Several people wore red T-shirts bearing the white letters AARP with signs saying “Protect Medicare and Social Security — You earned it. Let’s protect it” in front of U.S. Congressman Richard Hanna’s Genesee Street office on Thursday.
The group was made up of AARP members who are concerned cuts will be made to Medicare and Social Security because of the ongoing political debate to cut these programs as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling.
Christopher Widelo, an AARP associate state director, said a poll was conducted in the 20th, 24th and 25th Congressional Districts of voters aged 50 years old or higher about their thoughts on the potential cuts to these benefits. The results showed the majority of seniors are concerned about the federal budget deficit, at 73 percent, and over 81 percent said they would oppose legislation that could result in cuts to services to older Americans and people with disabilities.
“The poll results indicate that overwhelmingly voters 50 plus are very concerned about the federal budget deficit but they have strong beliefs about whether Social Security and Medicare should be discussed as part of the deficit reduction negotiations,” said Widelo during a press conference outside of the building where Hanna’s Utica office is located.
Widelo said the results were similar in the 20th and 25th Congressional Districts.
Widelo handed Hanna’s representatives in the Utica office the results of the telephone survey fielded from July 7 to July 11 in the 24th District, which has more than 119,000 Medicare beneficiaries and 140,000 Social Security recipients. A total of 402 interviews were completed yielding a sampling error of 4.9 percent.
“Many of these folks grew up in the Depression or post-Depression era where living prudently was a way of life,” said Widelo.
“Social Security did not contribute to the deficit, and it should not be cut to pay our nation’s bills. AARP urges all lawmakers to reject any proposals that would cut the benefits seniors have earned and paid into through a lifetime of hard work,” said Widelo in a news release.
“I don’t like blackmail. That’s what it is,” said Elizabeth Deming, who is a member of the Little Falls AARP. She said since the debate has only made the headlines over the past few days, there hasn’t been any real discussion about it among the chapter’s members.
Deming said if the federal government does cut the benefits, the representatives in the District of Columbia would hear about it.
“The voters aren’t going to stand for it. The seniors aren’t going to stand for it,” she said. “It’s a cruel way to try to do something by saying we’re going to hit the senior citizens.”
Hanna said in an e-mail Thursday, “I met with AARP constituents Wednesday in Washington to discuss their concerns, and I take their worries seriously as we continue to debate the debt ceiling issue. I understand the need to preserve, strengthen and reform Social Security and Medicare for current and future generations. I am, however, concerned about proposed cuts to current beneficiaries. I continue to welcome and encourage all citizens to share their opinions and concerns with me during this necessary debate.”
Page 2 of 2 - Widelo also commented on the meeting that Hanna had with the AARP state director and state president. “They had a good conversation and [Hanna] sounds open to discussion. He has a good understand of what is at stake,” he said. “We are looking forward to working with him.”