U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell and congressional candidate Denny Heck in the 10th district are campaigning together in Shelton and Olympia today. It is part of Democrats’ statewide “jobs” tour, and Cantwell is also campaigning this morning in Aberdeen with congressional candidate Derek Kilmer of the 6th district that includes Tacoma.
Activists wanting to head of cuts or changes in benefits in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid say they are dressing up as cats for Halloween and bringing a pledge for Cantwell and Heck to sign during their 4:30 p.m. appearance in Olympia at Ramblin Jack’s restaurant. Cantwell and Heck also are meeting the public at 2:45 at Xinh’s Restaurant in Shelton.
“We think that cutting those programs to strengthen them is a trick, not a treat,” says Gar Lipow, an Olympia author and computer consultant who has long advocated for a single-payer health-care system and plans to dress up as a cat to meet Cantwell in Olympia.
Lipow said he’s aware that Cantwell already signed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ letter to the Senate pledging not to cut Social Security benefits for current retirees. But Lipow said he and a half-dozen other left-of-center activists want to be sure that Cantwell will help close any “loopholes” in her basic position so they plan to present their pledge – including stating she would oppose cuts in benefits for future retirees or an increase in the retirement age.
The rare Olympia visit by Cantwell comes as the two-term incumbent’s Republican challenger, Michael Baumgartner of Spokane, has put up a new television ad hitting her and Democrats’ record on not passing balanced budgets.
Baumgartner specifically hits Cantwell for her votes allowing the Afghanistan and Iraq wars to happen and continue, as well as voting for the economic stimulus measure in 2009 and Obamacare in 2010. But Baumgartner leaves out mention of one of the major drivers of deficits, the Bush-era tax cuts that are scheduled to expire next year if Congress does not act.
“Cantwell is part of a Senate that hasn’t passed a budget in three and a half years,” Baumgartner said in a news release. “The Democratic majority has shown a serious lack of leadership, and Cantwell continues to stand by and watch as our debt continues to pile even higher – made possible, of course, by her votes that continue to raise the debt ceiling.”
Baumgartner has said on his campaign web site the Social Security retirement age should be gradually raised to 67.
Lipow said the cat food pledge is to highlight that seniors can be left vulnerable and that actions on the table in Congress could harm those who need Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. He said it really is a possibility some will have to eat cat food to get by if cuts are made or co-payments are required in order to obtain medical care. If it were a Republican candidate, Lipow said they would be holding a protest, not offering a pledge to sign.
The team of cats also plans to ask Heck to sign their pledge. Heck, who is running against Republican Dick Muri of Steilacoom in the newly formed 10th, has voiced opposition to increasing the retirement age, arguing that it is not appropriate to insist that people in some physically demanding occupations go on working past 65.
The pledge from Lipow includes opposition to raising the retirement age, raising the Medicare eligibility age, tweaking of the formulas for setting cost of living adjustments, cuts to Medicaid benefits, and changes reducing schedules of benefits for current or future retirees.
Cantwell’s campaign put out this statement:
“Senator Cantwell is committed to protecting Social Security against eligibility age increases and privatization, and has been crystal clear she will not allow Republicans to turn Medicare into a voucher program. Her GOP opponent has the exact opposite view, calling Paul Ryan a ‘role model’ for having proposed to dismantle of our nation’s social safety net. Candidly, I don’t see where we disagree with this group wanting to protect these programs for future generations.”
Update on Oct. 31 post: Cantwell never got a copy of the pledge, but about 100 loyal Democrats showed up to hear her and Heck talk about jobs Wednesday evening in Olympia.