A Question for Hayworth & Maloney

By Michael Kaufman

Over the next few months voters in the 19th Congressional District will be bombarded by campaign materials and robot phone calls boosting two well-funded candidates, Republican incumbent Nan Hayworth and her Democratic challenger Sean Patrick Maloney. Maloney recently moved into the district from New York City to make the run and was endorsed by Bill Clinton, for whom he used to work as an aide.

In slickly produced campaign mailings Maloney trumpeted words of praise from The New York Times, implying to voters in last month’s Democratic primary election that he had been endorsed by that newspaper. In reality there was more criticism than praise within the quoted editorial, which ended with an endorsement of one of his opponents, Richard Becker, who had the backing of many local progressives—but was hopelessly outspent in this era of elections a la Citizens United.

In conceding defeat in the primary Becker said he was disappointed but he endorsed Maloney and stressed the importance of defeating Hayworth, whom he cast as supporting the “Tea Party agenda.” For her part, Hayworth has been trying to distance herself from the Tea Party extremists in Congress, with whom she was swept into office in 2010. To hear her and her supporters, such as Warwick Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton tell it, she is a true friend of local farmers who suffered severe damage from recent storms—despite her initial reaction that government assistance should be withheld until the money could be found by cutting the budget from another federal program.

She recently proposed relief for area commuters (but only if the funds come from the Affordable Care Act budget, also known as “Obamacare,” which she has pledged to repeal if re-elected).  But perhaps even more egregious is her stance on Social Security, in which she depicts herself as a fighter for seniors, even as she is committed to denying benefits to the next generation of seniors. Hayworth has been an unapologetic supporter of the budget proposed by Wisconsin Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, which would slash funding for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other government “safety net” programs—at  a time when they are needed most by millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet.  Or, as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders told his colleagues in a recent speech, “when the wealthy people in this country are becoming wealthier, the middle class is disappearing and poverty is increasing.” Now, he said, “when we talk about an oligarchic form of government, what we’re talking about is not just a handful of families owning entire nations. We’re also talking about the politics of the nation.”

Sanders could not have made it any clearer: “When you hear folks talking about Social Security reform, hold on to your wallets because they are talking about cuts in Social Security,” said the Vermont independent.  “Nothing more, nothing less.” The latest gambit, he said is a concept called chained consumer price index (CPI).

“The so-called chained CPI is the belief…that cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for Social Security are too high,” he explained. Seniors in his home state are incredulous when they hear this, he observed, which also may be said of seniors across the country, with the possible exception of Alan Simpson, millionaire Republican ex-Senator from Wyoming, who recently used terms like “greediest generation” and “geezers” to refer to Social Security recipients.

“Seniors back home start scratching their heads” when they hear about the chained CPI, said Sanders. “They say, ‘Wait, we just went through two years when my prescription drug costs went up, my health care costs went up and I got no COLA—and there are people in Washington, Republicans, some Democrats—they say my COLA was too high?’ What world are these people living in?”

In plain language Sanders told his colleagues that imposition of chained CPI “would mean that between the ages of 65 and 75, a senior would lose about $560 a year, and then when they turn 85 and they’re trying to get by off of $13,000 or $14,000 a year, they would lose about a thousand bucks a year. That’s what some of our colleagues want to do. Virtually all the Republicans want to do it. Some Democrats want to do it as well. As chairman of the defending Social Security caucus, I’m going to do everything that I can to prevent that.”

Seniors in the 19th district should know where the two candidates for Congress stand on this issue. Will Maloney if elected be aligned with Bernie Sanders and other progressives in the Senate and House who oppose all attempts to end Social Security as we know it, or will he be among the “some Democrats” who support drastic “reforms” such as chained CPI? And how will Hayworth answer when asked if she supports the imposition of chained CPI on the current generation of seniors? Their responses could influence the outcome of the election. The likely winner, however, will be the one who spends the most.

As  Sanders put it, “What the Supreme Court has said to the wealthiest people in this country is, okay, you own almost all the wealth of this nation — that’s great — now we’re going to give you an opportunity to own the political life of this nation. And if you’re getting bored by just owning coal companies and casinos and manufacturing plants, you now have the opportunity to own the United States government. So we have people like the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson. The Koch Brothers are worth $50 billion…and  they have said they’re prepared to put $400 million into this campaign to defeat Obama, to defeat candidates who are representing working families.

“You have the six largest financial institutions in this country that have assets equivalent to two-thirds of the GDP of America–over $9 trillion. These six financial institutions write half the mortgages, two-thirds of the credit cards in America. They have a huge impact on the economy. That’s not enough for these guys. The top one percent owns half of the wealth:  Not enough for these guys. Now they have the opportunity to buy the United States government. So that’s where we are.”

Sanders concluded with a plea that fell on many deaf ears in the Senate chambers but which surely resonate among many Americans: “What we have got to do is start listening to the needs of working families, the vast majority of our people, and not just the people who make campaign contributions. And I know that’s a very radical idea. But, you know, it might be a good idea to try a little bit to reaffirm the faith of the American people in their democratic form of government. Let them know just a little bit that maybe we are hearing their pain, their unemployment, their debt….the fact that they don’t have any health care; the fact they can’t afford to send their kids to college. Maybe, just maybe, we might want to listen to them before we go running out to another fund-raising event with millionaires and billionaires.”

Michael can be reached at michael@zestoforange.com.





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2 Responses to “A Question for Hayworth & Maloney”

  1. Randy Hurst Says:

    Well written and poignant article. I concur wholeheartedly. Now, how can this be communicated the the residents of te new 18th Congressional District? Please write letters to the editors of every possible media and see who gives it press.

  2. Michael Kaufman Says:

    Thanks, Randy. Maybe we can borrow a tactic that worked well for the other side for a while, namely the “pledge” concept. The Republican presidential primary was chock full of candidates who signed Grover Nordquist’s infamous tax pledge. Why not ask all candidates running for Congress around the country this year to take the Bernie Sanders pledge?

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