On November 8th, 2016, the eyes of the nation will watch as Democratic and Republican representatives battle for poll supremacy. The lengthy series of mid-term elections, party conventions, and debates will have finally ended, leaving the United States with its most important decision: who to elect as the 58th President.
Among those deciding the country’s political fate will be the senior demographic - whose majority sway will prove crucial to party efforts. This group (which, according to the Census Bureau, hosts 27% of the country’s total population) spans a diverse gamut of social, economic, and educational backgrounds. They share one commonality, however: the need to preserve key medical and tax reform benefits.
Party policies regarding these reforms will shape senior opinions - and may prove to be the deciding factors in the election.
Recognizing the Senior Influence
Marketers, advertisers, and corporations often ignore the senior demographic. Politicians, however, have long since understood the power of those 65 and older. These individuals, after all, vote in record numbers. According to U.S. Money News, 61% of the 2010 election’s total votes were cast by seniors - and, more importantly, these votes occurred in swing states:
- Washington: 77% of the senior population represented at the polls.
- Montana: 75% of the senior population represented at the polls.
- Colorado: 73% of the senior population represented at the polls.
- Wisconsin: 72% of the senior population represented at the polls.
These numbers showcase startling turnouts, with other demographics failing to generate even comparative results (The International Business Times reports that Millennials only generated 22.4% of the total 2010 votes). This proves the importance of earning the respect - and trust - of seniors for the upcoming election. Candidates will have to court this demographic by addressing specific issues.
Let’s investigate these issues now.
Understanding Political Policies: The 2016 Presidential Hopefuls
Among the Democratic and Republican parties six candidates lead the way - Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Ted Cruz. Seniors must assess each of these individuals for their policies regarding Medicare, Social Security, and other key reforms.
The Democratic Party
Within the Democratic Party are two primary candidates: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. While they both embrace liberal policies, there are distinct differences between them and seniors note these differences with care.
Hillary Rodham Clinton boasts a lengthy political career - serving as the First Lady of Arkansas (1983 to 1992), the First Lady of the United States (1993 to 2001), a New York State Senator (2001 to 2009), and the Secretary of State (2009 to 2013). She attended both Wellesley College and Yale Law.
Clinton opposes reducing the annual cost-of-living adjustments, opposes efforts to raise the retirement age, and is against stock market privatization of senior retirement funds. She intends to expand the parameters of Social Security to include increased benefits for widows and individuals who spent the majority of their lives as caregivers for their children.
Clinton intends to maintain the current Affordable Healthcare Act, opposes the privatization of Medicare, and supports direct negotiation with pharmaceutical companies (seeking to reduce drug prices by eliminating unnecessary spending).
Clinton recently introduced a reform that would increase healthcare research spending (specifically for Alzheimer’s). The plan would invest $2 billion per year into the National Institute of Health, as well as extend Medicare coverage to include advanced Alzheimer care-planning sessions.
Bernie Sanders’ political career spans decades, with him serving as Chairman of the Liberty Union Party (1972 to 1979), Mayor of Burlington, Vermont (1981 to 1989), member of the U.S. House of Representatives (1991 to 2007), and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (2013 to 2015). He attended the University of Chicago.
Sanders opposes the privatization of Social Security and intends to expand it by lifting the financial cap on those earning more than $250,000 (thereby, increasing both tax revenue and cost-of-living adjustments).
Sanders wishes to increase the reach of the Affordable Healthcare Act by creating a universal single-player program (this program will be funded by increased capital gains taxes). He always wants to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies to achieve lower drug prices for seniors.
Sanders intends to implement new import laws, allowing wholesalers to re-distribute prescription drugs from Canada. He opposes the continuation of Medicare Part D and wishes to eliminate anti-competitive prescription standards.
The Republican Party
Four candidates lead the Republican party: Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Ted Cruz. Each delivers a unique platform for seniors to consider.
Donald Trump proves an unexpected candidate, with a background centered in finance and real estate: Chairman of The Trump Organization, Chairman of Trump Plaza Associates, Chairman of Trump Atlantic City Associates. He previously served as a potential runner for the 1999 Reform Party, and he attended Fordham University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Wharton School.
Trump proposes expanding Social Security benefits through eliminating foreign assistance spending to China, Syria, Afghanistan, and other markets. He also reverses his previous stances of increasing the retirement age to 70 and privatizing the system.
Trump supports the Drug Benefit Law, proposing direct negotiations between Medicare and pharmaceutical companies to lower overall costs. He opposes Medicare Part D.
Trump opposes Obamacare, instead supporting a single-payer platform (which he proposes to pay for by implementing a series of tax reforms, including increasing dividends rates for those within the 20% to 25% bracket and repealing the Estate Tax).
The youngest of the 2016 candidates, Marco Rubio has experienced a short but steady political career, including: member of the Florida House of Representatives (2000 to 2008), Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives (2006 to 2008), and Senator from Florida (2011). He attended Tarkio College, Santa Fe College, the University of Florida, and the University of Miami.
Rubio proposes gradually increasing the retirement age to adapt to increasing lifespans (to compensate for this change he wishes to eliminate payroll taxes for those over 65). He also approves of reducing growth benefits for those in the upper-income bracket and eliminating the Retirement Earnings Test.
Rubio wishes to create a premium-support platform, creating multiple fixed-income options for seniors (each of these options can be accessed through Medicare or private providers). He also wants to create a permanently solvent trust fund.
Rubio seeks to repeal Obamacare and the Independent Payment Advisory Board, choosing instead to replace with advanceable tax refund that can be used to purchase private insurance. He also supports fee-for-service Medicare.
Despite heralding from a Republican dynasty, Jeb Bush’s career began first as a financier and real estate investor. He eventually transitioned into politics, serving as Florida's Secretary of Commerce (1987 to 1988) and Governor of Florida (1999 to 2007). He attended the University of Texas.
Bush proposes gradually increasing the age of retirement from 65 to 70 (the full effect of this amendment wouldn’t occur until 2058). He also proposes decreasing benefits for those who retire early, increasing funds for those who work beyond the current threshold, and eliminating the payroll tax.
Bush supports privatization, wanting to enable seniors to choose from a variety of national health plans (rather than a central Medicare network). To support this change, he seeks to encourage broader usage of 401K policies to stabilize retirement efforts and ensure affordability.
Bush wishes to repeal Obamacare, wanting to offer seniors state-dictated healthcare. He calls for capped federal funding and lower premiums, wanting to negotiate directly with insurance providers. He also suggests the creation of tax credits to further increase each individual’s ability to pay for plans.
Ted Cruz boasts a varied career. Prior to entering the political world, he served as a private attorney, a consultant for the Bush Administration, and the Solicitor General of Texas (2003 to 2008). He then became a United States Senator in 2013. He attended Princeton University and Harvard Law.
Cruz wishes to gradually raise the age requirements for Social Security, citing increased life expectations. He also proposes a flat-rate 10% income tax to accommodate growing costs of living (while simultaneously repealing the payroll tax).
Cruz wishes to supplement Medicare costs through a series of tax cuts, including: payroll taxes, corporate income taxes, and net business taxes. These would allow seniors to maintain more of their private incomes and afford private plans.
Cruz opposes Obamacare and seeks to replace it with the Health Care Choices Act, which would allow individuals to purchase insurance across state lines. He also wishes to lower subsidy costs to ensure more affordable private plans.
November 8th will prove an important day for seniors: deciding both the short-term and long-term fates of key economic and social issues. Therefore, it is crucial that men and women examine both the Democratic and Republican platforms with care - choosing which best supports comfort, stability, and security for those 65 and older.