay hike if seniors did not receive a benefits increase.
As older Americans know all too well, we are embroiled in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and while most experts believe we have begun the long course to recovery it is clear that we have much more work to do. I have said time and time again that the key to our economic recovery lies in restoring the manufacturing base that helped build this great nation. For this reason, I introduced the Security in Energy and Manufacturing (SEAM) Act, which would provide a tax credit for companies that open new manufacturing facilities in the U.S. that produce clean energy components, such as wind turbines and solar panels. These are jobs that can be done right here in Illinois by people of all ages and for good pay. Coupled with this effort, we must enact and enforce trade policies that put Americans on a level playing field with other nations. Unfortunately, for too long, American companies and workers have faced competition from nation's where cheap and abusive labor, poor environmental standards and skirting the rules are an all-too-common practice. We need to walk away from failed trade deals like NAFTA, eliminate non-tariff barriers and ensure that our businesses and workers have a fair shot in this global economy. I have no doubt that when the playing field is level, American companies and workers will be able to compete and most importantly, win.
Another challenge to older Americans' economic security is the out of control costs of our healthcare system. Too many seniors find themselves in the Medicare Part-D donut hole and are forced to pay thousands of dollars for prescription drugs. Too many seniors can not afford preventive health care and too many seniors find themselves under constant threat of losing access to their doctors because of Medicare reimbursement rates. To make Medicare more affordable, reliable, and solvent I was proud to vote for the Affordable Care Act. Health reform means the closing of the donut hole and $250 rebate checks this year for every senior who gets caught up in it. It means more affordable prescription drugs, free preventative care, and the strengthening of benefits under Medicare. I was joined by the AARP in supporting health reform because of the positive impact it will have upon the health of older Americans and their economic security.
As we climb out of this recession, older Americans are going to be central to our recovery the same way they were key to building this nation. I will continue my work to protect older Americans, provide for their economic security and ensure they get the respect they have so rightly earned.